Breed Group: Non-Sporting
The Keeshond (KAZE-hawnd; plural Keeshonden) is an attentive, loving, lively companion dog. They are great with children of any age and accepts other family pets. More than anything else, they want companionship and do not do well when left alone for long periods. If isolated from their family all day, they tend to develop separation anxiety which is expressed by barking excessively and destructive chewing. Sensitive with acute hearing, they also do poorly in a contentious environment. Keeshonden are reasonably active both inside and out. But with their moderate size and exercise needs, they adapt well to apartment living. Outstanding watchdogs, Keeshonden are happy to bark to alert you to strangers. But usually friendly toward everyone, at times to the point of annoyance, they can not be counted on as a guard dog.
Keeshonden are sturdy medium-sized dogs. They measure between 16 and 19 inches tall and weigh between 30 and 45 pounds. They have a foxy face and a coat that stands away from their body, giving them a freshly blow-dried look. Their neck is covered with thick hair that forms a mane. Their coat is a mixture of black, gray, and cream with a distinctive black spectacle-like marking around the eyes. They require almost daily combing to keep their coat from matting. They are heavy shedders and “blow their coat” twice a year resulting in clumps of hair wafting throughout the house. This is not a dog for a fastidious housekeeper. Their thick coat makes them well suited to cold climates but miserable in heat and humidity. Provide them with air conditioning if you want to keep one where summers are warm.
Keeshonden need early socialization with plenty of exposure to different people and situations. Without this, they may become timid and suspicious. Like all dogs descended from Arctic working stock, they have a mind of their own. However, they are easier to train than many of their relatives. Sensitive, playful animals, training must be firm and consistent, but gentle. They like to bark, which can be a challenge for owners and neighbors alike. Compared with the other breeds in the Spitz family, the Keeshond is calmer, quieter, and less dominant making them a reasonable choice for a novice dog owner, especially one who is home all day. But because of their tendency to develop separation anxiety and their barking when left alone, they do best with stay-at-home owners.
In general, Keeshonden are healthy dogs. The inherited diseases most likely to be seen include Cancer, most frequently of the skin, Hypothyroidism, Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Epilepsy, and Mitral valve defects each affect fewer than 1 dog in 11. Ask about the rare heart condition most frequently seen in Keeshonden called the Tetralogy of Fallot in the breeder’s lines before purchasing a puppy. Keeshonden live to be about 12 to 14 years old.
Ranked 91st in popularity by the American Kennel Club, there are about 700 dogs registered in an average year.
Keeshonden are believed to be an old line of dogs descended from the same lines that produced the other northern working dogs including the Samoyed, Pomeranian, and Finnish Spitz. Centuries ago, these dogs lived with their owners on barges in Holland where they served as watchdogs and became adept at interacting with people. By the 1700s they were a common companion and watchdogs on barges and farms in Holland. In the late 1700s, a patriot movement developed in Holland. One of the leaders was Kees de Gyselaer who owned one of these barge dogs. The dog appeared in so many political cartoons, it became known as Keeshond. When the patriots lost their fight, people did not want to be identified with the movement and disposed of their Keeshond. As a result, the breed almost disappeared. During the 1920s, Dutch Baroness van Hardenbroek began promoting them at which time they were introduced in England. Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, most American Keeshonden are descendants of the English animals.
The Keeshond is the national dog of Holland. Notable Keeshond owners include advice columnist Heloise and pianist Liberace. The National Breed Club is the Keeshond Club of America.