The Keeshond: Everything You Need to Know

The Keeshond, also known as the Dutch Barge Dog, is a friendly, outgoing, and sociable dog and a well-known symbol of Dutch patriotism. 

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the Keeshond, so you can decide if it is the right dog breed for your lifestyle. 

History of the Keeshond Dog Breed

Known for its thick fur, fox-like face, and friendly disposition, the Keeshond dog breed is a fascinating breed with a rich history. The Keeshond is part of the Spitz family of dogs and is related to the Samoyed, Chow Chow, Pomeranian, and Norwegian Elkhound breeds.

Origins and Ancestry

The Keeshond originated in the Netherlands, where it was bred as a watchdog and companion on Dutch barges. It was named after Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, who was a leader in the Patriot political party and had a furry companion who became the breed’s namesake. 

The Keeshond was a popular breed among the middle class, farmers, and tradespeople. Breed members were celebrated for their agility, intelligence, and loyalty to their families. They were also used as guard dogs and were highly valued as skilled protectors to their owners. 

Development, Decline, and Revival 

The Keeshond breed continued to evolve over time, with breeders focusing on improving the breed’s characteristics. In the early 20th century, the breed faced a decline in popularity due to World War I.

However, dedicated breeders worked to revive the breed. Today, the Keeshond’s friendly nature makes it an ideal pet. The breed is also highly intelligent and trainable, hence a popular choice for dog competitions.

Recognition by Kennel Clubs

The Keeshond breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930 and has since become increasingly popular in the United States. The breed is also recognized by many other kennel clubs worldwide, including the United Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Size and Weight

The Keeshond is a medium-sized dog breed, typically weighing between 35 and 45 pounds. Males stand around 18 inches tall at the withers, while females are slightly shorter, standing at 17 inches. 

Despite their relatively small size, Keeshonds are sturdy dogs with a muscular build. They are highly prized for their agility and are capable of running and jumping with ease.

Coat and Colors

The Keeshond has a thick double coat that is soft and fluffy, with longer fur around the collar, legs, and tail. This coat is an insulation, protecting the dog from harsh weather conditions.

The coat is typically a mix of black, gray, and silver, with distinctive “spectacle” markings around the eyes, giving the impression of wearing glasses. The Keeshond’s coat requires extensive grooming. 

Distinctive Features

The Keeshond has a distinctive wedge-shaped head, small ears that stand erect, and a curled tail that sits towards its back. The eyes are dark and give the dog an endearing appearance.

Keeshonds have square-shaped bodies and deep chests. They are known for their friendly and outgoing personalities and are often referred to as “smiling Dutchmen” because of their happy and cheerful demeanor.

Personality and Temperament

General Disposition

Keeshonds are known for their happy-go-lucky disposition. They love to be around people and thrive when they are part of the family. They are playful and energetic, hence great companions for children and adults. 

One of the unique features of Keeshonds is their ability to sense their owner’s emotions. They are incredibly intuitive and can pick up on their owner’s mood, which makes them great therapy dogs.

Interaction with Children and Other Pets

Keeshonds are excellent with children and are famous for their gentle nature, patience, and tolerance. As social creatures, they enjoy the company of other pets, including cats and smaller animals. However, they still need proper socialization. 

Intelligence and Training 

Keeshonds are very smart and quick learners who enjoy the mental stimulation that comes with training. With patience, consistency, and plenty of positive reinforcement, you can teach your Keeshond basic & advanced commands, tricks, and good behavior.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation 

Keeshonds also benefit from regular exercise and mental stimulation. They enjoy long walks, hiking, and other outdoor activities. They also love playing games and solving puzzles, which can help keep their minds sharp.

Vocalization Tendencies 

Keeshonds are not a particularly barky breed, but they do have a range of vocalizations that they use to communicate. They make a unique “woo-woo” sound when they are happy or excited, and they may growl or bark when they sense danger or feel protective of their family.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Keeshonds are generally healthy dogs. However, like all breeds, they are predisposed to certain health issues, such as: 

  • Orthopedic Conditions: Common orthopedic issues in the breed include patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia 
  • Renal Dysplasia: A form of progressive kidney disease that starts during puppyhood and can be managed but not treated 
  • Heart Problems: Breed members are prone to mitral valve disease, which affects the heart’s ability to efficiently pump blood 
  • Eye Diseases: Cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, cherry eye, and corneal ulcers are all frequent in the breed 

Preventative Care and Vet Checkups

Preventative care is essential for keeping your Keeshond healthy and happy. Regular vet checkups, daily exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of love and attention can help keep your Keeshond in tip-top shape. 

Expected Lifespan

The average lifespan of the Keeshond is between 12 and 15 years. With proper care, love, and attention, a Keeshond can live a long and happy life as a beloved member of your family.


Keeshonds are beautiful, intelligent, and loyal companions. They are an excellent choice for families and individuals looking for an easy-going and loving companion.

By understanding the breed’s history, physical traits, personality, and health, you can make an informed decision about whether a Keeshond is the right pet for you. 

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