The Breed History
Originating in Holland about 300 years ago, Keeshonden (pl.) are the National Dog of their country. The name derives from the nickname of a politician, "Kees". This Spitz-type dog is related to Northern breeds such as the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound and Finnish Spitz. The breed ancestors likely originally came to Holland from the North. Some also link this dog to the development of the Pomeranian. The first breed standard was drawn up in 1933. First AKC registration occurred in 1930. In Europe, they are considered the same breed as the German Wolfspitz.
Breeding for Function
The Keeshond has always served a companionship role. They were also used as a barge dog and a watchdog.
Height at Withers: female 17" (43 cm), male 18" (45.5 cm)
Weight: 55-65 lb (25-29.5 kg)
Coat: The hair forms a lion's ruff and trousers particularly in the male, and breed specific markings around the eyes are termed spectacles. These markings include dark lines extending out from the eyes. The undercoat is dense and colored gray or cream. The ears are black or off-black, the tip of tail is black, and outer coat hairs are straight and harsh. Black, gray and cream are melded together in the coat, with the tips of the guard hairs colored black. The ruff and trousers are lighter than the main coat color, as are the feet. They go through a high shedding phase twice a year when they blow their coats otherwise they have moderate grooming needs.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: These dogs are compact and squarely built, with moderately muscled and boned conformation and a profuse standoff coat, a fox face with high head carriage and a heavily plumed tail that rests closely over the back. The eyes are medium-brown in color, almond shaped and the palpebral margins are pigmented black. Ears are small and erect, high set, and the skull is wedge shaped with a definite stop. Lips are black and tight, neck is moderate in length, and the topline descends slightly towards the rear. The thorax is rounded, the abdomen has moderate tuck up, and limbs are straight boned. Feet are rounded and compact with black nails. The gait is strong, showing lots of drive.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed attributes include: Stable temperament, a good alert dog, playful, friendly with other dogs and especially good with children, though independent minded. They don't tend to nuisance bark. Their trainability is good. They don't tolerate hot humid weather very well. The do well in city or country settings.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Tendency to become overweight.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 7.8% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 6.3% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported 4.4x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 2.6% affected.
Primary Hyperparathyroidism: Autosomal dominant disorder with age-dependant penetrance. Average age of onset is 11.2 years. Affected dogs present with hypercalcemia, inappetence, polyuria, polydipsia, and vomiting. Caused by a parathyroid gland adenoma. Progresses to hypercalcemic kidney failure. Reported at a frequency of 1.87% in the KCA Health Survey 2000. A linked-marker genetic test is available, reporting 4.1% affected.
Cono-Truncal Septal Defect: A group of genetically and embryologically related cardiac malformations, including sub-clinical defects of the conal septum, conal ventricular septal defects, tetralogy of Fallot, and persistent truncus arteriosus. Three predisposing gene markers are identified, showing a polygenic mode of inheritance.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 6.4% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 5.66% of Keeshonden CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Posterior suture punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Age of onset 1-3 years. Identified in 5.27% of Keeshonden CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Keeshond with a cataract.
Allergic Dermatitis (Atopy): Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 3.19% in the KCA Health Survey 2000.
Inherited Epilepsy: Generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Age of onset 6 months to 3 years. Dorn reports a 9.36x odds ratio versus other breeds. One study suggests an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. Seizures are reported at a frequency of 2.88% in the KCA Health Survey 2000.
Alopecia-X (Coat Funk): Progressive, symmetrical, non-pruritic, truncal hair loss usually beginning in early adulthood. ACTH stimulation test, low-dose dexamethazone stimulation test, and thyroid panel results are normal. Elevated blood concentrations of 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) are seen post ACTH stimulation. Partial hair regrowth is reported in Keeshonden treated with melatonin. Reported at a frequency of 2.41% in the KCA Health Survey 2000. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Juvenile Diabetes Mellitus: Caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Controlled by insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Affected dogs also form glucose-related cataracts. Age of onset 2-6 months. Breeding studies suggest an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 0.78% in the KCA Health Survey 2000.
Bladder Stones: One study reports a 5.47x odds ratio of forming calcium oxalate stones versus other breeds. Dorn reports a 2.81x odds ratio versus other breeds. Composition of calculi not reported. Reported at a frequency of 0.31% in the KCA Health Survey 2000.
Spontaneous Chronic Corneal Epithelial Defects (SCCED): Keeshonden are reported as a breed with an increased prevalence of spontaneous corneal epithelial defects. Research indicates a role of substance P.
Central progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cutaneous Asthenia, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Oligodontia, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Renal Cortical Hypoplasia: Congenital kidney disease was reported in a litter of Keeshonds.
Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma: Identified in a retrobulbar location in a 12-year-old castrated male Keeshond dog.
Tests of Genotype: Linked marker test is available for Primary Hyperparathyroidism from the Goldstein lab at Cornell (www.vet. cornell.edu/labs/goldstein/).
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and patella evaluation.Recommend thyroid profile including autoantibodies and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Keeshound, Wolfspitz (German), Chien Loup (Fr.), Lupini (Italy), Dutch Barge Dog (historical-England), Dutch Keeshond.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 95 (630 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Keeshond Club of America: www.keeshond.org
The Keeshond Club UK: www.keeshondclub.org.uk
The Keeshond Club of Canada: www.keeshondcanada.com
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