The Keeshond (pronounced /ˈkeɪzhɒnd/ or KAYZ-hond; plural: Keeshonden) is a medium-sized dog with a plush two-layer coat of silver and black fur with a 'ruff' and a curled tail, originating in Germany. Its closest relatives are the other German spitzes such as the Pomeranian. Originally called the German Spitz, more specifically the Wolfsspitz, the name was officially changed to Keeshond in England, where it had been known as the Dutch Barge Dog, in 1926.
A member of the spitz group of dogs, the Kees in AKC standard is 17 to 18 inches (about 45 cm) tall and 19.25 (46 cm) ± 2.4 inches (6 cm) in the FCI standard and weighs 35 to 45 pounds (about 16 to 18 kg). Sturdily built, they have a typical spitz appearance, neither coarse nor refined. They have a wedge shaped head, a medium-length muzzle with a definite stop, small pointed ears and an expressive face. The tail is tightly curled and, in profile, should be carried such that it is indistinguishable from the compact body of the dog.
Like all spitz, the Kees have a dense double coat, with a thick ruff around the neck. Typically, the males of this breed will have a thicker, more pronounced ruff than the females. The tail is well plumed, and feathering on the fore and hind legs adds to the soft look of the breed. The coat is shown naturally, and should not be wavy, silky, or long enough to form a natural part down the back.
The Keeshond is a color-specific spitz type; many of the names of the dog refer to the distinctive wolf color of the breed. The color is a mix of grey, black and cream. The top coat is tipped with black, while the undercoat is silver or cream (never tawny). The color can range from very pale to very dark, but the Kees should neither be black nor white, and the ruff and "trousers" of the hind legs should be a distinctly lighter silver or cream.
The plumed tail should be of a silver or cream color with a black tip on the very end. The tail should be tightly curled over the back. The tail is an important part of the Keeshond's shape. The ears and muzzle are to be black, although some Kees tend to develop "milk mouth" or a white shading around the nose and front of the muzzle. This increases as the dog ages. In American shows, this white shading is acceptable, although not desired.
It is also important to note that the feet are to also be of the same cream, or lighter grey color as the legs. Feet that are totally black or white are not allowed. However, light pencilling is accepted.
The other important marking is the "spectacles," a delicate dark line running from the outer corner of each eye toward the lower corner of each ear, which, coupled with markings forming short eyebrows, is necessary for the distinct expressive look of the breed. All markings should be clear, not muddled or broken. Absence of the spectacles is considered a serious fault. The eyes should be dark brown, almond-shaped with black eye rims.
Ears should be small, triangular, and erect.
A one year old male Keeshond.Keeshonden tend to be very playful, with quick reflexes and strong jumping ability. They are quick learners and eager to please. Because Keeshonden are quick learners, they also learn the things you didn't necessarily wish to teach them - very quickly. However, Keeshonden make excellent agility and obedience dogs. So amenable to proper training is this bright, sturdy dog that Keeshonden have been successfully trained to serve as guide dogs for the blind; only their lack of size has prevented them from being more widely used in this role.
They love children and are excellent family dogs, preferring to be close to their humans whenever possible. They generally get along with other dogs as well and will enjoy a good chase around the yard. Keeshonden are very intuitive and empathic and are often used as comfort dogs. Most notably, at least one Keeshond, Tikva, was at Ground Zero on 9/11 to help comfort the rescue workers. The breed has a tendency to become especially clingy towards their owners, even in comparison to other dogs. If their owner is out, or in another room behind a closed door, they may sit, waiting for their owner to reappear, even if there are other people nearby. Many have been referred to as their "owner's shadow," or "velcro dogs".
They are known by their loud distinctive bark. Throughout the centuries, the Keeshond has been very popular as a watch dog on manors in the Netherlands and middle Europe; this trait is evident to this day, and they are alert dogs that warn their owners of any new visitors. Despite being a loud and alert watch dog, Keeshonden are not aggressive towards visitors. They generally welcome visitors affectionately once their family has accepted them. Unfortunately, barking may become a problem if not properly handled. Keeshonden that are kept in a yard and not allowed to be with their humans are unhappy, and often become nuisance barkers.
The Keeshond is a very bright dog as evidenced by its level of achievement in obedience work. The Keeshond ranks 16th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of excellent working/obedience intelligence. This intelligence makes a Keeshond a good choice for the dog owner who is willing to help a dog learn the right lessons, but also entails added responsibility.
Many people purchase a Keeshond thinking that, since they are agreeable family dogs, they must also be easy to train. While affectionate, Keeshonden may not be for the inexperienced trainer. Consistency and fairness are needed and, while most dogs need a structured environment, it's especially necessary with a Keeshond. Like most of the independent-minded spitz breeds, Keeshonden respond poorly to heavy-handed or forceful training methods.
Many behavioral problems with Keeshonden stem from these intelligent dogs inventing their own activities (often destructive ones, like digging and chewing) out of boredom. They need daily contact with their owners and lots of activity to remain happy. Therefore, it is not the right choice of breed for those who want a dog that lives happily alone in a kennel or backyard.
Keeshonden can also be timid dogs. It is important to train them to respect their owners and family, but not fear them. Keeshonden want to please their owners so harsh punishment is not necessary when the dog does not obey as quickly as desired. They like to spend time with their owners, and love attention.
Keeshonden are generally a very healthy breed. Though congenital health issues are not common, the conditions which have been known to sometimes occur in Keeshonden are hip dysplasia, luxating patellas (trick knee), epilepsy, Cushing's disease, primary hyperparathyroidism, and hypothyroidism. Von Willebrand's disease has been known in Keeshonden but is very rare. An accurate test for the gene causing primary hyperparathyroidism (or PHPT) has recently been developed at Cornell University. As with any breed, it is important when buying a puppy to make sure that the parents have been tested and certified free from inherited problems. A healthy, well-bred Keeshond can be expected to live between 12 and 15 years on average.
Due to their double coat, a thick undercoat and a longer "guard" coat above that, Keeshonden need regular brushing. An hour per week will keep the dog comfortable and handsome. The Keeshond's coat sheds dirt when dry, and the breed is not prone to doggy odor, so only infrequent bathing is necessary. The coat acts as insulation and protects the dog from sunburn and insects, so shaving or clipping is not desirable. The coat also loses its distinct color as the black tipping on the hairs will be shorn off. If frequent brushing is too much effort, it is better to choose another breed rather than clip the Keeshond short.
The Keeshond was named after the 18th-century Dutch Patriot, Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, leader of the rebellion against the House of Orange. The dog became the rebels' symbol, and when the House of Orange returned to power, this breed almost disappeared. The word 'keeshond' is a compound word: 'Kees' is a nickname for Cornelius (de Gyselaer), and 'hond' is a Dutch word for dog. In the Netherlands, "keeshond" is the term for German Spitzes that encompass them all from the toy or dwarf (Pomeranian) to the Wolfsspitz (Keeshond). The sole difference between the German Spitzes is their coloring and size guidelines. Although many American references point to the Keeshond as we know it originating in the Netherlands, the breed is cited as being part of the German Spitz family and originating in Germany along with the Pomeranian (toy or dwarf German Spitz) and American Eskimo dog (small or standard German Spitz) according to the FCI.
The first standard for "Wolfsspitze" was posted at the Dog Show of 1880 in Berlin. The Club for German Spitzes was founded in 1899. The German standard was revised in 1901 to specify the characteristic color that we know today, "silver grey tipped with black". In the late 1800s the "Overweight Pomeranian", a white German Spitz and most likely a Standard German Spitz, was shown in the British Kennel Club. The "Overweight Pomeranian" was no longer recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1915. In the 1920s, Baroness van Hardenbroeck took an interest in the breed and began to build it up again. The Nederlandse Keeshond Club was formed in 1924. The Dutch Barge Dog Club of England was formed in 1925 by Mrs. Wingfield-Digby and accepted into the British Kennel Club in 1926, when the breed and the club were renamed to Keeshond.
Carl Hinderer is credited with bringing his Schloss Adelsburg Kennel, which he founded in 1922 in Germany, with him to America in 1923. His German Champion Wolfsspitz followed him two by two in 1926. As in England, Germany was not regarded fondly in America at the time and the Wolfsspitz/Keeshond was not recognized by the AKC. Despite this, Carl joined the Maryland KC and attended local shows. Due to the lack of AKC recognition Carl had to register each puppy with his club in Germany.
Carl regularly wrote to the AKC including the New York headquarters to promote the Wolfsspitz. While going through New York on his way to Germany in 1930 Carl visited the AKC offices and presented Wachter, his Germany champion, to AKC president, Dr. DeMond, who promptly agreed to start the recognition process, with some caveats including changing the name to Keeshond, and asked Carl to bring back all the relevant data from Germany. Carl also translated the German standard to English for the AKC. The Keeshond was accepted for AKC registration in 1930
Despite intense lobbying the FCI would not accept the Keeshond as a separate breed since it viewed the Wolfsspitz and Keeshond as identical. In 1997 the German Spitz Club updated its standard so that the typically smaller Keeshond preferred in America and other English-speaking countries could be included. This greatly expanded the gene pool and unified the standard internationally for the first time. Now bred for many generations as a companion dog, the Keeshond easily becomes a loving family member.
As a result of the breed's history and friendly disposition, Keeshonden are sometimes referred to as "The Smiling Dutchman".
Out of the 350 some purebreds, the Keeshond has possibly the most mispronounced name. "Kay sawn", "Case-hond", "kās-hond", "keys-hând", "keesh-ond", "keesh-hond", and even "keesh-hound" as so many will say, are all improper pronunciations. The proper pronunciation is "kayz-hond" or "kayz-hawnd" with the proper pronunciation of the plural being "kayz-honden" or "kayz-hawnden".
Historically, Keeshonden being part of the German Spitz family had been interbred with their smaller brethren (small, standard, and dwarf German spitzes) and came in several colors—white, black, red, orange, orange-shaded white (also called orange and cream), and silver gray. Originally, like the other German spitzes, many colors, including piebalds, were allowed, but as time progressed, only the silver-grey and cream (wolf-gray) color was finally established into the Wolfsspitz type.
While other-colored Keeshonden can have terrific conformation, they're not allowed to be shown in the show ring. Colored Keeshonden are considered "pet quality" and thus should be spayed or neutered.
The appearance of oddly-colored Kees in otherwise wolf-gray litters has caused research into the early history of Keeshond coat colors. Because of this, some breeders wonder whether the Keeshond should be bred for colors other than grey. There are many bloodlines carrying the colored gene, and rather than examples of mixed breeding, colors are legitimate throwbacks to an earlier era of the breed.
No one knows the exact number of colored Keeshonden born in the United States. Incorrect or incomplete documentation make it impossible to determine how many colored Keeshonden, and of which colors, have been born in the United States.