The Keeshond has had several names over the years, being known as the Dutch Barge Dog, German Spitz, Lupini and Chien Loup. The Keeshond as it is known today may have originated in the Arctic along with other Spitz type dogs, but the breed is thought to have been developed in Holland.
The Keeshond is thought to trace its roots to the wintery, harsh Arctic regions along with many other Spitz breeds, for example the Samoyed and Siberian Husky, having the same thick, double coat and curled tail. From here, ancestors of this breed were thought to have slowly moved south over the years, ending up with their forerunners populating many countries in Europe including Holland, Germany, Italy and France They were developed as family pets, working utility dogs and seemed particularly suited as watch dogs on canal barges and farms of Holland. The barges that plied up the Rhine through the Black Forest enabled the Keeshond ancestors to interbreed with German Spitz.
In the late 1700's, Cornelius de Gyselaar became the leader of the Dutch Patriot Party, leading the Dutch Patriots against William of Orange. He decided to use his Keeshond as the emblem and mascot of his party, however, when the Patriots succumbed to the House of Orange, the breed faced near extinction as they were abandoned or destroyed by owners who did not want to be associated with the rebellion.
In the 1920's, the revival of the Keeshond began when it was registered with the British Kennel Club as the Dutch Barge Dog, this in 1923, the first Keeshond entered the show ring in the UK.
Exported to the US in 1926 it was also that year officially renamed as Keeshond. From here, the breed went from strength to strength especially amongst Dutch immigrants in the countries to which it was exported. 'Kees' was the Dutch nickname for Corneliusde Gyselaar and 'hond' being the Dutch word for dog.
Average height to withers: Males up to 18 inches, with females slightly smaller at up to 16-17 inches.
Average weight: Their weight varies for males and females between 15-30 kg, with around 20kg being the average.
The compact Keeshond has the typical appearance of a Spitz type dog, with a thick, weatherproof and double coat plus the tightly curled tail which falls elegantly over its back. The undercoat is downy and soft, with the outer guard hairs being smooth. The Keeshond displays a thick ruff of hair around the neck, with this being more notable in the male than the female. Both sexes have extensive feathering covering their legs, belly and a plume of a tail. In colour, the Keeshond is usually black, cream, grey or a mixture of all three. White markings may feature on the body, with some displaying very distinct markings known as 'spectacles' or a 'milk mouth'. Spectacles abound on most dogs of this breed, and are considered a preference by breeders and owners. Spectacles take the form of clear and unbroken markings around the eyes, framed by a thick set of 'eyebrows'. Milk Mouth is a white or paler amount of hair around the mouth and nose, rather than the more usual black hair. This dog has a small, wedge shaped head, with dark, almond eyes enhanced by the spectacles and small pointed and erect ears.
Bred to be a companion and watch dog for the main part, the Keeshond is particularly friendly and people orientated, almost craving human companionship. It needs to be involved with the daily household routine and will not tolerate being left alone for prolonged periods. There have excellent, balanced but fun natures and are fond of and patient with children of all ages.
As watch dogs, they were not bred to be aggressive. They are very alert and aware of situations around them and will make the family aware of any strangers approaching the house by barking vigorously. They are intelligent and bubbly dogs, doing well in obedience trails and try so hard to please their owner. Many owners of this lovable breed refer to them as 'the smiling Dutchman' due to the almost jolly and always happy expression on their faces.
On average, the Keeshond lives until the age of 15 years, and being a very healthy breed with hardly any known congenital defects or issues, they often reach this age and the some! Like all dog breeds however, there are no guarantees of good health, and they can develop problems through the course of their life including luxating patella (slipped knee caps) and hip dysplasia.
Grooming this breed is not as troublesome as you may expect given its luxurious coat, but it will of course require some - at least twice a week with a stiff bristled brush should do the trick, with the frequency increasing the twice a year when it moults. Exercise wise, a good walk at least once a day will do, however, it does have the stamina to undertake extended walks, but generally so long as it has human companionship, it will be happy.