Keeshond in the Snow

Keeshond Dog Breed

Other names:
Deutscher Wolfspitz
Dutch Barge Dog
Smiling Dutchman

Pronunciation: "Kayz hawnd"

The Keeshond is an arctic Spitz-type breed originating in the Netherlands. They are best known as watchdogs for boats and barges although they were bred primarily as family companions and watchdogs. These dogs are known for their long, fluffy coats that are double-layered and weather resistant (but not hypoallergenic). They are tolerant and playful with kids, good with other dogs and friendly with visitors. Members of this breed are very adaptable to a variety of living situations but they do require outdoor playtime and a few daily walks. Keeshonds are easy to train but require a good amount of grooming effort. The breed is very healthy with an average lifespan of 12-14 years.

Keeshond Breed Details

The Keeshond originated in the Netherlands and is documented as a watch dog and family companion beginning around the 1400s. They are best known as watchdogs on water barges but also have history as shepherds, varmint chasers and guardians of children. Members of this breed are very adaptable-- any owner and any living space. They are notoriously tolerant of children, gentle with the disabled and elderly and are considered "velcro" dogs because they always want to be included. Keep in mind the breed needs will require a good deal of grooming and daily outdoor exercise. The following Keeshond facts are available for you to consider the benefits and problems associated with ownership:


  • Great with children
  • Alert watchdog
  • Outgoing with other dogs
  • Friendly towards strangers
  • Loving and attentive
  • Good at agility events and sports
  • Eager to please and super smart
  • Easy to train
  • Adaptable to any home size
  • Fairly easy to exercise
  • Generally very healthy


  • Barks a lot, very vocal
  • Prone to separation anxiety
  • Not a guard dog
  • Requires a good amount of grooming
  • Not hypoallergenic
12 - 15 yrs.
17 - 18 in.
30 - 45 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Keeshond Breed Description

The Keeshond is known as the "smiling Dutchman" and he certainly has a friendly and spirited personality to match his characteristic grin. The breed is known for several traits including their high watch dog aptitude, super dense, fluffy coat and high intelligence. They are very loving and attentive dogs that are said to shadow their owners wherever they go-- and they love to cuddle! Animal Planet's Dogs:101 even has a Keeshond segment that sells the breed as an all-around excellent companion. This page will give you some basic Keeshond information including temperament, activity level and intelligence.

Intelligence- The Keeshond is very bright, coming in at 16th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs. They are easy to train and don't require much repetition. These dogs do require plenty of attention and leaving them lonely may result in nuisance behaviors such as excessive barking, chewing, jumping and digging. The breed usually excels in agility activities too.

Kids, Strangers, Other Pets- Members of this breed are playful and tolerant with kids and are A+ family companions. They may bark their heads off at strangers (at first) but quickly warm up to them and do not make good guard dogs. Keeshonds will be very outgoing and friendly with other dogs and can do well with cats, too. They may chase small, furry critters since as they used to rid family properties of varmint.

Exercise- Keeshonds require a medium amount of exercise that can be met with a few daily walks and some playtime in the yard. They are very sociable and do well at the dog park. This breed is adaptable to your lifestyle whether you are outdoorsy and athletic or just get out for a short walk.

Keeshond Breed History

Keeshonds are, by origin, an arctic Spitz-type breed that is closely related to the Norwegian Elkhound, Samoyed, Chow Chow, Pomeranian-- to name a few. They have been documented as early as 1400 A.D. as dogs bred specifically to keep watch and as family companions. By the late 1700s the breed was known by many names throughout Europe: the Wolfspitz in Germany, the Chien Loup in France, and in Holland the Keeshond-- named after the Dutch Patriot Cornelis "Kees" de Gyselaer who was leading the rebellion against the House of Orange. When the House came back into power these dogs dropped drastically in popularity as they were considered one of the many important faces of the revolution; many owners abandoned or disposed of them.

Keeshond history began again in 1920 when Baroness van Hardenbroek began breeding whatever specimens she could find and helped them regain a foothold across Europe. The Dutch Keeshond Club was Established in 1924 followed by England's Dutch Barge Dog Club in 1925 (by Ms. Wingfield-Digby). Meanwhile, Carl Hinderer was in an almost decade long battle for German Wolfspitz recognition in the United States which was finally AKC recognized in 1930.

Keeshond Variations

There is little variation among purebred Keeshonden. If you happend to see a short-haired Keeshond it is almost certainly a clipped or shaved one. Although this isn't advised, some owners choose this as an alternative to the moderate grooming maintenance they require.

Teacup, Toy or Mini Keeshonds might sound like a very tempting size variation to the standard, medium-sized, however, no officially recognized size variants exist. This means any small Keeshond is either not a purebred or a result of breeding small (possibly unhealthy runts) together. The latter can produce puppies with more health concerns and shorter lifespans.

Keeshond Temperament

The Keeshond temperament is excellent and adaptable to all owners and living situations. They are notoriously friendly, energetic and loving dogs. They have been bred for centuries to be family companions and watchdogs and have a variety of jobs on their resume including being a seeing eye dog as well as a therapy dog. It is a well-known fact that a Keeshond was present at ground zero after 9/11 to comfort firemen. They have a joyful "smile" and are known to be velcro dogs that desire to be around their families at all times.

The Keeshond personality makes them an excellent choice for families. They are very intelligent and eager to please-- experts contend they are easier to train than other similar Northern breeds. Their characteristic tolerance and liveliness make them great buddies for kids. They also get along well with other dogs. Although they may bark their heads off at the approach of a stranger, they will accept them quickly and are friendly to all (which makes them useless guard dogs).

Living Requirements

This breed may have been called the Wolfspitz at some point but there is nothing wild or unpredictable about living with a Keeshond. The first thing you need to know is that these dogs should not spend most of their day outdoors alone-- they are truly "velcro" dogs that will want to be your shadow and spend as much time with you as possible. That being said, they can develop separation anxiety if lonely which means lots of chewing, barking, meddling and other undesirable behaviors.

Keeshonden make excellent watch dogs but are usually very friendly and outgoing with strangers once they see they are accepted by the owner. They need a medium amount of exercise that can be met with a few daily walks but, otherwise, they are very adaptable to any home-- city or country, apartment or mansion.

Unfortunately, Keeshonds are not hypoallergenic. They shed heavily and require quite a bit of grooming to keep the bushy, double healthy and clean.

Keeshond Health

Keeshond dogs are usually very healthy and often live 12-14 years with issues. In fact, it's estimated 25% of these dogs die of old age. Just like with all other breeds, there are a handful of possible health concerns such as:

  • Joint problems like Hip Dysplasia and Patellar Luxation
  • Primary Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing's Disease
  • Diabetes

Primary Hyperparathyroidism has specific genetic markers that can be tested for via blood test. There are also organizations that grant certifications for joint problems. Finding a reputable breeder that offers these guarantees will help ensure the best chances of receiving a healthy puppy.

Keeshond Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Keeshonden.

Hip dysplasia
Luxating patella
Primary Hyperparathyroidism

Related Pages

About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:January 23, 2018