Keeshonden (the plural of Keeshond) became popular in Europe in the 17th century as watchdogs on barges and riverboats. Most likely descendants of spitz-type dogs in Germany or Russia, they became associated with a political party in Holland in the late 1700s. The breed was popular while that party was in power but lost that popularity when the political winds changed. Luckily, the Keeshond breed retained many fans and quickly regained favor elsewhere in Europe.
The Keeshond stands 17 to 18 inches tall and weighs between 30 and 45 pounds. He has a foxlike face with upright ears and black markings around the eyes. The tail is plumed and curves over the back. The coat, one of the breed’s distinctive features, is double, with a thick undercoat and a profuse outer coat that stands out from the body. The coat is gray and black with silver and cream touches. The Keeshond’s coat is not prone to matting unless the dog picks up burrs or foxtails, but it still requires twice weekly brushing with a pin brush. During shedding season, daily brushing may be needed.
The Keeshond dog breed has moderate exercise needs and enjoys daily walks, brisk jogs, and training sessions on the agility course. Keeshonden have done well in agility competition. Basic obedience training for all Keeshond dogs is recommended. The Keeshond breed is bright and easy to train and is not prone to trouble as long as training begins early and the lessons are structured but fun.
Used as a watchdog in the past, the Keeshond breed retains an alarm-dog quality, barking when trespassers approach. The breed is not aggressive and, when socialized as a puppy, is very friendly. The Keeshond is a wonderful family dog, great with kids, other dogs, and small pets. Bred as companion dogs, they take this job seriously and are not happy when left alone for too long each day. The primary health concerns include hip dysplasia, heart disease, thyroid problems, and epilepsy.
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Compared to other breeds in the “spitz” family, the Keeshond is quieter, more sensible, and less dominant.
Bright, cheerful, and lively, the Keeshond needs moderate exercise, but more importantly, he needs companionship. He is very people-oriented, craves attention and petting, and needs to be fully involved in the family.
Attitude toward strangers varies from friendly to polite. There is timidity in some lines, so early socialization is important to build an outgoing, confident temperament.
With his acute hearing and emotional sensitivity, Keeshonds are more reactive to loud noises than some other breeds and don’t do well in an environment with tension or shouting.
This is not a guard dog. Keeshonds will bark, but it’s usually welcoming rather than protective. Most are peaceful with other pets.
The Keeshond has an independent streak and can be mischievous and “clever” (using his intelligence to get his own way). Focus on gentle, positive guidance and praise/food rewards.
The Kees is known as the “Smiling Dutchman” because of his tendency to curl his lip and bare his teeth in a hideous grimace. It’s not a snarl, but only a happy and submissive grin.