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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
This sturdy, medium-size Spitz breed stands out for the markings around his eyes that resemble eyeglasses. Bred to guard barges, his exercise needs are less than you’d expect, and he’s happiest just being with you.
The Keeshond 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.”
The bespectacled Keeshond always wears a smile. This happy-go-lucky dog is affectionate and funny. More than earning the moniker "Velcro dog," he sticks closely to people and demands their attention. He can be a good choice for families with children, tends to be 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 to his owner’s activity level. These traits make him well suited to life in a small space such as an apartment or condominium. One caveat: He is a barker. That makes him a good watchdog, but he can easily cross the line into nuisance. It’s essential to teach him when it’s okay to exercise his lungs and when it isn't.
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 and using their paws to splash water out of their dog bowl. The Keeshond can 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.
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.
If you were to travel back to the Amsterdam of in the early 1800s, you'd see a familiar face on the barges passing by: the Keeshond. Paintings by Dutch artists such as Jan Steen portray a dog that is not much different than the Keeshond we see today. This handsome dog is related to other Spitz breeds such as the Chow Chow, Norwegian Elkhound, Finnish Spitz, and Pomeranian. The little Pom is one of his closest relatives.
The Dutch barge dog rode on small vessels that traveled the Rhine River, acting as both watchdogs and companions to barge captains. Their travels made them known well beyond The Netherlands, but they really gained a name during the political turmoil that gripped Holland in the late 18th century. The leader of the Patriot party, Kees de Gyselaer, was accompanied by one of the personable dogs, also named Kees, and he came to symbolize the Patriot movement. Unfortunately, when the Patriots were defeated the dogs’ popularity plummeted and eventually only a few remained.
The Keeshond’s fortunes turned around in 1920 when Baroness van Hardenbroek took an interest in the breed and helped bring it back into favor. A decade later, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed.
The Keeshond is now considered the national dog of The Netherlands. In the United States, he ranks 87th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Keeshond is an outgoing and friendly dog. He’s lively but his exercise needs are moderate. A daily walk will satisfy him. He’s affectionate with his family, and is likely to welcome strangers of which his owner approves. His alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog. The Kees is smart and learns quickly. Dog sports in which he excels include agility, obedience, and rally.
Now for the down side: The Kees is a barker. It’s not unusual for people to have these dogs debarked to tone down the din. But that surgery is often considered inhumane. A better approach is to be prepared to teach the dog from an early age when to bark and how to stop barking. Work with a trainer starting in puppy kindergarten to help your Kees learn that silence is golden.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Keeshond, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.
Health conditions that have been seen in the Keeshond include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, epilepsy, mitral valve defects, a group of heart defects known as Tetralogy of Fallot, primary hyperparathyroidism, Addison’s disease, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypothyroidism, 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 (CHIC) Program. For a Keeshond to achieve CHIC certification, he must have hip and knee evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals 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.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Keeshond at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Keeshond has a long, abundant double coat with a harsh texture. There’s a lot of it, and the dogs shed heavily. The adult coat comes in when the dog is 18 months to 2 years old.
Although the Keeshond’s coat looks like it might take a lot of work to maintain, it can be kept up with brushing once or twice a week — more often when he’s shedding. You’ll spend about an hour 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 stainless steel Greyhound comb, and a good pair of shears or scissors for trimming the hair on the feet. Ask your puppy’s breeder for advice on how to groom the dog or visit this breeder’s website for detailed grooming tips.
If you do a good job of keeping the Keeshond brushed, he shouldn’t need a bath more than two or three times a year. Whatever you do, don’t shave the coat. It serves as insulation from heat and cold.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run. Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a quality breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Keeshond and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Keeshond Club of America (KCA). Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the KCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Keeshond puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Keeshond might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult Keeshond may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Keeshond in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Keeshonds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Keeshond. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Keeshonds love all Keeshonds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Keeshond Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Keeshond rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Keeshond home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children ?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Kees, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Keeshond to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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