The Keeshond is a medium breed of dog originating from Germany and Holland. It is a member of the Spitz group of dogs which include Pomeranians, Chow Chows and Alaskan Malamutes. The breed came to prominence during the Dutch Revolution as the symbol of the Dutch Patriot political party. The leader of this party, Cornelius (Kees) de Gyselaer, kept one of these dogs (then known as a Wolfspitz) as a pet. Because of Gyselaer’s love of the breed, the dogs were given the name “Keeshond”: “Kees” was Gyselaer’s nickname, and “hond” is the Dutch word for dog. The correct pronunciation of this breed is ‘kayz-hond’ with the plural being, ‘kayz-honden’.
After the rebellion, the breed dwindled. Years later they were introduced to the UK and the US, where interest in them picked up again. Today they can be found as affectionate family pets around the world.
The Keeshond is a medium sized dog, usually standing between 44 and 48 centimetres and weighs between 15 and 22 kilograms. Like all Spitz, they are identifiable by their wedge shaped heads, dense off standing coats and curled tails characteristically carried high over their backs. The general, overall appearance of a Keeshond in full coat can only be described as impressive. The huge ruff that surrounds his wedge shaped, fox like head makes him stand out from the crowd! His natural stance, ears pricked and erect, feet firmly planted and tail tightly curled and held high on the back has that stamp of alertness of the wonderful watch dog and companion that he truly is.
The coat is double layered, with a soft, cream-coloured undercoat and a harsh top coat. The top coat comes in shades of grey with black on the tips. Keeshonden need weekly grooming, but do not need to be washed all that often. Expect a Keeshond to shed twice a year.
They are alert, lively and extremely intelligent dogs, making them a good choice for competition and obedience tasks. This breed is very empathic and intuitive, which has led to their use as comfort dogs for victims of traumatic experiences.
Keeshonden truly love people. In fact, they’ve earned themselves the nickname “velcro dog” because of their tendency to stick to the people they love. If their owner leaves, a Keeshond may sit by the door and wait for them to come back, even if there are other people in the room. They love children and make excellent family pets.
Like all Spitz breeds This breed loves to bark. They’ve been used as watch dogs for many years and even family dogs are skilled at letting you know when a stranger is at the doorstep. While your Keeshond may bark at someone they don’t know, they will never be aggressive and once they have been introduced to the new person they will be extremely friendly and sociable.
Keeshonden are a relatively healthy breed, although the breed now has a DNA test for Primary Hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and all puppies now born in the UK are negative by descent. Epilepsy and Alopecia X are also known in the breed. Their average life expectancy is 13 years plus.
Training is important with this breed as with all dogs. The Keeshond can be very inventive when bored and they generally do not adapt well to repetitive routine obedience exercises, preferring to be challenged with new exercises and games once one command is learned. They are not always the best choice for strict precision obedience, as they tend to have a sense of humour and to enjoy ‘clowning around’.