The lively little Keeshond (pronounced "kays-hawnd"), also sometimes known as the Wolfspitz, Foxdog, Chien Loup, Dutch Keeshond, Dutch Barge Dog, Smiling Dutchman or Laughing Dutchman, is a very old breed and one of a very few that was only bred to be a watchdog, guard dog and family companion. The fact that Keeshonds never were bred to chase, hunt, attack or kill either animals or people undoubtedly contributes to their gentle, loving nature and complete devotion to their owners. These are stocky, spitz-type, medium-sized dogs with gorgeous fluffy gray coats and tightly curled tails. They are slightly smaller in stature than the German Wolfspitz, to which they are closely related. Keeshonds enjoy the out-of-doors but especially thrive inside. They are lively, friendly, cuddly, extroverted and smart. They get along famously with children. This is an attentive breed that makes an endearing and affectionate family companion. The American Kennel Club accepted the Keeshond for full registration status in 1930, as a member of the Non-Sporting Group.
The Keeshond is an ancient breed that originated in Holland. It descends from many of the same dogs that contributed to the Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Norwegian Elkhound, Finnish Spitz, Chow Chow and Pomeranian. The Keeshond's ancestors reportedly arrived in Europe centuries ago, with travelers from the far North. During the 1400s and 1500s, they were favored by farmers for their instinctive watchdog and guarding capabilities, as well as for their gentle playfulness with and protectiveness of children.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Keeshonds were used extensively as jack-of-all-trade dogs on European farms, barges and riverboats. These lively silver-and-black dogs could easily jump from ship to shore. They barked vigorously at strangers and enjoyed watching over children. They also were skilled at herding livestock, killing rats and other vermin, guarding cargo and even guiding barges through foggy waters by swimming capably out in front of the boat. Keeshonds originally were called "Wolfspitzen" in Germany, "Chiens Loup" in France, "Lupini" in Italy and "Keeshonden" in Holland. Because of its immense popularity and historical prominence in Holland, the breed eventually became affectionately referred to as the "Dutch Keeshond." While the Pug was the dog of choice for many Dutch aristocrats at that time, the Keeshond was especially favored by commoners.
The source of the Keeshond's name is the subject of some controversy. One theory is that the breed was named for Cornelis "Kees" de Witt, who was murdered in the Netherlands in 1672 and apparently owned one of these dogs. After his death, according to proponents of this theory, the breed became known as the "Kees Dog," or "Kees' hund." Another, more popular theory is that the Keeshond was named after the 18th-century Dutch revolutionary, Cornelis ("Kees") de Gyselaer, who lived in Dordrecht. Holland was deeply divided politically during this time. "Kees" de Gyselaer was one of the leaders of the Dutch Patriots, or Patriotten, who supported Holland's common and middle classes, and his dog became a symbol of political affiliation. When supporters of the Prince of Orange (called the "Prinsgezinden") defeated the Dutch Patriot Party in 1787, the dog associated with the Patriots' cause fell out of favor. Its numbers decreased dramatically, especially among members of the urban and upper classes who did not want to be seen with a "Kees' hund." Fortunately, some rural families retained their dogs and kept track of their pedigrees.
Starting in the 1800s, commercial transportation began to become modernized. Barges got bigger, and so did the breeds of dogs that were preferred to accompany them. Luckily, foreign dog fanciers discovered the Keeshond at about the same time. Around the turn of the 20th century, several women and one man aroused a great deal of interest in the Keeshond and are credited with bringing the breed to the attention of European, British and American dog fanciers.
In 1910, a dog enthusiast named Lady Gwendolyn Wingfield Digby, of Sherborne Castle in Dorset, discovered Keeshonds while on a yachting trip in Holland. She and Alice Gatacre, a Dutch Keeshond authority at the time living in Devon, began importing Keeshonds from Holland to their Van Zaandam and Guelder kennels in England. Another woman, Baroness Van Hardenbroeck, founded a Keeshond Club in the Netherlands around the same time, stimulating additional interest in the breed. Keeshonds were exhibited at the Birmingham National Dog Show in 1923, under the name "Dutch Barge Dog." The British sometimes referred to these dogs as "fox-dogs" or "overweight Pomeranians." The Dutch Barge Dog Club was founded in England in 1925, to preserve and promote the breed. The club changed its name to the Keeshond Club one year later.
In 1923, Carl Hinderer relocated his Schloss Adelburg Kennel, and its Keeshonds, from Germany to the United States. Hinderer tried gallantly to persuade the American Kennel Club to recognize his favored breed. In 1930, he convinced then-AKC President, Dr. DeMond, to travel with him to Germany. Hinderer presented DeMond with his German Keeshond Champion, "Wachter." Dr. DeMond was so impressed by this dog that he got the Keeshond admitted for full AKC registration status that same year, as a member of the Non-Sporting Group.
The first Keeshond was registered with The American Kennel Club in 1930, under the breed name "Keeshonden." The Keeshond Club of America, as it later was named, was founded in 1935 and soon became the Parent Club for the breed in this country. Keeshonds only gained slowly in popularity until the end of World War II, when their numbers - and their fans - started growing in leaps and bounds. Pet owners began to recognize the versatility of this beautiful, kind, sensible all-around family dog. Purebred dog fanciers, including conformation exhibitors and performance enthusiasts, also became increasingly aware of the Keeshond's wonderful temperament, traits and talents.
The average life span of the Keeshond is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include epilepsy, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease), hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, patent ductus arteriosus, Ehler-Danos syndrome (cutaneous asthenia), adult-onset growth-hormone-responsive dermatosis, diabetes mellitus, generalized keratoacanthoma, nasal cavity carcinoma, glaucoma, cataracts, patellar luxation and primary hyperparathyroidism.
Temperament is extremely important in the Keeshond breed. Well-bred, well-mannered Keeshonds are neither timid nor aggressive. To the contrary, they are outgoing, lively and friendly, both with people and with other dogs. These are smart, intelligent, alert, affectionate animals. They are gregarious and cuddly, and are particularly fond of children. Keeshonds thrive on being with their people. They always want to be the center of attention and to participate in all family activities.
The Keeshond is a sturdy, nimble, game dog that enjoys accompanying its owner on any and all outings. Keeshonds love to go on long leisurely walks at parks, beaches or just around the neighborhood. They are playful, adventurous and more than willing to try new activities. They don't need an enormous amount of exercise, but they will do best with regular walks and activity.
Keeshonds are quick-learners that usually are in-tune with their owners. However, they can be somewhat independent and self-directed, which can make training a bit challenging. Positive reinforcement, and especially use of tasty treats, lavish praise and other techniques to motivate the Keeshond, should give him enough encouragement to follow his owner's directions. Repetition, repetition and more repetition, together with a healthy dose of patience, are critical to successful training of a Keeshond. It is also important to socialize these dogs from an early age, to give them the best chance of blossoming into well-adjusted, stable, self-confident adults.
Keeshonds are well-suited to apartment living and don't require a great deal of space to be content. They make delightful urban companions. However, they can be a bit barky, which is a hold-over from their watchdog ancestry, and they continue to be good watchdogs to this day. Keeshonds are good eaters that are fond of treats and table scraps. Owners should feed them a high-quality diet and take care to keep their weight under control. Keeshonds are smart and agile. They are increasingly recognized as outstanding obedience, agility and rally competitors. They have earned the designation as premier therapy dogs for autistic children, which is not surprising since their love of children is legendary.
The Keeshond (pronounced kayz-hawnd) is a natural, handsome dog of well-balanced, short-coupled body, attracting attention not only by his coloration, alert carriage, and intelligent expression, but also by his stand-off coat, his richly plumed tail well curled over his back, his foxlike expression, and his small pointed ears. His coat is very thick around the neck, fore part of the shoulders and chest, forming a lion-like ruff-more profuse in the male. His rump and hind legs, down to the hocks, are also thickly coated, forming the characteristic "trousers." His head, ears, and lower legs are covered with thick, short hair.
Size, Proportion, Substance
The Keeshond is a medium-sized, square-appearing, sturdy dog, neither coarse nor lightly made. The ideal height of fully matured dogs when measured from top of withers to the ground is 18 inches for males and 17 inches for bitches-a one inch variance either way is acceptable. While correct size is very important, it should not outweigh that of type.
Expression-Expression is largely dependent on the distinctive characteristic called "spectacles"–a combination of markings and shadings in the orbital area which must include a delicate, dark line slanting from the outer corner of each eye toward the lower corner of each ear coupled with expressive eyebrows. Markings (or shadings) on face and head must present a pleasing appearance, imparting to the dog an alert and intelligent expression. Very Serious Fault: Absence of dark lines which form the "spectacles."
Eyes – Eyes should be dark brown in color, of medium size, almond shaped, set obliquely and neither too wide apart nor too close together. Eye rims are black. Faults: Round and/or protruding eyes or eyes light of color.
Ears – Ears should be small, triangular in shape, mounted high on head and carried erect. Size should be proportionate to the head-length approximating the distance from the outer corner of the eye to the nearest edge of the ear. Fault: Ears not carried erect when at attention.
Skull – The head should be well-proportioned to the body and wedge-shaped when viewed from above-not only the muzzle, but the whole head should give this impression when the ears are drawn back by covering the nape of the neck and the ears with one hand. Head in profile should exhibit a definite stop. Faults: Apple head or absence of stop.
Muzzle – Of medium length, neither coarse nor snipey, and well proportioned to the skull.
Mouth – The mouth should be neither overshot nor undershot. Lips should be black and closely meeting-not thick, coarse or sagging, and with no wrinkle at the corner of the mouth. Faults: Overshot, undershot or wry mouth.
Teeth – The teeth should be white, sound and strong meeting in a scissors bite. Fault: Misaligned teeth.
Neck, Topline, Body
The neck should be moderately long, well-shaped and well set on shoulders. The body should be compact with a short, straight back sloping slightly downward toward the hindquarters: well ribbed, barrel well rounded, short in loin, belly moderately tucked up, deep and strong of chest.
Tail – The tail should be moderately long and well feathered, set on high and tightly curled over the back. It should lie flat and close to the body. The tail must form a part of the "silhouette" of the dog's body, rather than give the appearance of an appendage. Fault: Tail not lying close to the back.
Forequarters – Forelegs should be straight seen from any angle. Pasterns are strong with a slight slope. Legs must be of good bone in proportion to the overall dog. Shoulder to upper arm angulation is between slight to moderate.
Hindquarters – Angulation in rear should be between slight to moderate to complement the forequarters, creating balance and typical gait. Hindquarters are well muscled with hocks perpendicular to the ground.
Feet – The feet should be compact, well rounded, cat-like. Toes are nicely arched, with black nails.
The body should be abundantly covered with long, straight, harsh hair standing well out from a thick, downy undercoat. Head, including muzzle, skull and ears, should be covered with smooth, soft, short hair--velvety in texture on the ears. The neck is covered with a mane--more profuse in the male--sweeping from under the jaw and covering the whole of the front part of the shoulders and chest, as well as the top part of the shoulders. The hair on the legs should be smooth and short, except for feathering on the front legs and "trousers" on the hind legs. Hind legs should be profusely feathered down to the hocks-not below. The hair on the tail should form a rich plume. Coat must not part down the back. The Keeshond is to be shown in a natural state with trimming permissible only on feet, pasterns, hocks and--if desired--whiskers. TRIMMING OTHER THAN AS DESCRIBED TO BE SEVERELY PENALIZED. Faults: Silky, wavy, or curly coats. Part in coat down the back.
Color and Markings
A dramatically marked dog, the Keeshond is a mixture of gray, black and cream. This coloration may vary from light to dark. The hair of the outer coat is black tipped, the length of the black tips producing the characteristic shading of color. Puppies are often less intensely marked. The undercoat is very pale gray or cream, never tawny.
Head – The muzzle should be dark in color. "Spectacles" and shadings, as previously described, are characteristic of the breed and must be present to some degree. Ears should be very dark-almost black.
Ruff, Shoulders and "Trousers" – The color of the ruff and "trousers" is lighter than that of the body. The shoulder line markings of light gray must be well defined.
Tail – The plume of the tail is very light in color when curled on the back, and the tip of the tail should be black.
Legs and Feet – Legs and feet are cream.
Faults: Pronounced white markings. Black markings more than halfway down the foreleg, penciling excepted. White foot or feet.
Very Serious Faults – Entirely black or white or any solid color; any pronounced deviation from the color as described.
The distinctive gait of the Keeshond is unique to the breed. Dogs should move boldly and keep tails curled over the back. They should move cleanly and briskly; the movement should be straight and sharp with reach and drive between slight to moderate.