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Nicole Cosgrove


The Keeshond is a medium purebred bred in Germany and developed in the Netherlands. It is successful in competitive obedience and agility events but is more often kept as a companion and is valued for its high intelligence, its alertness and liveliness. It loves people and makes a great family dog as it loves to be at the center of all activity.

The Keeshond at A Glance
Name Keeshond
Other names Dutch Barge Dog, Smiling Dutchman, Chien Loup, German Spitz, Deutscher Wolfsspitz, Wolfsspitz
Nicknames Kees
Origin Germany and Netherlands
Average size Medium
Average weight 35 to 45 pounds
Average height 16 to 19 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Long, dense, harsh, thick
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, white, grey and silver
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 84th by the AKC
Intelligence Excellent – this is a very smart dog
Tolerance to heat Good – can live in warm to moderately hot climates but not too high
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can even handle extreme cold climates
Shedding High plus seasonal shedding too, expect a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobbering or drooling
Obesity Fairly high – watch its food and treats and make sure it is exercised enough
Grooming/brushing Moderate maintenance – will need daily brushing
Barking Frequent – training will be needed to control it
Exercise needs Fairly active – quite energetic
Trainability Easy to train – very intelligent breed
Friendliness Excellent – very social dog
Good first dog Very good – new dog owners should be fine with this breed
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Very good – size is fine but its frequent barking may be an issue
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being alone and can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Somewhat healthy but there are issues it can be prone to such as Addisons, hip dysplasia, Eye problems, allergies and epilepsy
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $545 a year for grooming, license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1150 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Keeshond Club of America
Biting Statistics Attacks Doing Bodily Harm: 1 Maimings: 0 Child Victims: 0 Deaths: 1

The Keeshond’s Beginnings

The Keeshond is often noted as being a Dutch dog but in fact its origins are German, though the Dutch did love the breed and it does have a big history there too. It is related to other breeds like the Pomeranian, the Finnish Spitz, the German Spitz, the Chow Chow, the Norwegian Elkhound and the Samoyed. In the 1600s and 1700s it was popular as a watchdog and companion on river vessels.

The name comes from a 1700s Dutch patriot and leader of the rebellion against the Dutch royalty, Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer. The dog was then the rebel’s symbol and for that reason when the royal House of Orange returned to power the breed nearly became extinct because of its link to the rebellion. ‘Hond’ is simply Dutch for dog. However before that name was adopted it was known by several other names such as Dutch Barge Dog, Smiling Dutchman, Chien Loup, German Spitz, Deutscher Wolfsspitz and Wolfsspitz.

Keeshond was a term used in the Netherlands that covered any of the German Spitzes for a long time. In Berlin in 1880 the first Wolfspitz standard was formed and the Club for German Spitizes started in 1899. In 1901 that standard was revised to be more specific about the breed’s coloring. In the late 1800s the first one was shown at the British Kennel Club and they referred to it as an ‘overweight Pomeranian’.

New Lease on Life

Its low number and decline in popularity continued though until really the 1920s when a Baroness van Hardenbroek took an interest in the Netherlands, Mrs Wingfield-Digby did too in England and Carl Hinderer in Germany. The Baroness found dogs being used still on barges and farms and began to breed them while spreading the word about them. As a result the Dutch Keeshond Club was started in 1924. As a result of Mrs Wingfield-Digby’s work the Dutch Barge Dog Club of England formed in 1925 and the breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1925, and it was here the name of the breed was changed to Keeshond.

Carl Hinderer founded his kennel for the breed in 1922 in Germany and he brought the breed to the US in 1923. Because this was not long after the first world war anything German was not being well received so the AKC did not recognize it straight away. It took a lot of effort but eventually it was in 1930. The Keeshond Club of America was started in 1935. Today it is ranked 84th most popular registered dog by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Kees is a medium sized dog weighing 35 to 45 pounds and standing 16 to 19 inches tall. It is a compact dog that looks a lot like its relative the Samoyed. It coat is double, thick, soft under and longer, straight, harsh outer that stands out from the body. Common colors are grey, silver, white and black. The fur is thicker around the neck on males giving it more of a mane than you find in females. On the back legs the fur gives it a look of having trousers on and the front legs have some feathering. Its tail is plumed and is medium in length and it carries it over the back in a curl. Its feet are rounded, compact and almost cat like.

The head is wedge shaped with a muzzle that is medium length and medium dark eyes with black rims. Ears are erect, small and triangular, set high and dark. It has a very unique marking on its face, dark lines that make it look like it has spectacles that run from the corner of its eyes to its ears.

The Inner Keeshond


The Keeshond is an intelligent, alert, playful and energetic dog but when compared to other Spitz breeds this is actually one of the calmer ones! It is fine for people who are first time dog owners, and it is also a good watchdog, it will bark to let you know of any intruder. It will need training to stop that barking though as it is a frequent barker and some do have a difficult to deal with high pitch bark. It is an intelligent breed and it is also friendly and outgoing. It has a lot of personality and it enjoys being with people, entertaining them, being a part of activities and getting lots of attention. With its family too it is extremely loyal and affectionate.

If your Kees spins a lot this is a sign it is excited or that it is not getting enough exercise. Because of its energy it is best in homes with people who are happy to be active every day. It needs a lot of attention too and does not like being left alone for long periods. It can suffer from separation anxiety which leads to destructive behavior. With the right attention and care it is bright, happy and eager. How it gets on with strangers can vary from polite to friendly.

As this breed is sensitive and has acute hearing it best in homes that are not full of shouting and tension. It is sometimes called the ‘Smiling Dutchman’ because of how it curls its lip and shows its teeth, this is not a snarl, it is the dog grinning. Its intuition means it is often used and trained as a comfort dog – Ground Zero workers on 9/11 had Tikva, a Keeshond come to comfort them during their work. Because of its sensitivity and need for company though this breed is one of the clingiest you can get and will follow you around and get under your feet.

Living with a Keeshond

What will training look like?

Keeshond are easy to train as it is intelligent, listens to commands and usually will obey them. It is possible in fact your Kees will train more quickly than many other dog breeds as it will need less repetition. Make sure that you do not make it overly repetitive or boring and keep things moving along and it should keep up with that and remain engaged and enjoying the time it spends with you. Also be warned sometimes this guy can be a little too clever for its own good and can be mischievous and try to get its own way. Be positive and gentle as it is a sensitive dog. Offer it rewards, treats, praise and encouragement. It is also essential you be consistent and firm so that it knows you are the boss, set the rules and stick with them.

Because some lines of Kees can be timid it really is important to start socialization as early as possible. Expose it to different people, sounds, children, dogs, animals and places so that it can be a confident, well rounded and trustworthy dog. If the timidity is allowed to rule the dog it can be fearful and snappy.

How active is the Keeshond?

Keeshond are a fairly active breed so need a fairly active family to be happy with. It can live in an apartment as long as it gets out each day, but does best if it has access to at least a small to medium sized yard. It is good in even extreme cold climates but not in the heat so make sure you watch it for things like heat stroke. It would love trips to a dog park where it can run off leash, socialize and play with you. It should also be taken out for at least a couple of half hour walks. This is not a dog you can leave for hours in the yard alone. Watch for circle spinning, it can be a sign your dog is not being stimulated physically or mentally enough.

Caring for the Keeshond

Grooming needs

Overall this is a breed that has moderate maintenance needs. It will need brushing each day using a stiff bristled brush going with the grain, then comb and lift the hair against the grain, then place it back. Without regular brushing and care this coat really does matt very quickly and easily. It does shed frequently and heavily and it also has seasonal blow outs that last 2 to 3 weeks. This means there is a lot of clean up each day to do, and the brushing can help with some of that but it will not prevent hair around the home (or on your clothes) completely. Only bathe when it really needs it to avoid drying out the skin. It will need regular trimming or stripping by a professional groomer too. Keep in mind that shaving the dog is not the best idea as it will lose its color markings and its coat is a form of protection.

The dog should have its teeth brushed two to three times a week and its ears checked once a week for infection signs, then wiped clean carefully using dog ear cleanser and cotton ball or cloth. The nails too should be clipped when they get too long, this is something you can have the groomer do for you if you are not experienced, as dog nails will bleed and it will hurt them if you cut too low.

Feeding Time

Each day it will need 1 to 2 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food split into two meals. Make sure it is not allowed to over eat as it does love its food and gains weight easily. How much exactly your dog needs will depend on its metabolism, activity level, age, size and health.

How is the Keeshond with children and other animals?

This is certainly a great family dog as it gets on great with children. It is playful and energetic, affectionate and good natured. It is fine with children of all ages but small ones should still be supervised to make sure they do not mishandle it. Teach children how to stroke and play and things that are not acceptable so that they know how to interact kindly with dogs. With socialization the Kees is also good with other dogs and with other pets.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Keeshond dog will live for 12 to 14 years and is somewhat healthy but is prone to certain health issues such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, skin problems epilepsy, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, eye problems, Addison’s Disease, Von Willebrand’s and allergies.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people that did bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 34 years, the Keeshond is mentioned in just 1 incident. It was not a child but that attack did result in the victim’s death. This is not a dog known for its aggression but the fact is if under stress, having a bad day, or not being treated and raised as it needs, any dog can snap and lash out. It is important when looking for a dog that owners get one they can truly commit to. Do not get a needy dog like the Kees if you have not got the time to spend with it. Do not get an active dog if you love your couch more than being out and active. Make sure your dog is well socialized and trained and the odds of it reacting poorly can be lessened.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Keeshond puppy will cost about $1000 for a pet quality dog from a good breeder. For something from a top breeder of a higher show quality then this is going up to three to five thousand dollars. For $50 to $400 you could rescue a Kees from a shelter or rescue but it is more likely to be an adult rather than a puppy. The bonus though as well costing less, is you will get some medical costs taken care of for you and you get the good feeling of giving a dog a new forever home. Avoid local ads or ones online that are likely to be from back yard breeders or puppy mills.

Once you have the puppy or dog you will need some items for it and you also need to take it to a vet for some tests and procedures. It will need bowls, collar and leash, crate and a carrier which will cost at least $200. A check up, vaccinations, blood tests, deworming, neutering or spaying and micro chipping will cost about $290.

Annual costs will include things like food, medical basics and other miscellaneous costs. Treats and a good quality dry dog food will cost about $145 a year. Basic health needs and pet insurance will cost about $460 a year. Miscellaneous items, toys, license, basic training and grooming will cost about $545 a year. This gives a starting figure of about $1150 a year.


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Keeshond are a lively, spirited dog full of joy, a little mischief, intelligence and affection. It is a very needy dog though, as well as the usual training and socialization it needs a lot of time spent with it or it becomes very unhappy and anxious. Definitely not a dog for people who work all day. That socialization is essential as some are prone to being timid. It is a very loyal and fun dog to have around but it will need a lot of grooming and it sheds a lot all the time. If you do not want hair on your furnishings and your clothing this is not the dog for you, even with daily clean up and brushing there will still be some around.

Featured Image Credit: stockfoto, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.