PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 11, 2009

The Keeshond is a handsome, fluffy-looking dog with an intelligent expression and a fox-like face. It has a lion-like ruff and thickly-coated rear end, forming characteristic "trousers."

Physical Characteristics

This sturdy and square-proportioned dog of Northern type is an all-rounder and its build reflects this quality. The dog’s brisk, clean, and bold gait is distinctive, with a moderate drive and reach.

The long, harsh, and straight outer coat of the Keeshond, which is a mixture of gray, black, and cream, stands off its body. Its thick downy undercoat and mane, meanwhile, impart good insulation from damp and cold.

Personality and Temperament

The Keeshond makes a very good companion for both adults and children. It is affable to all and an alert watchdog. Loving, attentive, playful, sensitive, energetic, easy-going, adventurous, and a fast learner, the Keeshond has many qualities of the best house dogs.


Although the Keeshond can survive outdoors in cool or temperate climates, it is a very sociable dog that prefers to live indoors with its human family. As it is a lively breed, moderate exercise, such as a brisk on-leash walk or a vigorous game session, is sufficient for meeting its needs. The dog's double coat, meanwhile, requires brushing occasionally every week and more during the shedding seasons.


The Keeshond, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, may be prone to minor ailments like canine hip dysplasia (CHD), patellar luxation, epilepsy, and various skin problems. Sometimes renal cortical hypoplasia, Tetralogy of Fallot, and mitral valve insufficiency are seen in the breed. To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend regular hip, knee, and cardiac tests for the dog.

History and Background

Belonging to the spitz group of dogs, the exact origin of the Keeshond has not been recorded. However, in the 18th Century, the dog functioned as a watchdog and companion in Holland. Later, the breed was called the barge dog, as it was frequently kept on small boats on the Rhine River to function as a watchdog. Fatefully, the Keeshond became involved in a political uprising in Holland, prior to the French Revolution. Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, the leader of the Dutch rebellion, owned a barge dog that came to be known as Kees. The dog would be seen in so many political caricatures at the time, that it became an icon of the Dutch patriot.

Sadly for this breed, the Patriots did not succeed, causing numerous Keeshond owners to discard their dogs for fear that they would be identified as losers. Even worse for the breed, as barges on the Rhine became larger, the need for the Keeshond diminished. With the efforts of some farmers and river boatmen, the breed survived but with a poor profile.

Baroness van Hardenbroek initiated an effort to save the breed in 1920 and, within five years, she managed to win several English promoters for the Keeshond. In 1930, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed; today it is Holland’s national dog.

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