Breed At A Glance


Lively, friendly, entertaining, good with children

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
16-19 inches

Average Weight
30-45 lbs

Coat Color
Gray outer coat, pale gray or cream undercoat

Coat Length/Texture
Moderately long, straight and coarse outer coat, with soft undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy, twice per year

Also known as Keeshonden, Kees, German Spitz, Dutch Barge Dog, Wolfsspitz, Chien Loup, Smiling Dutchman, Deutscher Wolfsspitz, Dutch Keeshond

General Temperament

The Keeshond is well known for their amiable nature, particularly with children. Their lack of fighting or hunting ancestry has inevitably lead to an extremely sociable and affectionate breed. They have a lively, happy disposition and make great pets for families. This dog will get along with almost anyone, including strangers, other dogs, and various household pets. Loyal and devoted, this breed needs to feel like it is a member of the family: they will not be happy living outdoors or in a kennel. The loving Keeshond possesses a strong amount of empathy and is often used as a therapy dog.

Training a Keeshond requires a good deal of patience and consistency. This breed is intelligent but also mischievous; they enjoy making up their own routine. Keeshonds require a firm and consistent owner who will be willing to vary up their training techniques. Although they can excel in agility and competitive obedience, this breed does not require a large amount of exercise. They will be content living in an apartment setting, but like all dogs, they require daily walks to maintain good health. In a more suburban setting, they will benefit from a securely fenced yard, but can be prone to dig if left alone for long periods.

The highly alert Keeshond has a loud and distinctive bark and will do so to announce the arrival of visitors, and thus are great watchdogs; on the other hand, their sweet nature and love of people make them unsuitable for guarding.

Breed History

The Keeshond is one of the few breeds that, throughout their history, have always functioned as companion pets. They are of the same arctic or sub-arctic origin as the Samoyed, the Chow Chow, the Norwegian Elkhound, the Finnish Spitz, and the Pomeranian. For centuries, the Keeshond served on small sailing vessels and barges on the Rhine River, ultimately leading to the dispersal of the breed throughout Europe.

At the end of the 18th century, the Keeshond became well known as the “mascot” for the lower and middle-class Dutch rebels who opposed the ruling House of Orange, and were led by Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer (hence the origin of the name “Keeshond” or “Kees dog”). When the House of Orange was returned to power, this breed suffered an unfortunate genocide due to it’s association with the failed rebellion. Many people disposed of their dogs quietly, and the breed’s popularity as a whole suffered a severe decline. Then, in the 1920’s, the Baroness von Hardenbroeck conducted an extensive search to find any remaining Keeshonds, and subsequently began a breeding program and marketing effort to return the breed to public favor.

The Keeshond was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1930.

Body Structure and Composition

The Keeshond is a proportionately square-looking dog with excellent plumage around the neck, rump, hind legs and tail. Important features of the head include characteristic “spectacle” markings around the eyes and a natural smile to the muzzle, which is well-proportioned to the skull. The small, triangular ears are set high on the head and are carried erect. The moderately long neck extends down to a short back that slopes slightly from the withers to the hindquarters. The Keeshond has a deep and wide chest in proportion to it’s body. The tail is carried in a curl above the back. Specific coloration of the coat is of particular significance in show lines.

Medical Information

One of the most significant problems facing Keeshond lines is Hypothyroidism. This disease results in an underactivity of the thyroid gland, resulting in decreased appetite or weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy. Skeletal issues often seen in this breed include Hip and/or Elbow Dysplasia and Patellar Luxation. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia occur when the head of the bone no longer fits in the cup provided by the joint socket, resulting in lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Patellar Luxation is also known as “slipped stifle” or “trick knee,” in which the knee-like joint above the hock slips out of place and often requires surgery to correct. Responsible breeders will have their breeding stock certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) prior to producing a litter in order to help prevent the spread of these diseases.

Primary Hyperparathyroidism (or PHPT, not to be confused in any way with Hypothyroidism) is another disease that has been recently found to significantly affect the Keeshond. The four tiny parathyroid glands are next to the thyroid gland, and they secrete a hormone called parathyroid hormone which serves to regulate the amount of calcium in the blood. The main cause of PHPT is a tumor on one or more of the parathyroid glands, resulting in hypercalcemia, or an increased amount of calcium in the blood. Hypercalcemia can cause renal failure which can be fatal if left untreated. The Keeshond Club of America recommends annual screening for hypercalcemia, although it can be caused by a number of other conditions – such as chronic renal disease, Vitamin D poisoning, and Addison’s Disease, to name a few – so it is essential that PHPT be properly diagnosed as early as possible. Major symptoms include increased water consumption, excessive urination, decreased appetite and lethargy. Surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment.

Although it is not considered a large breed, the Keeshond can be prone to bloat (also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus, or GDV) due to it’s relatively deep and wide chest. Excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by said excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Feeding the dog two to three small meals per day (as opposed to one large meal) and avoiding exercise immediately after eating may help prevent this condition.

Some Keeshond lines can be prone to epilepsy, various heart conditions and skin conditions or allergies. As with all pure breeds, it is essential to find a reputable breeder – who has the best interests of the Keeshond in mind – when searching for your Keeshond puppy.

The thick-coated Keeshond prefers cool climates and cannot handle hot temperatures well. Although this breed is exceptionally clean and often will groom itself, brushing on a daily basis is recommended to keep the coat free of debris and matting.

Anecdotal Information

The proper pronunciation of the word “Keeshond” is “kayz-hawnd.”

Despite it’s suitability as a family pet, the Keeshond is still a relatively rare breed in the United States, ranking only 99th out of 157 dog breeds, according to 2007 registration statistics provided by the American Kennel Club. This represents a dramatic decline in the last 10 years: in 1997, the breed ranked 57th according to the same source.

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