Breed of the Week: The Keeshond (Video)


Well, I have to confess that I’d never even heard of the Keeshond until I started researching rare dog breeds. I was surprised to find out that I probably should have heard of this breed long ago, since it’s a very old breed.

Apparently, the Keeshond (which is pronounced kays-hawnd) originated in Holland, where he typically kept boat operators company during their journeys back and forth along the rivers and canals.

Who knew!


The Keeshond isn’t exactly a “barky” dog, so if you think that you’re Keeshond is going to make a noise if someone invades your property, think again. The other thing with the Keeshond is that barking notwithstanding, he’s still not going to be much of a guard dog. The typical Keeshond is so friendly, he’ll probably let a burglar come into your house, show him where you keep the family heirlooms, and walk out with the burglar that’s cleaning you out, just in exchange for some kind words or a friendly pat.

Your Keeshond will, though, enjoy cool weather while he’s watching those burglars enter your house. This is a breed that likes low temps, although you shouldn’t leave him out for long – he’d much rather be inside with his people.


Keeshonds are close relatives of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Pomeranian, and Finnish Spitz. The breed became very popular in Holland in the 1800s and 1900s, but lost popularity in the late 1900s. Then, a woman by the name of Miss Hamilton-Fletcher (first name unknown) discovered the breed, and imported them to England, where another breeder, Mrs. Alice Gatacre, came onside and worked to form a breed club.

Meanwhile, in Holland, the breed continued to decrease in popularity until the Baroness van Hadenbroek decided that Keeshonds were pretty cool. She started breeding them, and then, ten years later, a Dutch Keeshond Club was formed.

Keeshonds hit America in 1929, with the first litter being accredited to a man named Carl Hinderer. Then, in 1930, the AKC recognized the breed.


Typically, male Keeshonds will stand about 18 inches at the shoulder and weigh 45 pounds. Females will usually stand at about 17 inches, and weigh 35 pounds.


As previously suggested, Keeshonds aren’t much in the way of watch dogs or guard dogs. They just want to snuggle up to you and be your best friend.

Don’t think that this means that the Keeshond is a dumb couch potato, though – this breed is very trainable, and learns manners easily. If you want to enter obedience trials, you could do a lot worse than a Keeshond.

I know I keep harping on this over and over, with every breed I talk about, but the Keeshond is no different from any other dog in that he needs to be socialized early – exposed to all sorts of people and experiences. No dog of any breed is ever going to end up being well-adjusted if he’s not socialized early.

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Keeshonds are usually healthy, but almost any breed of dog can be prone to certain illnesses. The following are some that can affect the Keeshond.

Addison’s Disease

This disorder occurs when the dog doesn’t produce enough adrenal hormones. Symptoms can include lethargy, vomiting and poor appetite. Addison’s disease can also be aggravated by stress.

Hip Dysplasia

I don’t know why I’m even mentioning this here, really, since I’ve never even heard of a dog breed that wasn’t prone to hip dysplasia, a disorder that occurs when the thigh bone and the hip bone don’t fit properly. This isn’t something that’s specific to Keeshonds – it can happen with any breed. The condition is inherited, and can get worse as the dog ages.

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)

This is an eye disease that causes the retina to deteriorate. There is no cure. However, many dogs adapt very well to loss of vision, so this does not have to be a death sentence.


In dogs, this really isn’t any different than it is in humans. It’s quite simply a disorder in which the body isn’t able to regulate the levels of sugar in the blood, and in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (which is what delivers sugar to the blood). When the insulin level is low, the body’s cells don’t get the glucose that they need. A dog that has diabetes will often eat a great deal, in an effort to compensate for the shortage of glucose, but he’ll urinate a lot and lose weight because the food he’s taking in isn’t being used effectively.

Diabetes in dogs is treated pretty much the same way as it is in humans – by administering additional insulin.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is something that’s found both in dogs and in humans. It’s a disorder that is manifested by poor clotting. You just bleed and bleed and bleed, and keep on bleeding.

In dogs, this disorder can manifest as bleeding gums, nosebleeds, bleeding excessively after surgery, bleeding too much following a heat (in females) and even, sometimes, blood in the stool. It’s not curable, but it can be managed using medication.


This is a disorder that affects the thyroid gland, and can manifest as obesity, epilepsy, skin conditions and lethargy. It’s manageable with medication.


This is pretty much the same in dogs as it is in humans – it’s a buildup of tissue on the eyes that can impair vision. Most of the time, cataracts go hand in hand with old age. They can be removed surgically.


This is a condition that is usually inherited. It causes seizures. They can look pretty scary, but are usually manageable with medication.

Care and Feeding

Keeshonds are meant to be companions. They can be happy in small spaces, but are usually far happier if they’re allowed to be with their human family members.

If you leave your Keeshond out by himself for a long time, he’s going to get bored and barky, and your neighbors aren’t going to be all that impressed. If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time with your Keeshond, then probably this isn’t the right breed for you.

As to exercise, there’s really no such thing as a dog that doesn’t need to be exercised. Keeshonds are low-maintenance dogs in that they don’t really need a great deal of exercise – you don’t, for instance, have to be a long-distance runner to own a Keeshond. You should, however, plan on at least one vigorous walk in any given day.


If you’re going to feed on a schedule as opposed to free feeding, you should give your Keeshond one to two cups of good quality dog food every day, spread out over two meals.

Keeshonds aren’t prone to excessive weight gain, but if you’re wondering if your Keeshond is getting a little too “porky,” do a hands test. This is done simply by standing behind your dog, and looking at him. Do you see a waist? If you’re not sure, put your hands on his back with your thumbs toward his spine. Then, point your hands downward. At the spine, you should feel bone under a layer of fat – but not a huge layer. Down toward the ribs, it’s the same thing. You should feel ribs, but not bone. If your hands seem to be coming down on bone, the dog is thin. If you can’t feel bone at all, though, he’s probably too fat.

Coat and Grooming

Keeshonds are beautiful dogs, with thick top coats and wooly undercoats. As to color, you’ll find combinations of black, gray and cream, as well as beautiful dark markings running from the ear to the eye.

Oddly enough, these long-coated dogs are very easy to groom. They don’t mat up, at least not if you brush them a couple of times a week. They are semi-annual shedders, though, and will dump hair all over your house every six months or so.


Keep in mind, too, that Keeshonds are a lot like most breeds in that they can be pretty finicky when it comes to having their toes handled, so start doing that at an early age.

As you groom your Keeshond, make sure, too, to check for any skin disorders, rashes, or skin inflammation.

Kids and Other Pets

Generally speaking, Keeshonds are great family dogs. They’re even good with small kids, which is not something that can be said of every breed. They’re good with other animals, too, provided that they’re gently introduced.

As I’ve always said, though, and will continue to say over and over, please, do not leave any dog, of any breed or any temperament unattended with a child. And that often has less to do with the dog than it does with the kid – quite simply, they can be little s***s, and if something happens, it might not be the dog’s fault.

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The Final Word

Keeshonds are amazing dogs – so loving, and so smart, and so great with kids and other animals! If I weren’t so crazy about really big dogs, I’d consider a Keeshond. And so should you.