The bespectacled Keeshond always wears a smile. He is a Dutch breed who served as a watchdog on barges and is named for an 18th century political figure—Kees de Gyselaer—who owned one of the dogs. The name is pronounced “kayz hund,” not “keesh hound,” and the plural is “Keeshonden.”
This sturdy, medium-size Spitz breed weighs 35 to 45 pounds. He stands out for the markings around his eyes that resemble eyeglasses, his small prick ears, a tail tightly curled over his back, and a thick double coat in a mixture of gray, black and cream. The Keeshond has many excellent qualities, but he’s not the right breed for everyone. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Keeshond.
Is the Keeshond the Right Dog for You?
The happy-go-lucky Keeshond is affectionate and funny. He sticks closely to his people and demands their attention, earning him the moniker “Velcro dog,” and can be a good choice for families with children. He is friendly toward strangers and generally gets along well with other animals, especially if he is raised with them.
True to his heritage as a barge dog, the Keeshond has moderate exercise needs. He will be satisfied with a walk on leash or playtime in a yard and generally adapts himself to his owner’s activity level. These traits make him well suited to life in a small space such as an apartment or condominium—with one caveat. He is a barker. That makes him a good watchdog, but he can easily cross the line over to nuisance barking. It’s essential to teach him when it’s okay to exercise his lungs and when it’s not.
Like most dogs, Kees puppies are enthusiastic chewers. Pick up after yourself and keep plenty of sturdy chew toys on hand to keep him occupied. They also like playing in water, including using their paws to splash water out of their dog bowl. The Keeshond can also be a digger, leaving holes in his wake as he seeks out mice and moles in their underground dens.
Train the smart but sometimes stubborn Kees with patience and consistency. He’s easily bored by repetition, so keep training sessions short and fun, and don’t be surprised if he puts his own spin on commands or outthinks you in other ways. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards. With the right motivation, he enjoys dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally, and he can be an excellent therapy dog.
Although the Keeshond’s coat looks like a lot of work, it can be maintained with brushing once or twice a week—more often when he’s shedding. You’ll spend about an hour in all caring for the coat each week. Grooming tools to have on hand are a soft slicker brush for the cottony puppy coat, a pin brush, a bristle brush and a metal Greyhound comb.
The adult coat comes in at 18 months to 2 years of age. Whatever you do, don’t shave the coat. It serves as insulation from heat and cold. If you do a good job of keeping him brushed, he shouldn’t need a bath more than two or three times a year. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.
The Keeshond should live indoors for a couple of reasons. He is sensitive to heat and shouldn’t be left outdoors when the weather is hot. And it’s an unhappy Keeshond who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Keeshond Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Keeshond Club of America.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Sometimes health problems aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Keeshonden can live 12 to 14 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your Keeshond to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Keeshond
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Keeshonden have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, epilepsy, mitral valve insufficiency and other heart conditions, primary hyperparathyroidism, Addison’s disease, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), autoimmune thyroiditis, and skin and coat problems.
Not every Keeshond will get all or even any of these conditions, but it’s best to be aware of the possibility. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
The Keeshond Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Keeshond to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA clearances for hips, elbows and knees and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
|Condition ||Risk Profile ||Cost to Diagnose and Treat |
|Elbow Dysplasia |
|Medium ||$1,500-$4,000 |
|Hip Dysplasia |
|Medium ||$1,500-$6,000 |
|Patellar Luxation ||Low ||$1,500-$3,000 |
|Mitral Valve Disease ||Medium ||$500-$2,000 |
|Addison's Disease ||Medium ||$1,000-$5,000 |
|Diabetes Mellitus ||High ||$3,000-$10,000 |
|Hyperparathyroidism ||High ||$2,000-$4,000 |
|Patent Ductus Arteriosus ||Medium ||$2,500-$5,000 |
|Ventricular Septal Defect ||High ||$3,000-$10,000 |
|Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance |
Pet Insurance for Keeshond
Pet insurance for Keeshond costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Keeshond are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Keeshond are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Keeshond is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.