Keeshond

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Also known as the Dutch Barge Dog, the Keeshond is a gorgeous, thickly coated dog. Find out if you're a match in our guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 15 years
Size:

Medium

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

Very High

Temperament:
DevotedSociableIntelligent
Coat Color:
Gray And BlackCreamSilver

Best For

Keeshonden are best for pet parents and families who want their furry companions to not only be devoted, but smart, too. Homebodies unite! Much like Macaulay Culkin, Keeshonden are not the best at staying home alone.

Keeshond Traits

What makes the Keeshond a Keeshond? Let's find out how they stack up.

Keeshond Temperament

If your Keeshond dog had a Facebook page, their friends list would be a mile long. This delightful Northern European breed is friendly, outgoing and loving. They make a wonderful pet for families with children and get along well with almost everyone they meet, two- or four-legged alike.

Their deep love for people and attention could sometimes be a detriment. They hate being left alone and some suffer with separation anxiety if given too much time by themselves. But for all their clinginess, they’ll reward you kindly with their loyalty.

Once bred to watch over the barges on the waterways of Holland, Keeshonden are highly intelligent and easy to train. However, this intelligence means they can have a mind of their own, and they will find creative solutions if you try and block them from something they want, like their favorite sofa. Positive reinforcement training, which rewards good behavior, is a must for their gentle, sensitive personality.

Thanks to their history as a watchdog, your Keeshond will likely bark—loudly—but more as an alert or as a welcome when someone visits. (Woohoo! Guests are here!) They aren’t exactly guard dogs and might end up covering an intruder with kisses.

How to Care for a Keeshond

Despite their fluffy coats, Keeshonden are not overly high-maintenance pups. While you will be spending oodles of time taking care of that luscious double coat (which consists of a thick, downy undercoat and heavier topcoat), they don’t need tons of time spent in exercise or training. Regardless of how you spend your day together, you’ll be bonding and making great memories. Read on for more Keeshond 101.

Keeshond Health

The Keeshond lifespan is 12 to 15 years. They are a generally healthy breed, although they do have a few health problems for pet parents to be aware of. These include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition of the hip joint that develops gradually over the years and plagues many breeds, including the Keeshond. It can rob your dog from activities like running, walking well or getting up and down stairs. A variety of treatments focus on pain control from medication to heat treatment to limiting mobility.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia, similar to hip dysplasia, occurs when the elbow joint isn’t formed properly and rubs, causing the dog pain. A pup with elbow dysplasia will limp or hold their legs at an awkward angle. Surgery is often the best course of treatment for elbow dysplasia.
  • Patellar Luxation: This is when a dog’s kneecap slips out of its socket and can be quite painful for your pup. Dogs will often skip for a couple of steps when walking. Most dogs outgrow the condition, but it will require monitoring. There are also treatments from surgery to more conservative measures like medication and weight management.
  • Heart Defects (Tetralogy of Fallot): This is a congenital defect that can be one of four problems: a hole between lower chambers of the heart; an obstruction from heart to lungs, an aorta on top of a hole in the heart; or muscles in the lower heart chamber are thickened. Symptoms include weakness, fainting, shortness of breath and blue gums or skin. There are both medical and surgical treatments for the condition. Consult your vet for more information.
  • Hypothyroidism: This occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone. Symptoms include dry skin, hair loss and weight gain. It affects many breeds, is not life threatening and can be treated inexpensively with medication.
  • Skin Problems: Pollen, dust and fleas can cause your Keeshond’s skin to be red and itchy. Moist dermatitis, also known as hot spots, are itchy, inflamed, oozing areas on the dog’s skin. Treatments include antihistamines, special shampoos and medications.
  • Hyperparathyroidism: Particular attention should also be paid to the presence or absence of the
    gene for Primary Hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). PHPT is a disorder of the parathyroid glands which causes them to secrete excessive amounts of parathyroid hormones and can lead to too much calcium in a dog’s bloodstream. This, in turn, can damage the dog’s kidneys. This disorder is inherited but a test to identify the presence or absence of the gene which controls the disease is available. You should always discuss the presence or absence of the PHPT gene in the parents of your puppy with the breeder.

Keeshond History

Keeshonden were originally bred to be watchdogs for the barges that sailed along Holland’s canals and rivers, earning them the name of Dutch Barge dogs. They were primarily bred by working class villagers in the 18th century and developed from the lineages of other Spitz breeds. Keeshonden were also known as Wolfspitzes in Germany.

Named after the 18th-century Dutch patriot Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, leader of the Patriots Party and a rebellion against the ruling House of Orange, the breed became a symbol of that rebellion and of the patriots. When the rebellion failed, many owners abandoned the breed so they wouldn’t be recognized as a rebel. If it hadn’t been for the peasants and farmers who kept their dogs, the breed may not have been transported to America in the 1920s. Keeshonden were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930 and were the 85th recognized breed. Today, they are Holland’s national dog.

So, where is the best place to find a Keeshond puppy? You can find a list of reputable Keeshond breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. Depending on the breeder, the average cost of a Keeshond puppy is between $2,000 to $2,500, and for that, you usually get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to Keeshond rescue organizations to adopt a Keeshond, or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.

FAQs

Are Keeshonden hypoallergenic?

No. Keeshonden aren’t hypoallergenic. The breed sheds heavily (blows their coats) twice annually in the spring and fall. People who are allergic to dogs would likely be allergic to them, especially when they shed.

Do Keeshonden bark a lot?

What is a lot? Keeshonden can bark loudly and have a high-pitched bark but with good training they needn’t be frequent barkers. Their reputation for not loving alone time and developing separation anxiety, where dogs may bark out of fear and anxiousness, has given them a rep for barkiness. It’s important to remember, that, while you can train your pup to know when it’s OK to bark, you’ll never train the instinct completely out of the breed.

Are Keeshonden rare or extinct?

No, Keeshonden aren’t extinct. They’re not that common a breed and many people have never heard of them; however, despite previous threats to their existence, they have survived and thrived.

Are Keeshonden good family dogs?

Yes. Keeshonden make wonderful family dogs. They are a smart, loyal and playful breed who tends to do well with children and other dogs.

Are Keeshonden aggressive?

No. Keeshonden aren’t aggressive. This breed is mild mannered, typically well-behaved, sensitive and gentle. They are welcoming to visitors and usually have very low aggressive tendencies.

What are the most common Keeshond mixes?

The most common breed mixes are:

  • Keeshond-Husky mix
  • Keeshond-Pomeranian mix
  • Keeshond-Poodle mix
  • Keeshond-Collie mix
  • Keeshond-German Shepherd mix

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Top Takeaways

The Keeshond is a smart, sensitive breed with a lion’s mane and the penchant for cuddling. They’re too sociable to be a guard dog but make great watchdogs—it’s what they were bred to do! They also make excellent family pets, are good with kids, cats and other dogs and, not ones for alone time, are happiest when they are surrounded by family.

Expert input provided by Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ at PumpkinCare and Alex Smith, a trainer at the Positive Puppy Trainer.

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Tips from Keeshond Parents

  1. I would only add to this article that if you want a dog that goes under the table and stays out of the way, do not get a Keeshond. They are like having a toddler, always wanting to be involved with the family. True family dogs.