Kooikerhondje Standing in Grass
Close Up of Kooikerhondje
Two Kooikerhondje Dogs on Leash
Kooikerhondje Near Shrubs
There’s never a dull moment when you live with a Kooikerhondje. This active Dutch dog is ready for anything “the boss” wants to do, and he greets most challenges with enthusiasm. Plan on giving him plenty of exercise or water play, but rejoice in the knowledge that he has an “off switch” and will enjoy relaxing with you when playtime is over.When you first see a Kooikerhondje (pronounced “COYkerHUNDche”), you’ll be running through a list of red and white breeds in your head — Brittany with a tail, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, red and white Setter — wondering what he is. The answer is: a little Dutch retriever with a smart and fun-loving personality.

The Kooiker is an all-around dog, capable of participating in many types of activities (overall health permitting). Walks, hikes, playing at the beach and dog sports may all be of interest to him. As long as he is with you, he’ll be happy. When you come home from work, he’ll greet you with a waving white tail and warm your lap or feet in the evening.

He loves doing things with his people, but the Kooiker adapts his energy level to his family’s lifestyle. He can live comfortably in a condo as long as he gets daily exercise, such as a couple of half-hour walks or other active play. Afterward, he’ll be satisfied to veg out with you in front of the TV. Activities in which Kooikers tend to participate include agility, dock diving, barn hunt and lure coursing. Many are also good at rally, flyball, nose work and tracking.

If they are raised with them, Kooikers tend to get along well with children, other dogs and cats. They can have a high prey drive, however, so small furry or feathered pets can be at risk if the Kooiker hasn’t learned to live peaceably with them.

Though he can be a great dog, the Kooiker isn’t the best choice for a novice dog owner. If you give him an inch, he’ll take 10 miles. Consider this breed if you’re an experienced dog owner who will be very involved with your dog.

Quick Facts

  • The Kooiker’s name comes from the Dutch words “kooi” (duck trap) and “hond” (dog). The hunter, or decoy person, is the “kooiker.” The “je” on the end of the name is a suffix meaning “small.” A Kooikerhondje, then, is the small dog belonging to the duck trapper.
  • The Kooiker has a white coat with large reddish-orange patches.

The History of Kooikerhondjes

The Kooikerhondje is a Dutch breed with an interesting job. He lures ducks into a trap (the “kooi”), where the fowl are either banded for ornithological research or dispatched for the market. It’s likely that the Kooiker is the predecessor of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, another dog who lures ducks to their potential doom.

Images of dogs resembling the Kooikerhondje appear in Dutch art dating to the 16th century. They were all-purpose dogs who were just as capable of going after vermin as they were luring ducks.

Although he has been around for a long time, the Kooiker was not formally recognized as a breed in his homeland of the Netherlands until 1971. He is relatively new to North America and not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club. The breed has two parent clubs: Kooikerhondje Society of America and Kooikerhondje Club of the USA.

Kooikerhondje Temperament and Personality

The Kooikerhondje is an individual, and the breed has a range of personalities. In general, he’s a cuddly dog with a bit of independence. The Kooiker is highly intelligent and enjoys doing things his own way. Puppy kindergarten and continuing training in the form of an obedience or household manners class and regular practice at home are important for teaching him to respond to you. Be sure that the whole family participates in training.

Some Kooikers are like humorist Will Rogers — they’ve never met a stranger — while others are cautious of newcomers. Often, though, they assume that guests are there just to see them. Early socialization can help mold a Kooiker to accept different people.

Kooikers usually aren’t nuisance barkers, although some are more vocal than others. Mostly they are quiet except to give an alarm bark as needed. However, if you have multiple Kooikers and one barks, you will likely find that the others join.

Kooikers can be good with children when they are raised with them or socialized to them at an early age. That might be related to the Kooiker’s own childlike joy and energy. It’s important, of course, to supervise dogs and children together and teach them to respect each other. Show young children how to pet the Kooiker nicely, and don’t permit them to play with the dog’s food and water dishes or toys or crawl into his crate.

Expect to bring a puppy home at 8 to 12 weeks of age. Some breeders like to keep them until they are 12 weeks old to help ensure that they get plenty of socialization from their littermates and mother and to get them started with housetraining, manners and crate training.

No matter when you get him, start training your Kooiker puppy the day you bring him home. 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 the one for kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until the puppy series of vaccinations (including those for 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 his puppy vaccinations 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 their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Kooikerhondje doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from an early age.

What You Need to Know About Kooikerhondje Health

The Kooikerhondje is a generally healthy breed with an expected life span of 12 to 15 years and often longer. Some have been known to live 16 to 18 years.

All 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 her 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. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Health problems that may be seen in the Kooiker include:

  • Von Willebrand disease, a hereditary blood clotting disorder
  • Hereditary necrotizing myelopathy, known as ENM or Kooiker paralysis, a degenerative spinal disease
  • Polymyositis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic muscle inflammation
  • Patellar luxation, in which the kneecap pops out of place
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Certain hereditary eye diseases, such as retinal dysplasia or distichiasis
  • Epilepsy, a seizure disorder
  • Kidney disease
The Kooikerhondje Society of America and Kooikerhondje Club of the USA participate in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), a health database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. Some dogs are tested for ENM and von Willebrand disease through the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The Dutch Kooiker Club subsidizes part of the cost.

Health certifications your pup’s parents should have:

  • Hip dysplasia: Hip evaluation, with results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) evaluation or CHIC
  • Patellar luxation: OFA evaluation, with the results registered with OFA or CHIC
  • Eyes: Examination by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, with results registered with OFA
  • von Willebrand’s disease: OFA evaluation from an approved laboratory, with results registered with OFA
  • Hereditary necrotizing myelopathy (ENM): ENM DNA test from an approved laboratory, with results registered with OFA
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in many cases, the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.

If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines or because her dogs have been vet checked, or if she gives any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of her dogs, walk away immediately.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. Keeping a Kooiker at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to extend his life.

The Basics of Kooikerhondje Grooming

The Kooiker has a medium-length coat with soft hair that is straight or slightly wavy. The legs, ears and underside of the tail have longer hair called feathering. The feathering on the hind legs is referred to as breeches. Long, black-feathered ear tips are referred to as earrings. The coat is short on the head, front of the legs and feet.

Brush the Kooiker as needed, usually once or twice a week, to remove loose hair and prevent tangles or mats. Before you start, mist the coat with water mixed with a little canine leave-on conditioner. This helps prevent hair breakage and static. Use a bristle brush to remove loose hair. Run a pin brush through the feathering to remove any tangles. Be sure to get behind the ears and at the areas where the legs join the body, because knots frequently form there. Kooikers shed some hair year-round, with heavier shedding twice a year for about a week.

These water dogs rarely need a bath, although it’s important to give the coat a thorough freshwater rinse to remove chlorine, algae or salt after a Kooiker has been in a pool, lake or ocean.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every three to four weeks or as needed. You may also want to clip the tufts of hair between the toes, but other than that, the coat is natural and needs no trimming. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good dental health and fresh breath.

Finding a Kooikerhondje

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.

Choosing a Kooikerhondje Breeder

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with an appropriate puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with, and 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 can provide for him. 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 she takes to avoid those problems.

Start your search at the website of the breed clubs: Kooikerhondje Society of America and Kooikerhondje Club of the USA. Their codes of ethics specify that members must never sell their puppies to or through pet stores, and they maintain breeder referral services and provide tips on finding a healthy, well-bred puppy.

Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club, too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports, or therapy dog programs. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she’ll take the dogs back if at any time during their lives the owners cannot keep them.

Ask the breeder to provide you with documentation that your prospective puppy’s parents were cleared for health problems in the breed and have results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). Hip clearance by the PennHIP evaluation is also acceptable.

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 a website that offers 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. 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 and frustration in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store or another source, don’t forget the 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-percent guaranteed way to make sure you won’t 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. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Kooiker might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Kooiker, if one is available, 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. You can find adult dogs to adopt 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.

Adopting a Dog From a Kooikerhondje Rescue or Shelter

The Kooiker is a rare breed and few are available in this country. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group. If you want to search, though, here’s how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Kooiker in your area in no time flat. The sites allow you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Kooikers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

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 Kooiker. 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 Rescues

Most people who love Kooikers love all Kooikers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Kooikerhondje is a rare breed, so few dogs are available through rescue, but the Kooikerhondje Club of the USA and Kooikerhondje Society of America have rescue groups that work to place dogs when they are in need of new homes.

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 Kooikerhondje home for a trial 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. Those 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 Kooikerhondje, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopter’s 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, breeder purchase or adoption, take your Kooiker to your veterinarian soon after acquiring him. 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.