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What is a Keeshond?

[ Description | History | Size | Lifespan | Personality/Intelligence | Exercise | Coat/Colour | Shedding/Grooming
| Suitability with children | Common Ailments | Where to Buy | Questions to ask a Breeder | Price  ]

General Description
The Keeshond is a wonderful breed of dog that throughout its history has always been a companion dog, and as such should have a wonderful temperament, thereby making it a breed that is very suitable for children. It has been called ‘the smiling Dutchman’ because many will give you a toothy grin when they have been mischievous. Keeshond is pronounced "Caze-hawnd". When you add ‘en’ (Keeshonden) this indicates more than one. They are known around the world as part of the Spitz family, along with other breeds such as: the Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, the Eskimo dogs, Finnish Spitz, Japanese Spitz, Pomeranian, Samoyed, Schipperke, and Siberian Husky, to mention but a few. The Spitz breeds are similar in structure and have a jaunty, independent disposition. Most of these breeds have foxy expressions. All have prick ears, double coats and tails carried over their backs (excepting the Schipperke).

The Keeshond is known by different names around the world. In Germany, it is known as the "Wolfspitz", in France as "Chiens Loup" and in Italy as "Lupini".


History Our breed is said to have originated in Germany, where it is called the "Wolfspitz". It is an ancient breed. Legends and lore theorize the Dutch Keeshond and his German counterpart originally came from the north in ancient watercraft. A Spanish legend mentioned in Sloan and Farquar's book DOG AND MAN, tells about 3 dogs named Cubillon, Melamp and Lubino who accompanied their master to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child. B and P were interchangeable in Latin languages, so the word "Lubino" could have been "Lupino". The Keeshond had been called Lupino and Volpino in Italy with the word "lupo" meaning wolf. From this we can surmise that ancestors of the Keeshond were amongst the animals to greet the Christ child.

A Dutch historian by the name of George Masselman related the history and legend of the founding of Amsterdam in which ancestors of the Keeshond played a role. The story began eons ago when a Viking ship ran into trouble on the Friesland coast near Stavoren, and all were drowned except the chieftain's son. A Freisland fisherman named Wolfert, accompanied by his dog, rescued the survivor. Together they set sail on Wolfert's fishing boat. A fierce storm drove them into unknown waters, but they eventually drifted up onto high ground. Wolfert and the Norseman built a small chapel in gratitude for their deliverance. This was dedicated to St. Olaf, patron saint of mariners. In due time a small fishing village was settled on this spot -- the place where the Amstel river flowed into the sea. Many storms during the 13th century deepened and widened the area and it became the Auider Zee. A dam was built across the river and the little town became known as Amstelerdam, later as Amsterdam. The legend has not been forgotten and to this day it is consided a good omen to have a dog on board a vessel. No one dared ransack a ship protected by a dog. The Great Seal of Amsterdam shows the white, Spitz-like barge dog peering over the gunnels of a ship.

Size It is medium sized, ranging in weight from 30 to 45 lbs. (13.5 to 20.5 kg.) and standing about knee high – 17” (43 cm.) being the prefered height for females and 18” (46 cm.) for males, plus or minus 1" (2.5 cm.) when measuring from the withers (shoulder blades) to the ground.

Lifespan Keeshonden generally live to be 12 – 14 years of age.

Personality/Intelligence The Keeshond is one of the few breeds of dogs that has always been bred as a companion dog, and as such should be very easy to live with. They are very intelligent. Many seem to be able to read the mind of their owners. Their eagerness to please make training very easy provided it is done in a positive manner and is not too repetitive. Because they are companion dogs, they prefer to be an indoor dog, living with their family. They can be problematic if left alone outside (barking, digging, chewing, escaping).

Exercise Energy levels range from low to high, but generally the Keeshond does not need to be exercised. They should rest when you do and be raring to go when you are. Other traits to describe them include: obedient, comical, affectionate, and playful. Because of their watchdog tendencies they can be distrustful of strangers but will readily accept them as friends when their owners do.

Coat and colour Double coated with long, full outer coat; plus soft, wooly undercoat. This is not a good breed to have outside on a chain, because the collar will destroy the characteristic, full, lion-like mane around their necks.

In North America the Keeshond most commonly comes in a mixture of colours: black, cream and grey. In other parts of the world, as well as the shaded grey and black colours, the Keeshond comes in solid colours of black, brown, orange, buff and white.

They have distinct colour markings on the body. The neck is covered with a long, light coloured mane. The body is generally dark with a lighter line running from the top of the shoulders to the elbow. These dogs have longer coated pants, which are lighter in colour. Their tails, which are curled tightly over the backs, are well furred with long, light grey coloured hair. Their legs and feet are covered with short, cream coloured hair. Their head is wedge shaped and covered with short, dark hair. The ears are erect and triangular shaped, dark in colour. The muzzle is dark. The forehead varies from light to dark.

One of the distinguishing factors about this breed is that it appears to be wearing spectacles, which are created by light coloured circles around each eye; with dark, short, expressive eyebrows; and a line from the outer corner of the eye to the lower corner of the ear.

Shedding/Grooming One of the few disadvantages of having a Keeshond is that they require regular grooming to keep them from matting. One can expect to spend an hour once a week brushing. They do not continually shed their coats. Instead, males will blow their coats once a year. Unspayed females lose theirs twice a year. Generally the undercoat comes out first, followed by the guard hairs. In about one month’s time you can easily comb or brush out a green garbage bag full of hair. During this time period your 1-hour of grooming may increase to 3 or 4 hours to remove loose hair. Giving your dog a warm bath during this period helps the pores to open, thereby shortening the shedding period.

Bathing is generally only required 3 or 4 times a year on a dog with a hard feeling coat. Dogs with this proper textured coat seem to shed the dirt more easily than dogs with a woollier coat. Softer coated dogs may require more frequent bathing.

On a positive note, the undercoat can be spun to make a wonderful angora-like yarn, which is very warm when knitted into garments.

Suitability to Children - Excellent. Parents must insure that young children do not play too roughly with the dogs, because they generally will take a lot of abuse, without retaliating. Do not let children ride on their backs, poke at their eyes, pull their hair or their tails. This is not only cruel, but can cause permanent, physical damage to the dog.

Common ailments The Keeshond may suffer from problems such as:

  • Black skin / wooly coat disease (hereditary disease of the pituitary gland, shown by the skin turning black and oily: the coat becoming sparse; Growth hormones are the only medication which will correct this, but they are not available to the veterinary profession; the dogs look awful but generally live full lives.)
  • Distichiasis (hereditary disease; double rows of eye lashes, one normal row and one row turning in. With this ailment there can be one or more eye lashes rubbing against the eye, causing tearing and staining under the eyes. These extra eyelashes can cause blindness unless they are surgically removed.)
  • Epilepsy (hereditary disease causing seizures.)
  • Hypothyroidism (Under active thyroid gland producing similar symptoms to black skin/wooly coat, but can be helped by giving thyroid medication.)
  • Hyperparathyroidism (seen in older dogs, a life threatening, genetic condition associated with parathyroid hormone irregularities, causing high levels of serum calcium) Cornell Study
  • Patellar subluxation (hereditary disease of the rear knees: painful.)
  • Hip dysplasia (hereditary disease of the hip joints; painful, debilitating and can affect a dog's movement.)
  • Allergies
  • Cancers
  • Heart problems
  • Over/undershot jaws
  • Missing teeth (usually the premolars behind the canines)

Where to buy a Keeshond To ensure that you are getting the best quality for your money I encourage you to always seek out a responsible breeder. Do not buy from a pet store, as this only encourages puppy mills, where dogs are bred repeatedly under deplorable conditions. Pet stores generally charge more money than a breeder does, and offer much less in the way of services, help and guarantees. Pet stores are there to make a profit. Breeders are there for the love of their particular breed. Pet stores often take puppies away from their mothers and litter mates, at a much too early age. Breeders hang on to their puppies until the optimum age of bonding between dog and humans – which is between 7 and 12 weeks of age. Pet stores often hire young and inexperienced sales clerks, who cannot be expected to know detailed information about the individual breeds. Reputable breeders dedicate their lives to their particular breed and should have answers to all your questions. If they don’t know the answer, they should be able to refer you to someone who does.

Here are some ways to find a breeder:

  • Search on the web for a national Keeshond Club. They should be able to refer you to breeders in your area.
  • Search for all breed clubs in your area, find out when their shows are being held, so that you can go and meet with the breeders of the dogs that are being exhibited.
  • Phone (416-675-5511) or email the Canadian Kennel Club and ask for their advice.
  • Check local newspapers for ads. (Caution: puppy millers, as well as breeders, advertise. Ask questions to determine who it is you are dealing with.)

It is a misconception that Breeders only sell “show dogs.” Only a few puppies have the potential to be exceptional show dogs. That is – only a few come close to what the written standard for the perfect specimen of the breed is. Therefore, breeders often sell more dogs as “companions”, than they do as “show dogs.” Occasionally, breeders will be able to sell older dogs that have not met their criteria for a show dog, but these animals still will make wonderful companions.

Questions to ask of a breeder Once you have found a breeder be sure to ask lots of questions. Also be ready to answer lots, as a good breeder is protective of their dogs and wants to make sure they go to very good homes. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Are all your dogs registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (or the national all breed kennel club of your country)?
  • Do all your dogs live in your home or out in a kennel?
  • How long have your been breeding?
  • How many litters have your had?
  • How many breeds of dogs do your own/breed?
  • At what age do you start breeding your dogs?
  • How many litters do your females have?
  • Can you tell me what genetic problems are in the breed?
  • Are you aware of any genetic problems in the bloodlines of your breeding stock?
  • Have you personally run into any problems. If so, what are they and what have you done to correct them?
  • What testing do you do on your breeding stock? (Hips, knees, eyes, thyroid, etc.)
  • Do you sell your dogs with a contract, and may I see a copy?
  • Do you require the puppy to be spayed or neutred?
  • What sort of health and temperament guarantee do you offer?
  • At what age do you sell your puppies?
  • What vaccinations will they have at that time? Do buyers receive a written vaccination record?
  • Will the pups be identified with a microchip and/or tattoo?
  • How much do you sell your puppies for? Are there any other costs that I should be aware of?
  • Will I be able to come for a visit, to see the puppies and meet both the sire and the dam?
  • Will you have started housebreaking the puppies before they are sold?
  • Will the puppy be used to being in a crate?
  • When would I get the registration papers?
If you are not satisfied with the answers you receive, then look elsewhere. A good breeder is not just the person who took care of the litter for the first 8 weeks. A good breeder should be there for you whenever needed for the life of the dog.

Price The cost of a Keeshond puppy will vary, depending on several factors. A breeder who shows her dogs extensively and has built a reputation of producing top quality dogs, can and likely will ask more for his/her dogs than someone without this background. Puppies may sell for as little as $700 for a companion dog, to $2,000 for a show quality puppy. Proven adults can sell for over $10,000.00

Buying a puppy can be like buying a car. You will pay more money for a Porsch than you will a Volkswagon, but you should also get more return for your money. If you do your homework, you should be able to find the Porsch, that you will keep for a very long time, and have few problems with.

Important Note:

Dogs cannot be sold in Canada as purebred unless they come with Registration Papers from the Canadian Kennel Club.

Written by Kathy Stewart

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All rights reserved. © 1998 - 2015 Klompen Keeshonden. This and subsequent pages may be reproduced, but only with permission from Kathy Stewart.