The Keeshond is a Spitz-type pooch that looks much like the Pomeranian but is much bigger and fluffier. Their black, gray, and cream coat colors and unique markings also make them look wolf-like, so you might have heard of them being called the Wolfspitz. Not only are they gorgeous, but they also have a personality to match. They are super friendly, always happy, and chilled to be around. So what’s the catch?
There is no catch, but there is one thing they need more than anything, and that’s a family that can spend most, if not all, of their time with them. Keeshonds need to feel like an integral role of the family. Otherwise, they feel neglected. They also need an equally matched happy-go-lucky owner who can keep up with their antics. But give them company and good vibes, and you can be sure of a great match.
Here in this guide, we take you through everything you need to know about the Keeshond if you are considering inviting one into your home. We look at their history to see how that shapes their personality, exercise, grooming needs, and much more. This smiling dutchman is a rare breed in America, but it’s difficult to see why once reading this Keeshond breed guide. So, let’s dive into the world of this sweet dutch pup.
The Keeshond, pronounced “kayz-hawnd,” is from the Spitz dog family, like Pomeranians and Samoyeds. They originated from the Netherlands and were initially bred as watchdogs and companion dogs on small vessels on the Rhine River. The Keeshond is the national dog of Holland, and they are often called the “smiling Dutchman.”
Keeshonden became a symbol of the 18th-century Dutch Patriots Party, famous for their opposition to the royal House of Orange. As a symbol of the rebel party, they became popular among ordinary citizens. It is unclear why the breed is called Keeshond, but there are two popular theories. The first is that the name refers to a Patriot mascot dog called “Kees,” or the second refers to two different Patriot leaders nicknamed “Kees.”
Eventually, the rebel party was overthrown by the followers of the royal House of Orange, and sadly many Keeshonden fell into disgrace and were destroyed. A lady called Mrs. Wingfield-Digby discovered the dogs kept by local captains and farmers. She took two puppies back to England and became the foundation stock outside of Holland.
Carl Hinderer bred the first American Keeshond litter in 1929. In 1935 the Keeshond Club of America was established. They are a relatively rare breed, usually ranking between 90th and 100th place out of 280+ breeds. Today they are prized for their people-loving personality and brilliance as a family pets.
Keeshonden are hardy and unpretentious people dogs. They love to be a central part of the family unit and are the life and soul of all parties. Keeshonden are not a breed that takes themselves off for peace and solitude. They are very affectionate and quite needy, but it is an excellent trait for owners looking for a second shadow. This also makes them outgoing and super fun playmates, never too tired for a game of fetch. Many Keeshonden get the zoomies and spin in circles when happy, sharing their joy.
Keeshonden have an alert and intelligent expression highlighted by their facial markings. And they don’t just look like guardians – they make brilliant watchdogs too. Their loud, stern bark backs their vigilance. Their propensity for barking is something to consider because they are naturally noisy dogs, and not all families like this trait.
In reality, they aren’t effective guard dogs because they are super friendly with most people and readily accept people into their homes. If their humans welcome them, they welcome them even more, jumping up and looking for affection. This sweet and loveable trait is something to focus on during training, as it can become too much.
Keeshonden are friendly with other dogs, making them a top choice for multi-dog households. They are hugely affectionate with all family members and love to be around kiddos. As long as your children are dog-savvy, the Keeshond makes an awesome four-legged sibling for them. Their happiness and friendliness make them a top therapy pooch.
Size & Appearance
The Keeshond is a medium-sized dog with a square appearance from the Spitz family. They look wolf-like, which is why they are commonly known as the Wolfspitz. Keeshonden weigh between 35 and 45 pounds and measure between 17 and 18 inches from their paws to their shoulders. Males are usually the larger of the two sexes.
Keeshonden have tightly curled tails that lie close to their back and should form part of their silhouette rather than be separate. They have fox-like faces with narrow muzzles and small, pointy ears. Their paws are round and cat-like, and they should always have dark brown and sweet almond-shaped eyes. If you want to show your Keeshond in the show ring, they must conform to the Keeshond breed standard. There are strict guidelines for the dog’s coloring, but if you are looking for a family pet, these rules aren’t that important.
Coat & Colors
Their most distinctive features include a thick stand-off coat and unusual spectacles. Their thick and fluffy double coat has a straight and harsh appearance, but the undercoat is soft and downy. These separate layers help to keep them warm and dry. The spectacles are shadings and markings around the eyes that give them the impression they are wearing glasses. It is a charming hallmark that most Keeshonds have.
The hair on their face, head, and ears should be short, velvet-like, and soft. They have a mane-like covering around their neck and shoulders, much thicker in male Keeshonds. Their legs are feathered on the front, with thick “trousers” on their hind legs, only down to the hocks. Below that, the hair is short and smooth.
The Keeshond sports a mixture of black, gray, and cream coat colors. The hair on the outer coat is black-tipped, which becomes darker as they mature. The undercoat is usually cream or very pale gray. The muzzle and ears should always be dark, preferably black. The mane, shoulders, and “trousers” are generally much lighter in color, with defined shoulder markings. The tip of the tail should be black, with the rest being cream.
Exercise & Living Conditions
Although they are so glad to relax with you on the sofa, this only happens after playtime. If you seek a lapdog who doesn’t need much exercise, this is not the breed for you. They typically require between 45 and 60 minutes of exercise daily and be sure to play with them throughout the day.
Keeshonds are adaptable dogs who can live in compact barges or sprawling farmlands. The size of their home does not matter. But they need a family that can spend most, if not all, of their time with them because they hate to be left alone. Leaving them alone for too long causes them great stress, resulting in nuisance barking, destructiveness, and challenging behavior. Do not take this pooch on if you cannot devote your time to them.
Keeshonds are Spitz dogs with thick coats that descend from arctic breeds, which means they do not like hot and humid climates. Keep them inside during hot days to keep them cool. Alternatively, many Keeshonds like the water and enjoy lounging around in shallow children’s paddling pools to keep them cool.
The Keeshond is a curious pup with a zest for life, but thankfully, they are eager to please their owners, making them highly trainable. They do very well in the ring, excelling in agility, obedience, and other competitions. The first dog to win multiple AKC Master Agility Championship titles was a Keeshond named Molly.
Keeshonds need early training if you want to bring out the best in them. They are quick learners with the motivation to learn but become bored quickly if they aren’t trained or their trainer isn’t exciting enough. Obedience training is vital if you want to shape them into well-rounded dogs. Otherwise, their curiosity can lead to mischievousness.
Early socialization is also crucial. Otherwise, they won’t turn into the friendly pooch you expect them to become. Expose them to as many experiences as possible, including meeting new people, dogs, sights, and sounds. Correct socialization creates a confident canine. You should also teach your Keeshond the “quiet” command to prevent them from becoming nuisance barkers.
Crate training is key for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. Crates give them a safe space to relax while you are gone and give you peace of mind that they are not trashing the place in retaliation for you leaving them. Remember that their crate is only for short periods and not to contain them for too long. Keeshonds are only happy when they are with their family.
Keeshonden are relatively healthy dogs who typically live between 12 and 15 years of age. Like other dog breeds, certain health conditions are more common in the bloodline than others. Thankfully, responsible breeders screen for these diseases meaning they have reduced.
Elbow & Hip Dysplasia
Elbow and hip dysplasia are malformations of the joints that can lead to inflammation, pain, and mobility issues in the dog. Joint dysplasia can be inherited, so all breeding dogs should be X-rayed to determine their joint scores according to Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or Penn HIP protocols. It’s important to not over-exercise your dog when developing, as this can lead to dysplasia too.
The two most common eye conditions in Keeshonden are progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. Both of these conditions affect vision but can be corrected with surgery. Breeders should get their breeding dogs examined by an ophthalmologist and register their results with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) and/or the OFA.
Patella luxation is a hereditary orthopedic disease that causes a dog’s knee to dislocate. It can be very painful and lead to loss of mobility. If you notice your dog has a lame limb or is kicking out, this could be a sign of patella luxation.
Primary Hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is a disorder of the parathyroid glands which causes them to secrete excessive amounts of certain hormones. This can lead to too much calcium in the bloodstream, damaging your dog’s kidneys. Responsible breeders should submit their breeding dogs for testing to identify the presence or absence of the PHPT gene. PHPT can be managed effectively with medication when identified early.
Choosing between kibble, fresh, or raw foods is a personal choice. Whatever you pick, ensure that it is an age-appropriate, high-quality diet that supports your dog’s health. How much you feed them depends on their age, sex, activity levels, and the type of food they eat. Feeding your Keeshond puppy a diet designed for puppies is crucial for their skeletal development and for reducing joint problems.
The Keeshond is an active dog who rarely becomes overweight. However, they have a weakness for yummy treats, and their thick coat makes it hard to notice weight gain. Excessive weight can exacerbate the joint problems Keeshonden are prone to. To keep your Keeshond healthy and reduce stress on their joints, weigh them regularly to ensure they remain at a healthy weight.
Keeshonden have a thick double coat that requires slightly more attention than the average dog, but probably not as much as you think. Brush them thoroughly twice a week with a pin brush is enough to keep them looking healthy and the undercoat in check, keeping their shedding to a minimum. They only need coat trimming around their pads, feet, and hocks. All other hair should be natural.
Some owners take their Keeshonds to the groomers every four to six weeks for a bath and blow dry. Others do it themselves. Keeshonden need their teeth cleaned several times weekly to keep them in top condition. Their narrow muzzle means their teeth are tight, making periodontal diseases more likely.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Working with a responsible breeder who does everything possible to produce healthy puppies is essential. Research them online and look for independent reviews and a top-quality website highlighting their experience. Meet them and the pups in person and ask for the health certificates. The AKC’s Keeshond breeder list is a great place to start your breeder search.
The average price of a Keeshond pup from a reputable breeder sits at about $1,500. However, some puppies from popular breeders with award-winning bloodlines can reach $4,000. Irresponsible breeders price their pups lower to lure potential owners in, but you’ll likely spend much more overall on vet bills later. Remember to consider the additional puppy costs new owners incur, such as beds, crates, health checks, training, and insurance.
Rescues & Shelters
Keeshonds are relatively rare dogs in America and even rarer in rescues. Many breeders stipulate in their puppy contracts that dogs should be surrendered to the original breeder rather than a shelter. However, it’s still a good idea to head out to your local shelter and speak to the staff who might know of a nearby Keeshond needing rehoming. Alternatively, check out online Keeshond dedicated rescue organizations.
As A Family Pet
- Keeshonds are medium-sized Spitz-type dogs.
- They are very adaptable and can live in any type of home.
- All they ask is for a family to spend most of their time with them.
- They are relatively active and love to play all day.
- Keeshonds are affectionate and adore their humans.
- Their nickname is “second shadow.”
- Keeshonds have a thick coat that needs twice-weekly brushing.
- They are watchful and vigilant with a loud bark.
- These dogs are very friendly pups that can live with dogs and children.
The Keeshond is a happy-go-lucky pooch who loves their family more than anything else. They need a family that can spend most of their time with them. Otherwise, they become miserable. But if you can provide them with the company, you are almost guaranteed the best canine companion you could wish for. You need to have a love for life as they do, but with this smiling dutchman around, you can’t help but smile.