Keeshonds are medium-sized dogs with abundant coats of long, harsh, straight hair and downy undercoats. Their coat comes in a mixture of black, cream, and gray, in any variation of light or dark. These dogs are known for their distinctive "spectacles" and plumed tail they carry over their backs. They have expressive eyebrows, small pointed ears, and dark, medium, almond-shaped eyes. Keeshonds measure 17 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 35 to 45 pounds.
These dogs are sometimes referred to as "Velcro dogs" because of their tendency to stick very close to their favorite family members.
Affectionate, outgoing, and friendly, Keeshonds make excellent family companions. They get along well with people and other dogs, and follow their owner's lead when welcoming unfamiliar people. The breed is energetic, playful, good-natured, and always ready for an adventure. These dogs make great house pets, but they are also alert watchdogs.
The Keeshond, which is considered the national dog of The Netherlands, has markings around the eyes that resemble eyeglasses. These markings, usually referred to as the breed's "spectacles," are one reason for its popularity.
The Keeshond is a lively and intelligent breed that is known for being friendly and outgoing with people and other animals. The breed is not usually aggressive or timid, although they may be reserved when encountering new situations for the first time. These dogs make affectionate and playful companions for families and do well in most settings.
These dogs are sometimes referred to as "Velcro dogs" because of their tendency to stick very close to their favorite family members. They can be demanding when it comes to time and attention, and this should be a consideration before purchasing or adopting one of these dogs. They are an excellent choice for families with children, however, as they are playful and happy-go-lucky.
The Keeshond has moderate exercise needs that must be met if the breed is to remain healthy and happy. A daily walk on a leash and some playtime in an enclosed yard is generally enough to satisfy the breed's activity requirements. These dogs tend to adapt to the activity level of their owner, which can be good or bad. They do equally well in small apartments as in larger homes, provided they are given some outdoor time every day.
A relatively healthy breed, the Keeshond is at increased risk for a few disorders that are potentially serious or even life threatening. These dogs are prone to congenital hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, Addison's disease, epilepsy, primary hyperparathyroidism, renal cortical hypoplasia, and hypothyroidism. Additionally, the breed is prone to skin and coat problems and to several eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy, which causes blindness.
The Keeshond is also at risk for certain heart conditions that may hasten death, including mitral valve defects and Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital defect that causes four specific abnormalities: pulmonic stenosis, ventricular septal defect , an overriding aorta, and right ventricular hypertrophy, which is a thickening of the heart muscle.
When no significant genetic disorders are present, and provided the Keeshond receives regular veterinary care, proper nutrition, daily exercise, and timely vaccinations, the breed can live as long as 15 years.
A smart but stubborn breed, the Keeshond must be trained with consistency and a lot of patience. These dogs are easily bored, so training sessions cannot be too repetitive and must be kept fun and short. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as play, praise, and food rewards, usually provide the best results when training these dogs. Finding the right motivation goes a long way toward establishing a successful training routine.
The Keeshond has a few behavioral issues that are best dealt with early in life. Like most other dogs, this breed likes to chew. What is chewed is of little importance, and shoes left on the floor are as appealing as doggy chew toys. These dogs also enjoy playing in and making a mess with water, and the breed is known to dig giant holes in search of mice and moles. Training can help minimize these behaviors.
If barking is a problem, and it often is with this breed, debarking procedures are an option. However, this surgery is considered by many to be inhumane. Instead, work with a professional trainer to teach the Keeshond when barking is appropriate and when it is not.
The Keeshond has an abundant, long, double coat that needs brushing at least twice weekly. During shedding seasons, brushings may need to be more frequent. A slicker brush, a pin brush, and a stainless steel Greyhound comb are important tools to keep on hand if sharing a house with one of these dogs. A good pair of scissors for trimming the breed's foot hair is also a good thing to keep around.
Regular brushing means less bathing, but this breed will still benefit from a bath a few times each year. A gentle, pH-balanced canine shampoo will clean the coat, leave it soft and manageable, and protect the skin from irritation. Always rinse the Keeshond's abundant coat well to make sure all soap is removed.
The nails should be trimmed every week or two, or more often if needed, and the ears should be checked weekly for wax accumulation and signs of infection. Any symptoms of ear infection, including redness, odor, discharge, swelling, or pain, should be reported to a professional promptly so that treatment can begin. The breed's teeth need daily brushing with a canine toothpaste to prevent cavities and gum disease. The addition of dental treats and drinking water additives are also beneficial and will help keep the breath smelling fresh.
The Keeshond breed descended from the same strains as the Chow Chow, Samoyed, Finnish Spitz, Norwegian Elkhound, and Pomeranian. Its original role was as a watchdog on boats and farms, and the dogs became very popular in Holland during the late 1700s. The Keeshond also became symbolic of the Dutch Patriot political party. When that party was defeated, the breed's numbers declined rapidly.
About a century later, the breed was revived when Baroness van Hardenbroek developed an interest in the breed. Around this same time, the dogs started appearing in the United States and England.
Today, the Keeshond is primarily kept as a companion animal due to its distinctive appearance and friendly personality. Some still work as watchdogs in Europe and elsewhere. The breed's numbers are slowly increasing around the world. The Keeshond is now the national dog of The Netherlands.