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Keeshond

The Keeshond is typical of the spitz type, with a foxy face, prick ears, thick stand-off coat and a plumed tail that curls over the back. The coat forms a huge and spectacular ruff around the neck and chest. This is a medium sized dog, under the plush coat they are a lean, muscular and sturdy dog.

  • Dog suitable for owners with some experience
  • Extra training required
  • Need to be aware of potential health issues
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys one to two hours of walking a day
  • Medium dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming daily
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Barks, alerts and may be physically protective/suspicious of visitors
  • Could have issues with unknown dogs but gets along with known dogs
  • May need additional training to live with other pets
  • Great family dog
  • Needs a large garden
  • Can live in semi-rural areas
  • Can be left occasionally with training

Key Facts

Lifespan: 13-15 years
Weight:  16-18kg
Height:  46cm for males and 43cm for females 
Colours:  Black and grey with a cream or very pale grey undercoat 
Size:  Medium
UK Kennel Club Groups: Utility

Ratings

Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 3/5
Easy to train: 4/5
Tolerates being alone: 2/5
Likes other pets: 5/5
Energy level: 4/5
Grooming needs: 3/5
Shedding: 5/5
Keeshond standing on the back yard

Personality

Alert, cheerful and described as impertinent by those who know the breed well, the Keeshond is still a natural watchdog, and remains very keen to let their owners know that trouble is a-foot! Friendly and companionable and very adept at living in small spaces, they are often called the ‘Smiling Dutchman’ due to their appealing bright eyed, happy face.

Keeshond with sticking up tongue

History and Origins

Country of Origin: Holland

Closely linked to other spitz types such as the German Wolfspitz and the Pomeranian, the Keeshond takes his name from Kees de Gyselaer, the leader of the 18th century Dutch Patriots party. Their original function was as a working guard and companion, living and working on the Dutch barges. For this reason, they are also known as the Dutch Barge Dog and it is under this name that they were first shown in the UK in 1923. It is likely they also performed useful functions as ratters and vermin deterrents but their main job was to bark and alert their owners to intruders.

Health and Common Issues

The Keeshond is generally a healthy breed. There are a couple of known inherited conditions that affect the breed; epilepsy and a hormonal problem (primary hyperparathyroidism). Genetic tests are available for both of these conditions and should be carried out in all breeding dogs. The Kennel Club and the breed club will have the most up to date health testing information.

Exercise Needs

The Keeshond is happy with an hour of dog exercise a day although will enjoy more if you are willing to offer it. With their dense coat, the Keeshond is not deterred by extreme weather, even if you are, so they are very much an all-weather dog. Exercise should include keeping the Keeshond well occupied with training, puzzle solving and other dog related activities as otherwise they will go self-employed in a very vocal manner.

Space Requirements

Bred to live in the confined living quarters aboard the Dutch barges, the Keeshond does not require a large house however they do shed like all the spitz types, so you may prefer more space with your Keeshond! A secure garden is a must as this is an agile, clever and intelligent breed that can climb, dig and squeeze through anything but the most robust of fencing. 

Rural or quiet suburban living is best as the Keeshond feels the need to bark about anything they can hear or see moving, anything they believe to be suspicious and anyone they suspect to be up to no good which can be irritating for owners and downright unpleasant for neighbours. 

Nutrition and Feeding

The Keeshond needs to have a balanced diet including all the main nutrient groups and a constant supply of fresh water. It's also important to conduct regular body condition scores to ensure you keep your dog in ideal shape and remember to feed your pet at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of their particular food. 

Grooming Keeshond

The thick, stand-off, harsh coat of the Keeshond is profuse and can be time-consuming to keep in good order. Daily brushing will keep on top of any tangles and prevent the coat becoming unmanageable and a huge chore. Bathing is likely to be infrequent but expect it to be a lengthy process to wash this dog to the skin and then dry them fully. It may be wise to accustom a puppy to the professional grooming salon early on, so that if this is necessary you can let the professionals do the work. Check paws daily for debris or matting. Find out more about dog grooming and daily care with our article.

Training Keeshond

Training the Keeshond is a matter of engaging and motivating them to believe they want to do whatever it is you wanted them to do, that it was in fact their idea in the first place! Achieve this with cunning use of positive reinforcement, using toys and food to reward them well for behaviour you like. Careful socialisation with people, other animals and habituation to a variety of situations is important as the Keeshond is inclined to shout about anything they are unfamiliar with or deem at all suspicious! Pay particular attention to recall as in common with most spitz types, disappearing on the hunt for something small and furry is naturally more amusing than returning promptly! Find out more about dog training with our easy, step-by-step guide.

Best Family Dog Breeds

Fun and intelligent, the Keeshond can make an excellent pet for the active home with older children or teenagers. Their propensity towards barking means they are probably not suited to a home with very young children or babies who need to sleep. 

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with each other and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • One of the less obvious roles the Keeshond had on the barges was to act as a foghorn, sitting on the bows of the barge the Keeshond would bark as soon as they spotted another barge approaching through the fog. Since barges move slowly and are between 70 and 120ft long, this gave the bargee plenty of warning.
  • Despite being relatively rare outside the Netherlands, the Keeshond has had some celebrity owners including Walt Disney, Irish poet W.B. Yeats and Princess Diana.

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