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Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Kooikerhondje is a small to medium sized purebred from the Netherlands and was bred to be a hunting dog. Specifically it would lure ducks into traps where they would be tagged or hunted, hence its nickname dutch decoy dog. Today though it is also an affectionate companion and family dog and does well at competitions such as flyball. The Kooiker lives an average 12 to 14 years and its name translates to little cager dog. It is a spaniel type dog and while popular in the Netherlands is less known in North America.

The Kooikerhondje at a Glance
Name Kooikerhondje
Other names Kooiker Dog, Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, Small Dutch Waterfowl Dog
Nicknames Kooiker
Origin Netherlands
Average size Small
Average weight 20 to 40 pounds
Average height 14 to 16 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Medium, double, thick, straight or a little wavy
Hypoallergenic No
Color Orange, red, white, black
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Good just nothing too hot
Tolerance to cold Very good can handle the cold well though not extreme cold
Shedding Average – will be some hair around the home
Drooling Low to moderate – not prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Above average – measure its food and make sure it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Average – brush twice a week
Barking Occasional – will be some barking
Exercise needs Quite active – needs owners happy to be active too
Trainability Moderately easy for those with experience
Friendliness Good with socialization
Good first dog Good but better with experienced owners
Good family pet Good but needs good socialization and training
Good with children Moderate – socialization and training are essential
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization and training essential
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization and training essential, really it prefers to be the only pet
Good with strangers Moderate – wary and distrustful so again socialization and training is essential
Good apartment dog Good if gets outside enough though does love to have a yard to play in
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few issues can include eye problems, cancer, patellar luxation
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $235 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $840 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,500
Rescue organizations Kooikerhondje Club of the USA, check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Kooikerhondje’s Beginnings

The Kooikerhondje has been around in the Netherlands for several hundred years, it can be seen depicted in paintings that date to the 1500s. It is a spaniel type dog and was developed to be a hunting dog. It would lure ducks into a trap to be shot or tagged and is thought to be the ancestor to another dog with the same skills, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. The duck cage was called kooien and the hunters were called kooiker and the dogs were then called the Kooiker’s hondjes.

It attracted the ducks attention by weaving in and out of duck blinds and it became very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is said the dog became even more popular when a Kooikerhondje called Kuntze belonging to Prince William II of Orange saved him from an assassination attempt one night. In the 19th century though the use of duck decoy dogs went on the decline and so the numbers of Kooikerhondje dropped. Then into the 20th century it was facing extinction in the 1930s and then after the second world war it is thought there were only 25 dogs remaining.

New Lease on Life

There was a savior though in the form of a Baroness Van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol who decided to save the breed in 1939. She lived alone in a large mansion and loved her dogs. She was an eccentric having them sit at the table with her at dinner time. She was a hero in World War II helping allies escape Germans and using her dogs to lead them through the woods to the border with Belgium. In fact she also helped save a few other dog breeds.

She asked a traveling salesman to look out for dogs that looked like the Kooikerhondje, eventually finding first a female then a male. She started breeding even during the war when the Netherlands were occupied. Her work led others to take interest in the breed and in 1966 recognition started and completed in 1971 by the Dutch Kennel Club. While the Kooiker is not really known in North America it is in the process of gaining recognition by the AKC. The UKC in the US does recognize it and the Kennel Club in the UK does too.

The Dog You See Today

The Kooikerhondje is a small to medium sized dog weighing 20 to 40 pounds and standing 14 to 16 inches tall. Its tail is thick, heavily plumed and waves with a white tip. The body is squared shaped and it has an interesting coat that can take as much as 24 months to grow in. It is then thick and medium length with a little wave to it or straight. Colors are reds and oranges on a white background. There is feathering on its legs and ears and some can have black hairs. Its most distinguishing look is the earrings it has, the ears are red with long black tips. The head is in proportion and it has a black nose and almond shaped dark brown eyes.

The Inner Kooikerhondje


The Kooiker is a fairly sensitive dog and needs a relaxed and tension free home and owners who are not likely to raise voices often or use physical punishments. It is a friendly and good natured dog that likes human companionship and does not like being left alone for long times. It can be a great family dog with the right raising, cheerful, behaved and lively. With strangers it is reserved and will likely withdraw so socialization is important. It is alert and can be a good watchdog that will bark to let you know if someone is trying to enter your home.

This intelligent dog is attentive and eager to please and great at adapting to new situations. It can be lively in the right situation and it is curious so loves to explore and get into places you might not want it in. It is usually a confident dog when not around other dogs or strangers and is social, it just takes it some time to get to know people. When it does it accepts them as new friends and is affectionate. It is not a barker usually apart from when alerting you to something.

Living with a Kooikerhondje

What will training look like?

This dog is smart, eager to please and happy to learn so training should be moderately easy for the experienced when you factor in its strong character. Start basic obedience training and socialization from an early age and be consistent with it. Be firm and patient but you cal also keep methods positive, offering rewards, motivators and encouragement. Socialization is important as it means it is less likely to have behavioral problems or be unable to deal with certain situations. Introduce it to different people, places, situations, sounds, animals and so on so it learns the right responses and has more confidence. It is sensitive so avoid harsh tones or physical correction, many owners have found clicker training very effective.

How active is the Kooikerhondje?

This breed is agile and athletic and it needs owners who are willing to put in some effort when it comes to its exercise needs. It does well at sporting events like flyball and agility and it also enjoys being in the water, playing fetch and exploring. It is fairly adaptable so you can build it up to longer and heavier exercise or keep it to a couple of long strolls. It can live in an apartment if it gets enough activity but is best in a home with a yard. It does like to chase smaller animals so make sure it is kept on a leash. A lot of Kooikers get injured or killed in hit and runs because they are so focused on something they are curious about or something they are chasing. They have a lot of stamina too but with enough physical and mental activity it should be fairly calm indoors. If it gets bored and is restless it can be hard to live with, it will make up its own mischief and can be destructive.

Caring for the Kooikerhondje

Grooming needs

In terms of grooming and maintenance this dog is average in needs and shedding. Its shedding will start when it is between the age of 3 to 4 months. It will shed all year and there may be some hair around the home, but will have larger amounts and heavier shedding during seasonal times. Usually brushing twice a week is enough, but during those times daily care is needed. Thankfully as the coat is waterproof it is good at staying mostly clean already so it will really only need to be bathed if it gets into something nasty, or every few months. Avoid bathing too often, it is not good for its coat or skin and is not necessary. When a bath is due though always only use a shampoo designed for canines.

It is also a good idea to examine it for injuries and ticks after hunting with it, or going through some woods for example. Its ears especially are a place to check, and then also once a week check them for infection signs and give them a wipe clean with either a damp cloth or dog ear cleanser solution. There should not be any inserting into the ears, leave that to the vets as damage can be done. The nails will need to be clipped when they get too long taking care not to cut down into the quick of the nail where the nerves and blood vessels are. Then its teeth too need regular care, brush them at every other day, or even daily using a dog toothpaste and toothbrush.

Feeding Time

The Kooikerhondje will eat about 1¼ to 2¼ cups of a good or better quality dry dog food, and that should be split into at least two meals a day. The amount varies from one Kooiker to another depending on its size, level of activity, health, age and metabolism. It also needs water that is freshened when possible.

How is the Kooikerhondje with children and other animals?

With socialization and especially when raised with them the Kooiker is good with children, happy, playful and affectionate with them. However children need to be taught how to properly and carefully touch and play with them. It does not do well though with children who are too rough or physical and may react by snapping if they are teased or scared. If raised with other pets some can get along with them but it does have a high prey drive so it would be best to supervise it around small pets. When out it will chase strange animals like squirrels. When around other dogs it can be barky, it does need socialization or it is very fearful around them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Kooikerhondje will live about 12 to 14 years and are fairly healthy but some concerns can include obesity, von Willebrand disease, eye problems, patella luxation, spinal disease and epilepsy.

Biting Statistics

Upon looking at reports of dog attacks in the US and Canada against people that did bodily harm, there is no mention of the Kooikerhondje. This does not mean something could not cause a Kooiker to snap or react aggressively. Any dog has the potential to have certain triggers, situations or environments that set them off for example. Be sure you get a dog you can actually properly care for. One that is less likely to become aggressive or snap when it has been trained, socialized, gets enough mental and physical exercise and is fed and cared for.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Kooikerhondji puppy when purchased from a decent breeder of pet quality dogs will cost about $1500. Remember medical costs on screening for health concerns pushes up the price when you buy from a good and experienced breeder. If you want something show quality from a top breeder that could be even more. For some breeds there is the option of getting a shelter or rescue dog but the Kooiker is not a dog commonly found there. Still you could adopt something else that is in need of a good home for somewhere between $50 to $400. Avoid backyard breeders or buying from puppy mills, these are not places to fund.

Other costs at the time of getting the puppy will include some items it will require and some medical needs. Things like a carrier, crate, collar, leash and bowls for example for about $215. Medical needs would be having a vet check it over, deworm it, shots, spaying or neutering, micro chipping and blood tests for another $270 or so.

Then there are ongoing costs. Annual medical needs for basic care that includes check ups, pet insurance, flea and tick prevention and vaccinations come to about $460. Food costs will start out at about $145 a year for a good dry dog food and treats. Then there are other miscellaneous costs like toys, licensing and basic training as well as other items for about $235 a year. This gives a starting figure annual cost of about $840.


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The Kooikerhondje can be a great companion but must be in a home with owners who know its needs and is happy to meet them. It is intelligent, lively and curious so it needs to be able to investigate, explore, have company and be active. It will need a firm owner able to handle it without being harsh or physical as it can be sensitive. It loves to swim and play in water so try to give it opportunities to do so in between regular walks.

Featured Image Credit: warpmike, Pixabay

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.

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