rec.pets.dogs: Keeshonden Breed-FAQ

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Kimberly J. Eashoo

Apr 17, 2004, 7:26:37 AM4/17/04
Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/keeshonden
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

There are nearly 100 FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
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* Kimberly J. Eashoo, February 20, 1996 []

Thanks to the authors of the Samoyed FAQ for inspiration on the
preparation of the Keeshond FAQ.

Table of Contents

* Description
* Recognition
* History
* Characteristics and Temperament
* Care and Training
* Special Medical Problems
* Frequently Asked Questions
* References



The Keeshond has been bred for centuries as the ideal family companion
and watchdog. Their magnificent appearance and sense of loyalty have
made them an appealing breed around the world. Their natural
tendencies are such that no special training is usually needed for a
Keeshond to act as a watchdog for his home, keeping it safe from
intruders. The Kees descended from the same arctic strains that
produced the Samoyed, Spitz and the Norwegian Elkhound . Correct
pronunciation of the breed name is caze-hawnd, but the Americanized
keys-hawnd is also acceptable. Most Kees fanciers will cringe,
however, if you mistakenly pronounce, or spell, the last syllable as
"hound". Plural of Keeshond is Keeshonden, the "en" ending signifies
plural in Dutch. A Keeshond is happiest around people, and will
willingly accept any stranger that its owners accept.


The Keeshond is recognized among the following kennel clubs: AKC, UKC,

The official AKC Standard for the Keeshond was approved by the AKC on
July 12, 1949. It is not included here due to copyright concerns, but
you may write to the national breed club or the AKC for a copy.


The Keeshond is a very old breed and there is little doubt that the
fact it was never intended to hunt, kill animals or attack criminals
accounts for its gentleness and devotion. In the 17th and 18th
centuries, Keeshonden were used as watchdogs, good-luck companions,
and vermin controllers on river boats, farms and barges. They were
known as Wolfspitz (Germany), Chiens Loup (France), Lupini (Italy),
and Keeshonden (Holland). During the 1700's, in Holland, Cornelius
"Kees" de Gyzelaar, a leader in the Dutch Patriot revolt against the
reigning House of Orange, kept one of these dogs as his constant

The Keeshond became the symbol of the Patriot Party. This is the basis
for the breed name as "Kees' dog", which in Dutch would be "Kees
hund". The Patriots' were defeated, however, and many Keeshonden were
destroyed to disavow any connection with the failed rebel party. The
only Kees that remained were a few on barges and farms. The breed was
not revived until nearly a century later through Baroness van
Hardenbroek and Miss J. D. Van der Blom. Throughout the late 1800's,
Keeshonden had appeared in England under the names of "fox-dogs,"
"overweight Pomeranians" and "Dutch Barge Dogs." This British dog was
the progeny of the German Wolfspitz crossed with a percentage of Dutch
imports. After the turn of the 20th century, Mrs. Wingfield Digby and
Mrs. Alice Gatacre aroused great interest in England and in 1926 an
English breed club was formed with "Keeshond" as the official name.
With rare exceptions, the Kees in the United States are derived from
British breeding.

The first American litter was bred in 1929 by Carl Hinderer of
Baltimore, MD. The first Keeshond was registered with the American
Kennel Club in 1930 in the Non-Sporting Group. The Keeshond Club of
America, as it was later named, was organized in 1935. Mrs. Virginia
Ruttkay pioneered Keeshond breeding in the Eastern US, founding her
kennel in 1946. Mr. and Mrs. Porter Washington of California purchased
their first Keeshond in 1932, providing foundation stock for many
successful Western US kennels.

Characteristics and Temperament

Coat and Grooming

The Keeshond is a double coated breed. This coat consists of a woolly
undercoat and longer guard hairs. Twice a year, Keeshonden "blow"
their undercoats, that is, they shed their undercoats completely. It
is a very intense shedding period that can last up to three weeks from
start to finish.

The good news is that this only happens twice a year. The remainder of
the time , Keeshonden are relatively shed free (unlike smooth coated
breeds). The bad news is that the shedding period can be rather messy.
The hair comes out in large and small clumps. Lots of vacuuming and
brushing are in order. The Keeshond is a very clean and relatively
odor free dog. It tends to clean itself like a cat. Even when a
Keeshond becomes covered in mud, it will clean itself. Bathing needs
are minimal; thorough brushings and/or "dry baths" using a mixture of
cornstarch and baby powder often suffices. A full bath may not be
necessary more than once per year or when the dog is obviously dirty.
Whitening shampoos will bring out the "brightness" of the coat.

Other than during coat-blowing season, the Keeshond needs relatively
little grooming. Daily brushing is ideal, but two or three times a
week is sufficient; the brushing should be thorough to penetrate the
outer coat and remove any loose undercoat. A long pin brush, a slicker
brush and possibly a rake are essential grooming tools. Trimming needs
are minimal, and if done should be done so that it looks natural and
uncut. The body coat should never be clipped or trimmed except for
medical reasons. Their nails should be checked and clipped

NEVER clip a Keeshond for the summer. After the undercoat has been
"blown out," the outer coat provides insulation from the heat and
protection from the sun. Exposed skin will be very sensitive to the
sun, and will sunburn very easily; this can lead to skin cancer.
Regular grooming and constant access to cool water are particularly
important in the summer, especially in warmer climates.


The typical Keeshond has an outgoing personality. It is outwardly
affecti onate with its family and will accept strangers readily once
the owner has showed no concern for the strangers presence. The
Keeshond makes an excellent watch dog, that is, will bark a stern
warning any time a stranger approaches the household or one of its
members. The Keeshond rarely bites, however, and therefore does not
make a good guard dog. The Keeshond is a very trainable breed, but has
a mischievous streak that often results in embarrassment for the
owner. Some Kees have done very well in obedience competitions, but
most trainers will tell you about the "jokes" their dogs have pulled
on them in the ring.

Keeshonden are friendly by nature to both people and other dogs. Their
demand for affection is moderate to high. The pack-oriented nature of
the Keeshond means that they do better when included in the family
(pack, from their point of view) than when left outside by themselves.
As befits their Northern ancestry, they may enjoy spending periods
outside - particularly during cold weather - but their "place" should
be inside with the rest of the pack.

The Keeshond is known as the "Smiling Dutchman", which is often
displayed as a curled lip or submissive grin. Certain breeds have a
propensity for this behavior, the Keeshond is one of them. The grin is
a sign of submission and often used as a greeting for people the dog
is particularly fond of.

Barking, Talking, and Howling

Keeshonden both bark and talk, though they generally do not howl. The
alert tone of a Keeshond bark "on watch" will warn all that a stranger
is near. Some Keeshonden are more frequent barkers and should be
corrected with a "quiet" command. Rarely is a Keeshond a nuisance
barker. The Keeshond may also "talk" with a soft "aroo" or "woo-woo"
sound similar to the Malamute and Samoyed.

Care and Training


When you pick up your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the
puppy has been eating, as well as recommendation as to the best food
and feeding frequency in the future. You should try and follow the
puppy's diet at the time you collect him from the breeder as best you
can, until the puppy is settled in to its new environment. Then you
can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Sudden changes
in diet can severely disrupt the puppy's digestive system and cause
gastric distress.

As for the type and "brand" of dog food, basically any reputable dog
food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog
healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage
that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment. In
addition, stool size and amount is generally less with the premium dog
foods. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of
food to suit your dogs needs. For show or active Kees, something
equivalent to a Science Diet Performance or Eukanuba is in order. For
Kees that go for walks and hikes, a Maintenance formula is usually
best. Consult your breeder and veterinarian for advice.


Keeshonden are happiest when they can share in family activities. The
best a rrangement is one in which the dog can come in and out of the
house of its own free-will, through a dog door. If a dog door is not
possible, then training the dog to go to an outside door to be let out
is also very easy to do. Outside, the dog should have a large, fenced
yard. The fence should be strong and at least 4 feet tall. Keeshonden
do not generally attempt to escape the confines of their yard, but, if
left alone for long periods of time or abandoned to the back yard,
they can and will perform some amazing feats of escape. They are prone
to dig shallow "wallows" in hot weather; they will typically just turn
over a layer of dirt to get to the cooler earth just below the

The Keeshond can remain outside in very cold weather. However, you
should provided shelter from the elements in the form of a good sturdy
house. A good insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect for
Keeshonden that spend most of their time outside. Heating the dog
house is usually not necessary. It should be stressed that leaving a
Keeshond outside all the time is definitely inferior accommodations to
being inside with the family. Again, problems may develop as the dog
becomes bored.


Training Keeshonden, as any Northern breed, can be a challenge. Unlike
other Northern breeds, however, the Keeshond is not nearly as stubborn
as it is clever. When training a Kees, it will usually attempt to
"make up" things as it goes along to make obedience more interesting.
While the dog is usually very pleased with its efforts, the owner can
be completely at wit's end. Training Keeshonden requires a sense of
humor first and foremost.

Special Medical Problems

The Keeshond, as a breed, is relatively free of particular
breed-related medical problems. The following conditions listed occur
infrequently in Keeshonden obtained from a reputable breeder, but
occasionally are present in the breed.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a genetic disorder that affects some Keeshonden: the
proportion of 'pet shop' or 'backyard bred' Kees with this condition
is significatly greater than Kees obtained from a reputable breeder.
Simply put, hip dysplasia is a deformation in the hip joint. The head
of the femur does not sit solidly in the acetabulum. The joint lacks
tightness, and the condition results in a painful and often
debilitating life for the dog. Hip dysplasia is considered to be a
moderately inheritable condition. Reputable breeders will have
breeding pairs OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified prior
to breeding. OFA certification can be given only after a dog is over
24 months old. Responsible breeding by Keeshond breeders has led to a
tremendous decrease in the incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed.

Subluxation of the Patella

"Slipped stifles" simply means that slipping of the kneecap on the
rear legs. This condition, whether hereditary or caused by trauma, can
be identified by a veterinarian during an examination. Patellar
subluxation is correctable by surgery but because it is hereditary
(unless caused by injury) it is not recommended that dogs with this
condition be bred.

von Willebrand's Disease

A hereditary disorder appearing in some Keeshonden is Von Willebrand's
disease (essentially hemophilia), a platelet disorder resulting in
mild to moderately severe bleeding and a prolonged bleeding time.
Careful pedigree analysis and blood testing have reduced the incidence
of this disease by reputable breeders.


Keeshonden are subject to hypothyroidism and allergic skin diseases,
both of which can often be treated. Sometimes skin diseases are a
result of thyroid dysfunction. Current research indicates maternal
antibodies as a major cause of hypothyroiditis. An untested mother, if
affected by the disease and not demonstrating visible symptoms, will
have circulating antibodies to the disease. When the fetus begins
developing its own thyroid tissue, the antibodies attack brain tissue.
In humans, it causes mental retardation but in dogs, it is believed to
cause behavior problems. Once the fetus begins nursing, additional
antibodies are passed to the newborn in the colostrum, eventually
damaging the thyroid gland of the recipient. Studies indicate a
euthyroid (normal on medication) mother is no longer circulating
antibodies, thereby producing normal offspring. If each female is
tested BEFORE breeding, in 5-10 generations, lymphocytic
hypothyroiditis could greatly diminish. A complete thyroid panel,
including T3, T4, free T3, free T4 and an antibody test are important.
A subclinical bitch may not be showing visible symptoms therefore,
only a blood test could determine an affected bitch.


Keeshonden are not as prone to epilepsy, a neurological seizure
disorder, as they once were. Unfortunately, there is no test for this.
Ask the breeder if there are any known epilepsy problems with dogs in
your Keeshond's pedigree. Ethical breeders will be more than happy to
discuss this with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

_How do Keeshonden handle the summer heat?_

Like any dog, to cope with summer heat the Keeshond needs a
constant supply of water to drink and shade from the sun. If the
dog is allowed inside then it will find its own cool spot (probably
on the kitchen or bathroom floor if it is tiled or linoleum floor).
Outdoors, the dog will probably dig a shallow hole by turning over
a layer of soil to get to the cooler earth just beneath the
surface. Some dogs like having ice added to their water to help
keep it cool. Some also enjoy a children's wading pool filled with
water in the summer time. The Keeshond sheds a lot of coat before
summer, as soon as the whether starts to warm up, which also allows
them to keep cool. Heavy exercise should be avoided in excessive
heat. Curtail exercise times to be early morning or just after
sunset. Once the dog is acclimated to his environment, he is
usually fine. NEVER clip a Keeshond for the summer. Exposed skin is
very prone to sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer. Also, the
coat acts as an insulating blanket from the heat as well as the
cold. Keeshonden are remarkably adaptable animals. However, one
should never try and push a dog beyond his capability to cope with
the heat. To do so can be disastrous. One must keep in mind the
type of climate the dog is acclimated for and not look for signs of
heat stress. Do not ever lock any dog in a car in direct sunlight,
or in the shade for a great deal of time, even with the windows
down a little for ventilation the heat generated by the dog is
still enough to cause heat stress in summer.

_What are they like with children?_

Due to their gentle temperament the Keeshond is a very good family
dog. The Keeshond was bred to be a family companion, after all.
They enjoy the company of children, though common sense must be
used when introducing any dog to young children. Keeshonden are
generally patient by nature and will tolerate young children
fawning over them, but this should be strictly supervised for the
sake of the dog as well as the child. With these caveats in mind,
since Keeshonden love attention, well behaved children get along
wonderfully with well mannered and socialized Keeshonden.

_What are they like inside a house?_

Keeshonden, aside from the occasional invasion of masses of fur
when they are shedding coat, are excellent house dogs. They are
extremely clean dogs. They are very sure-footed and in no way
clumsy around furniture. They will often pick out a favorite
sleeping spot and stay there for hours. Favorite spots seem to be
tiled and linoleum floors in warm weather, soft pillows or beds at
other times. The dog may seek out drafty areas and possibly lie in
front of doors with cold drafts during the winter.

_How much exercise do they need, and what kind?_

The Keeshond does not require a great deal of exercise, which makes
the breed an excellent companion for apartment dwellers. A daily
walk would suffice for most Keeshonden, although if you are "up"
for a game of Frisbee or ball, the Keeshond will gladly oblige.
Keeshonden have participated in many dog sports such as sledding,
Agility, Flyball, Scent Hurdle Racing, Frisbee and have recently
been recognized as a breed eligible to compete for Herding titles.
The level of activity of your Kees really depends upon how much you
wish to do with the dog.

_Do they shed a lot?_

Keeshonden blow their undercoats twice per year. They do not
typically shed year round like many dog breeds. When they do blow
their coat, they lose lots of hair (several grocery sacks full per




Cash, Carol and Ron. The New Complete Keeshond, 1987, Howell Book
House. ISBN 0-87605-199-9.

Peterson, Clementine. The Complete Keeshond, 1971, Howell Book
House. ISBN 0-87605-174-3.

Nicholas, Anna Katherine. The Keeshond, 1984, T.F.H. Pub., ISBN

Breed Rescue Organizations

Rescue information is available on the Keeshond Home Page, URL: or Rescue information,
Keeshond Club of America, nationwide referral (919) 742-7479.

Breed Clubs

Keeshond Club of America
Tawn Sinclair, 11782 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, CA 90265

The American Keeshond Society
Membership Information: Carolyn Schaldecker, 3280 Coral Ave.
NE, Solon, IA 52333-9374


In the United States: Contact the Keeshond Club of America for breeder
recommendations in your area.

Keeshond FAQ
Kimberly J. Eashoo,

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