History & Origin

Keeshonden belong to the Spitz group of dogs. Their exact origin is unknown, although the 18th century saw them as watchdogs and companion dogs in the Netherlands.

They were named after Cornelius de Gyzelaar whose nickname was Kees. He was a patriot who revolted against the Dutch House of Orange shortly before the French Revolution. A dog owned by ‘Kees’ became the symbol of the revolt, and the breed coined this name ever since. Sadly, their numbers drastically declined after this incident, but the name stayed on. Before this, these were mostly barge dogs that went with the riverboats up and down the Dutch canals and rivers.

The breed survived due to the efforts of a dedicated few and made a comeback during the 1920’s. This was due to the efforts of Baroness van Hardenbroek. The breed was particularly popular in Great Britain.

Keeshonden’s popularity saw a slow incline in the USA. This changed after the Second World War. Their popularity sharply increased, as it still does.

The Keeshonden is Holland’s national dog. A large feat considering its humble origins.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Keeshonden breed in 1930.

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A handsome breed, the Keeshond is a natural watchdog. They are not attack dogs, however, and seldom bite. Once allowed in your home, everyone becomes their friend.

Highly intelligent yet friendly in nature, the Keeshond gets along with everybody, whether human or pet. This breed seldom barks, so when they do, please take note. They are great talkers, though, and love having a ‘conversation’.

An affectionate breed, your Keeshonden puppy quickly becomes attached to his family. They are family dogs, not one-person dogs, with a special fondness for smaller children. This breed has patience!

Loving their family is their main job. Your puppy will shower you with affection and expect the same in return. He needs to be a part of all family activities. They are, after all, companion dogs.

Although playful and slightly willful while young, the Keeshonden never loses its general playful personality. He learns quickly, and minimal training is needed to make him an integral part of the family and home.



nutrition and feeding


A smallish dog, the Keeshonden has a lifespan of thirteen to fifteen years.


Your Keeshonden, as a puppy as well as an adult, needs a balanced diet. The more balanced a dog’s diet, the healthier he is and the longer he will live. This means he needs all the necessary proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed for his size, age, and state of health.

Many commercial dog food brands try to comply with these criteria. Many others, unfortunately, do not. There is no current legislation determining what goes into commercial dog food and what does not. Many cheaper, more popular dog food brands contain fillers and additives. They do not give your dog the nutritional requirements he needs. They only fill his stomach, giving him a feeling of fullness. Please read the labels carefully before making an informed choice.

Besides dry dog food, there is also canned dog food. The same criteria apply.

Feeding dogs a raw food diet is becoming more popular by the day. It ensures a healthy dog and keeps him that way. There are a number of possible problems, but they are easily overcome if you keep an eye on what you feed your puppy. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far.

The benefits of a raw diet for dogs includes smaller and less smelly stools, less body fat and more muscle, less digestive problems, great skin and fur, a dog with more energy, and one with better teeth and oral hygiene.

Certain foods are dangerous to a dog’s health, however. These include avocados, onions, most nuts, citrus fruit, any caffeine, and chocolate. Keep them away from your pet. If not, you could end up with large veterinarian bills.


Feed your new puppy the same food he had at the breeder. Changing his diet immediately results in an upset stomach and possibly vomiting. You could also end up with a large medical bill. Any change in diet should be tackled over a period. This lets his stomach get used to the new food gradually.

Because they are still small, food needs cutting up into small pieces. Chicken (cooked) and red meat are great protein sources.

Adding fruit and vegetables to their diet is also good. Vegetables to keep in mind are sweet potato and carrots. Brown rice is also great for puppy tummies.

Up until he is six months old, your puppy needs four meals a day. This makes house training easier. Do not indulge in free feeding. Many dogs are obsessive eaters! Overeating causes obesity that in turn leads to health issues like heart problems and diabetes. It also contributes towards the occurrence of hip dysplasia and patellar dysplasia.

By the time your puppy is six months old, two meals a day are fine, preferably in the morning and in the evening. Two smaller meals a day instead of one large one helps combat the occurrence of bloat, which is a life-threatening condition. Rather be safe than sorry.

Please remember to have a bowl of fresh water available at all times. A Keeshonden’s lush, thick coat means he easily dehydrates during warmer weather.

coat and grooming


Size and Coat

Keeshonden males are slightly larger than the females. The male stands between seventeen and nineteen inches, measured from the withers to the floor, and weight about 45 pounds. A female Keeshonden stands between sixteen and eighteen inches and weighs about 35 pounds.

The Keeshonden has a square build with a tightly curled tail typical of its Spitz heritage. He has a double coat. The inner coat is wooly and dense while the outer coat consists of stiffer guard hairs. These outer guard hairs are not straight but have a kinky quality. This allows the fur to ‘loft’, or stand out. It provides great insulation during the cold winter while keeping the dog cooler during the warmer summer months.

If the Keeshond’s fur is not properly maintained, however, it loses the ‘lofting’ quality. Its coat type also ensures the dog does not develop a ‘doggy’ smell. This ability is lost if the coat is not properly cared for.

Females ‘blow’ their fur twice a year, usually around their menstrual time. Males do so once a year, around their birth dates. Blowing means it loses its undercoat. Undercoat that is not removed leads to the development of hot spots, a skin condition that can lead to infection and worse.

Coat color is a black and gray mixture with some white added. The tips of the fur are black. Undercoats are either gray or cream. The fur on the entire body, including the tail, is profuse, while that on the muzzle, ears, and the skull is short, soft, and velvety to the touch.


A breed that does not really have a doggy smell, the Keeshonden does not need regular bathing. Excessive bathing and conditioning cause the fur to lose the ability to ‘loft’, or stand up. The breed does, however, need regular brushing. Brushing not only removes tangles or foreign objects from the dog’s hair but stimulates the skin as well. This ensures proper blood flow and a healthier coat.

As females molt twice a year and males once, these are the times when your brushing efforts need to intensify. The softer, undercoat ‘blows’ during this times. Fortunately, you do not deal with single loose hairs. Their hairs tend to clump together and are easy to pick up.

It is best to groom a puppy from an early age. Doing so ensures a more pleasurable experience for the dog as he gets older, and an easier one for you. When bathing, a hairdryer works wonders to get his fur fluffy. It also ensures your puppy does not roll in the sand in order to dry himself!

Ears need regular cleaning with a cotton wool ball while toenails need clipping. Any discharge or discoloration of the ear is a sign of an infection. Please take him to the veterinarian for treatment. It is a painful condition.

Long toenails tend to tear, which is also painful. Keeshonden owners who do not want to cut their dog’s nails can have it done at either the doggy parlor or veterinarian. It is a quick procedure and not costly at all.



Exercise, Energy, and Activities

Your Keeshonden puppy comes from a breed that enjoys taking part in family activities. He does not have a high energy level, though, nor does he need a lot of exercise. A breed bred to live on houseboats they do not need a large space for activities. This makes them great as companion dogs and for apartment living.

Happy with one long, leisurely walk a day, Keeshonden make terrible running partners. Besides their relatively small size, they are prone to overheating. This is due to their thick, double coat, and because hotspots are a problem if their coat is not properly looked after. Warmer days should see Keeshonden inside with the air conditioner or fan on if living in a warmer climate.

Because of their love for swimming, Keeshonden do well at water rescue. Their intelligence also makes them great at sports such as competitive obedience, agility, flyball, rally, and agility.

Training and Sleep/Rest

Housebreaking a puppy takes a lot of time and patience. Luckily, your Keeshonden puppy is extremely intelligent and easy to please. He picks up on this quite quickly as compared to other dogs.

Any kind of training should take place according to a schedule. In other words, he needs set times to eat, play, and yes, go potty. Also, please remember a puppy develops control over his bowels and bladder much like a human baby does. The older he gets, the better he can control it. There are a number of things you can do that makes potty training easier.

  • Feed him according to a set schedule. A puppy needs to go potty about fifteen to twenty minutes after a meal.
  • Take him out first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
  • Take him out at regular intervals during the day, approximately every 30 minutes in the beginning, and every two hours as he learns control.
  • Have a designated potty area so that you puppy knows where his toilet is.
  • Praise him when he does it ‘right’. Do not be harsh when he makes a mistake. He is still learning the ropes.

Puppies sleep a lot. Twenty hours’ of sleep a day is nothing unusual. Please do not be alarmed! Growing babies need their sleep! He will sleep less and play more as he gets older. Just be sure to have enough chewing toys around. Active puppies will chew on anything they can get their paws on!

Do make sure his sleeping space is somewhere quiet, warm, and comfortable. Puppies soon learn where they should go when they need a quiet time or to sleep in peace.



Health Issues

A healthy breed, your Keeshonden puppy is prone to mainly minor health issues. A reputable breeder will tell you whether your dog’s lineage has any serious health problems. Talking to this person allows you to make an informed decision on whether or not to purchase a Keeshonden puppy.

The most common health problems are:

  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • The condition is usually hereditary but is also caused by injury. Surgery fixes the problem.
  • Patellar luxation
  • It is a dislocation of the kneecap and quite common in smaller dog breeds. Treatment involves diet and possibly surgery.
  • Skin problems

These include the formation of hotspots due to an undercoat that is not brushed out and eczema. Treatment is topical (use of a cream). Eczema is at times the result of diet.

To Sum Up

A healthy, friendly family dog, the Keeshonden is adaptable and can easily live in an apartment. Your puppy’s exercise needs are few, although he needs to be part of a family. He is not a one-man dog.

Haven’t you waited long enough? Go for it! There are puppies for all!

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