Stone Age fossils suggest that spitz-type dogs resembling today's Keeshond co-existed with cavemen back as far as 5000 B.C. Images of dogs just like them appear on everything from ancient Greek wine jugs to the Great Seal of Amsterdam. Today, they are the national dog of the Netherlands.
Historians have different opinions of how the breed got its name. Political strife in the 18th century divided Holland into two factions, one of which was the Patriots, the people’s party. Some say Kees was the sobriquet of one or two Patriot leaders, while others say it was the name of a canine Patriot mascot. Hond means dog in Dutch.
A beautiful example of a young female. Photo courtesy Beth Blankenship
There's one thing everyone agrees on, and that's that the best way to refer to this joyful breed is the Smiling Dutchman. They just seem to bring the giggles out in everyone. Here are some reasons why:
- They may have the most humorously mispronounced name of all. “Quiche Hound,” some will put it, or “Keys Hound.” (The correct pronunciation is “caze-hawnd.”) Keeshond people take it in stride, pretty much tolerating any way you say the first syllable, as long as you don’t commit what serious fanciers consider the cardinal sin of pronouncing the second syllable as “hound.” Of course, the beauty is that Keeshonden (that's the correct plural form) never take offense no matter how you mangle their name. They’ll just wag their tails and smile a little broader.
- They survived the humiliating experience of being formally classified as “Overweight Pomeranians.” It's true! At a British dog show in 1870, three white ones were exhibited in that class. It wasn’t until 1916 that the Kennel Club abandoned this way of referring to them, and not a moment to soon.
Keeshonden strut their stuff at a contemporary dog show, Westminster.
- They wear “spectacles.” It’s right there in the breed standard; in fact the Keeshond’s uniquely intelligent expression depends upon it. But don’t expect to see them sporting Groucho glasses or cat-eye frames. The spectacles, the standard specifies, is “a combination of markings and shadings in the orbital area which must include a delicate, dark line slanting from the outer corner of each eye toward the lower corner of each ear coupled with expressive eyebrows.”
- Rolling on the river was their original job, which earned them another nickname—Dutch Barge Dog. Breed experts say that this work history has a lot to do with why they are appealing to modern dog owners looking for a great all-around family companion.
Notes the Keeshond Club of America: “The fact that they have not been bred to hunt, kill animals, attack, or chase criminals undoubtedly accounts for their gentle, intelligent devotion to their owners as home-loving dogs with a special fondness for children, for which they are renowned.”
Another plus: An instinct to keep their surroundings clean and tidy is in their blood, probably a carryover from their history of living in tight quarters on a barge.
Jedi shows a much a Keeshond enjoys a little water ride.
- They’ll gleefully try whatever you ask of them. Here Keeshond Clancy demonstrates his skills as a flying fluff-ball, learning to dock dive on a lake in Michigan. He went on to make Keeshond history with a record jump and the distinction as the first AKC dock diving titled Keeshond. This boy also has holds advanced titles in obedience, tricks, and rally, and enjoys giving demonstrations of his skills.
Clancy shows off his dock diving skills.
- They also excel as therapy dogs. Soothing the sick or sad comes naturally to Keeshonden, and these fluffy, happy dogs were on site to help workers cope with the horrors of 9/11. With their plush double coats, sweet expressions, and lovely temperaments, they can be the best medicine.
Photo courtesy Stacie Beasley
- They are beyond adorable as puppies. Try not to smile, seriously. Just try.
Photos courtesy Beth Blankenship