The Keeshond (Keeshonden, plural), sometimes called “The Barge Dog”, is a Spitz breed that is a member of the Non-Sporting group, famous for the “spectacles” on his pointed face. Bred to be a hardy and agile guard and companion on Dutch barges, the unpretentious “people’s dog” became a symbol of Dutch Patriotism in the 18th century. The breed was brought to England in the late 19th century by imports from The Netherlands and Germany. The Keeshond was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930.
Characteristics of Keeshonden
Let’s take a look at some of the key characteristics that set the Keeshond apart.
Sturdily built, the Keeshond is a medium-sized spitz dog with a height between 17 and 18 inches (the males are taller than the females) and a weight between 35 and 45 pounds. The Keeshond’s thick double-coat (typical of spitz-type dogs) provides it with a lion-like ruff of fur that is more obvious in the males. As you can imagine, this luxurious coat requires extensive brushing. Due to the thickness of the coat, heavy shedding occurs at least once per year. The overcoat is a mixture of grey, black, and white, while the undercoat should be pale grey or cream. Never shave the undercoat of a Keeshond because this undercoat helps the dog regulate its temperature. The small, dark ears of the Keeshond are triangular and pointed straight up.
Keeshonden tend to be rather playful dogs, even as adults. They are friendly, lively, and outgoing. This makes them excellent family dogs that are great with children. Keeshonden long to be close to their owners whenever possible and are thus known as “Velcro dogs” because they follow your every step. Their separation anxiety is stronger than in most other breeds. Because the Keeshond was bred for traveling on barges, your Keeshond will probably do fine during travel as long as he is able to see you during transit.
The Keeshond is empathetic and intuitive, making for a great therapy dog. In fact, Keeshonden were used after the September 11 attacks to help comfort rescue workers. Keeshonden get along exceptionally well with other dogs (large and small) and cats and will often enjoy playing chase or other games with other dogs in the dog park.
Keeshonden bark rather loudly to alert their owners and therefore can make good watch dogs and guard dogs, which is what the Keeshond was originally bred for. However, the excessive, loud barking can become a serious problem if the Keeshond is not trained properly or is left alone outside for extended periods of time. Although they are loud and alert, Keeshonden are not aggressive to visitors so long as they see their owners being kind to the visitors.
You can expect your Keeshond to live between 12 and 15 years of age.
Caring for Keeshonden
The Keeshond is a beautiful breed that requires proper care in order to live a long and happy life.
Your Keeshond will need to be fed a high-quality dog food– wet or dry- that is appropriate for its age- puppy, adult, senior, etc. Treats can be a valuable tool to use during training but avoid feeding your pet too many treats as this can cause obesity. An ode to their Dutch barge-roaming roots, Keeshonden respond well to a low-carb diet rich in fish. Be sure to have clean, fresh water available for your Keeshond at all times. And don’t forget to consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s diet or weight.
Keeshonden love to run around large areas, but they are also very adaptable and can get along just fine in tiny apartments. But wherever they live, Keeshonden do require a lot of exercise. A daily walk or run with his owners will provide for the Keeshond its necessary exercise and social bonding needs. After they have had a chance to get their energy out, Keeshonden will be fine lounging around the house for the rest of the day. As long as a Keeshond is around his owner and has a chance for quality playtime with his loved ones each day, he will be a very happy dog.
Keeshonden are thoughtful, smart, and very quick learners. They are eager to please their trainer and are highly trainable. In fact, Keeshonden excel in obedience and agility. A thoughtful breed, Keeshonden can learn things beyond what their trainer means to teach them. Keeshonden have been successfully trained as guide dogs for the blind and have only remained less favorable than larger guide dogs due to their smaller size. It is important to note that, because he is such a quick learner, the Keeshond will require fun, engaging training sessions, lest he get bored and focus on something else.
Your Keeshond will require brushing at least once per week with a pin brush to keep him looking at his finest (and this will also keep shedding to a minimum). Beyond this, you will need to take your Keeshond to a professional groomer once every four to six weeks for a bath, blow-dry, and trimming of fur around the feet, pads, and hocks. Fortunately, Keeshonden are not prone to doggy odors because their coat naturally sheds dirt when dry. It is not advisable to have your Keeshond’s coat shaved because it is made to protect him from sunburn and insects. Shaving a Keeshond’s coat will also cause the breed to lose its signature coat coloring, as the undercoat is a different color than the thick overcoat.
Keeshonden are a healthy, active breed in general. Though health issues are usually not common, Keeshonden can sometimes suffer from hip dysplasia, patellar luxations (sliding kneecaps), epilepsy, Cushing’s disease, primary hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and diabetes. Von Willebrand’s disease has been known in Keeshonden but is very rare. Quality breeders pre-screen for these types of things, so if you bought your Keeshond from a trusted breeder rather than a puppy mill, there should not be any serious health issues. Before your Keeshond puppy is bred, make sure to contact the breeder about the Keeshond parents and their health screenings, which should include X-rays to screen for hip and elbow dysplasia, an exam for patellar luxation, a CERF eye exam, and genetic screening for primary hyperparathyroidism. Contact your veterinarian regarding any health concerns for your Keeshond.