Commonly called Kees, the Keeshond dog breed is known for its friendly and affectionate nature. Also known as the Dutch Barge Dog, the Keeshonds were companions of people who practically lived or spent most of their time on the barges that traversed the waterways of Holland.
Today, these highly people-oriented dogs make equally good companions and family pets for anyone who wants a canine family member. Their nickname ‘Smiling Dutchman’ suits these happy dogs in more ways than one.
Originating in the Netherlands, these dogs have been around from the 17th century, but their exact lineage is not known. Many families preferred these dogs for guarding their property and also as companions in their barges. Their popularity had increased within the country by the 18th century and the breed spread to other European countries as well.
They once got involved in political turmoil as the leader of the Patriot party, Kees de Gyselaer, depicted these dogs in the cartoons for political campaign that they came to be identified as the symbol of that party. Unfortunately for the dogs, the party lost, and the people who owned these dogs got rid of them in an effort to distance themselves from the losers. But that was not the end of the breed, and they became popular again on being introduced to England and the United States in the 20th century. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1930.
The Keeshond dog breed is a spitz type dog, known by several other names like Wolfspitz, Deutscher Wolfspitz and German Spitz. Measuring 18 inches at the withers at the most, and weighing 30 to 40 pounds, these rather square-shaped dogs are compact in size but for the thick covering of fur. The dense double coat is typically a combination of grey, cream and black.
They have a medium-long muzzle and small, triangular, spitz-like erect ears, both noticeably darker than the rest of the body. The coloration around the eyes gives the dogs a spectacled look. The plumy tail is carried at the back in a tight curl.
The Keeshond dog breed is highly social with a definite affinity for human company. They become very attached to their owners and tend to follow them like a shadow. They are friendly towards other pets and children in the household and immediately take to people welcomed into the house by their owners. However, they are suspicious of strangers and express it by loud barking.
Dogs kept in a yard or a kennel, and not inside the home with the family, are known to become nuisance barkers. They like to be a member of the family in every sense, and appreciate taking part in every activity the family is involved in. They also need plenty of social life that should include other dogs and people.
Highly intelligent, Keeshonds are quick learners. They have an independent disposition, and can be a bit reluctant in obeying commands, but consistent training through positive reinforcements can bring out the best in these dogs. Lack of attention or boredom can make them turn to destructive activities.
Grooming and exercise
The massive double coat of the Keeshond dog breed obviously requires thorough grooming. It should be brushed thoroughly once every 2- 3 days, checking for any skin problems that may occur occasionally. They do not need frequent baths though, as they do not generally have the doggie odor. The coat and mane of this breed are best left alone, as trimming it will reduce its protective nature and unique appearance. These dogs blow their coat for about two weeks, once or twice a year, and a new coat comes on.
They have moderate exercise requirement that can be met with brisk walking combined with some games in the yard with the family members. They can adapt to living in apartments too, provided they get opportunities for outdoor activities.
These dogs love being out in the cold as the thick coat gives them ample protection. However, they are not suitable for living in a kennel since these highly sociable dogs get frustrated when left alone for extended periods.
Common health issues of Keeshond dog breed
The Keeshond dog breed has been around for a long time, which makes it a relatively healthy breed with very few health problems. However, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and epilepsy occasionally occur. A few dogs may have cardiac problems such as tetrology of Fallot or mitral valve insufficiency. This breed is also prone to a congenital defect called renal cortical hypoplasia that eventually leads to kidney failure. Testing the dog for these potential problems facilitates early detection and treatment. The average life expectancy of Keeshonds is 12 to 14 years.