Keeshonds are a fairly uncommon, but seriously lovable breed of dog. In this article, we will explore how to breed Keeshonds and everything you need to know about them.
A lot of people have never heard of Keeshonds, but with their ashy fur, sensitive temperament, and unique history, it’s hard not to fall in love once you’ve discovered them. Let’s dive into breeding Keeshonds!
Keeshond Basics for Budding Breeders
The essential information for those interested in breeding Keeshonds.
Origin and History
The exact origin of these dogs is not recorded, but they are thought to have ancient arctic DNA from the same dogs that produced the Spitz breeds, the Keeshonds’ closest relatives.
Developed in Holland, the Keeshond was previously known as the ‘Dutch barge dog’. This because they were bred to be companions and guard dogs for barge boats that traveled around the rivers & canals of the Netherlands.
They were given the name Keeshond named after an 18th Century Dutch patriot called Cornelius De Gyselaer, nicknamed Kees. His dog was the mascot of the rebel political party he fronted during a period of political unrest, and so the Keeshond became a national symbol of patriotism in Holland and remains their national dog to this day. In 1930, Keeshonds were registered with the American Kennel Club.
As of 2020, the Keeshond’s popularity ranks 95 out of 196 breeds according to the AKC. This means they are fairly uncommon in the United States. That said, Keeshonds are still very popular in Holland & its surrounding countries.
Keeshonds are a medium-sized breed, with an average height of 17-18 inches depending on the gender of the dog, and weighing between 30 and 40 lbs. They have a sturdy build with a typical Spitz appearance; a wedge-shaped-head, medium-length, pointed nose, short, pointed ears, and relatively short legs. Their faces are very expressive, and their tails are tightly curled.
Like all Spitz breeds, the Keeshond has a dense double coat, consisting of a short, soft undercoat and longer, fluffy, waterproof outer coat. They have a thick mane around the neck, velvety fur on the head & ears, and feathering down the legs. Their coats shed twice yearly with an intense full shedding in the first few weeks of spring. To keep things neat and tidy, Keeshonds should be brushed twice-weekly.
They are typically a mixture of different shades of grey, and sometimes a little bit of brown. Keeshonds tend to have lighter fur on the feet, ‘spectacle’ markings around the eyes, dark snouts, and dark streaks down their backs.
A Keeshond’s temperament is likely why they grew to popularity in Europe in the first place. They are very gentle, sweet-natured, sensitive, affectionate, and thoughtful dogs.
Keeshonds make very playful pets that like to have fun. They are true family dogs that love being around lots of people, especially children, and get on well with other dogs too. They are rarely aggressive, even towards strangers. They’re so friendly in fact, they are known for smiling at people!
Intelligence & Training
With proper training, they make fantastic obedience & agility dogs as they have a natural talent for running & jumping. They have even been known to train well as seeing-eye dogs for the blind. Keeshonds are also great therapy dogs, a Keeshond called Tikva famously comforted rescue workers at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks in New York, 2001.
That said, Keeshonds can also be timid, so training and discipline, as always, should be respectful and kind. They’re also quite vocal dogs and like to bark when excited, likely due to their guard-dog history. Without training, the barking may become excessive at times.
All dogs should eat a healthy diet consisting of nutrient-rich kibble, lean meats, dog-safe fruits & vegetables, and natural, unprocessed treats. But like most Northern breeds, they do especially well on a fish-based diet that is low in carbohydrates.
Because they’re so bright, Keeshonds need a structured lifestyle & an environment full of mental stimulation, as well as a minimum of one hour of physical exercise a day. Walks and cuddly toys are essential, but Keeshonds will need lots of challenging games and toys to work out their minds. Without mental stimulation, they can become bored and destructive.
Because they’re so social, they also need plenty of interaction, attention, love, and affection.
Life Stages & Lifespan
At three months old, Keeshond puppies shed their puppy fur and grow out their adult coats. At around 18 months old they have fully grown into adult dogs, and have an average lifespan of 14 to 15 years. One in four Keeshonds passes away from old age.
Genetic Health Conditions When Breeding Keeshonds
Whilst Keeshonds tend to be healthy dogs, and congenital conditions in this breed are uncommon, every breed of dog has a natural predisposition to certain health problems. These are the ones more likely for Keeshonds to experience.
Hip dysplasia is an extremely common orthopedic condition in dogs. It occurs when the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t develop or fit together properly. It’s also extremely painful and can drastically reduce a dog’s quality of life if left untreated.
Causes are usually genetic but weight can sometimes be a factor. In cases where the HD is not genetic, it is preventable through eating a healthy diet & getting appropriate levels of exercise.
Dogs experiencing symptoms should be examined by a vet and prescribed treatment. The treatment options for hip dysplasia include joint supplements, pain medication, physical therapy, joint fluid modifiers, lifestyle changes, and possibly surgery. The prognosis is generally good.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia Include:
- Reduced range of motion and activity
- Difficulty using the legs
- Pain, stiffness, and grating in the joints
- Lameness or bunny hopping with the back legs
- Loss of muscle mass in the back legs
- Increased muscle mass in the shoulders to make up for the above
A dog with a luxating patella has an out of place or dislocated kneecap. It’s a fairly common condition that can be congenital, genetic, or traumatic. The only way to correct a luxating patella is with surgery. That said, it doesn’t always need to be corrected unless it is causing the dog pain or arthritis, but a vet should be the one to decide this after a thorough examination.
Symptoms of a Luxating Patella Include:
- Intermittent limping or skipping
- Walking on three legs
Though generally uncommon, epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder experienced by dogs and affects around 0.75% of the canine population. The obvious sign that your dog may have epilepsy is having epileptic seizures. Common triggers include stress and getting overtired.
Epilepsy can be difficult for vets to diagnose, so it is recommended that owners keep a record of seizures and film the attacks when they happen to aid the diagnosis. Definitive diagnosis may include a full examination and brain scans, and dogs with epilepsy must take life-long medication every day to keep seizures at bay.
Symptoms of an Epileptic Seizure Include:
- Loss of voluntary control while seizing
- Irregular attacks that start and finish very suddenly
- Short attacks that range from a few seconds to a few minutes
- Attacks that appear similar and repetitive
Cushing’s disease is a common disease in dogs that causes the overproduction of a hormone called cortisol in the adrenal or pituitary glands, usually caused by a tumor. It occurs more often in older dogs and can be life-threatening if left untreated, so those showing symptoms should be taken to see a vet for blood tests right away.
Cushing’s can be treated if the tumor is benign, which it usually is, and hasn’t spread. Surgery is possible, but it’s risky, so more often vets prescribe life-long medication to manage the issue instead. The prognosis in these cases is usually good, less so in cancerous cases. In cancerous cases, surgery and/or chemotherapy may be an option.
Symptoms of Cushing's Disease Include:
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Excessive urination and having accidents within the home
- A swollen belly
- Hair loss
- Fragile skin
- A proneness to skin infections
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t create enough of the thyroxine hormone, as well as a few others, that greatly influence a dog’s metabolism and cause it to slow down. In 95% of cases, Hypothyroidism is caused by direct destruction of the gland, and it’s fairly common in dogs.
Diagnosis can be tricky, as there are several health problems that have symptoms which mimic hypothyroidism, and it’s often misdiagnosed. So vets may take multiple blood tests before diagnosing a dog with hypothyroidism, but once they do, they will be prescribed thyroxine for the rest of their lives.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism Include:
- Exercise intolerance
- Unexplainable weight gain & obesity
- Cold intolerance
- Increased shedding or hair thinning/hair loss
- Thickening of the skin
Unfortunately, Keeshonds are prone to multiple types of heart disease, the main two types being chronic valvular disease and myocardial disease. CVD means that the heart has a leaking valve, decreasing the amount of blood flow around the body. MD occurs when the heart muscles thicken or weaken and cause the heart to pump inefficiently.
Heart disease could be hereditary, caused by lifestyle or just old age, and one in ten dogs will experience it in their lifetimes. Dogs with suspected heart disease must be examined and tested by a vet, and though it’s not curable, it can be managed with proper nutrition, medication, and sometimes surgery.
Symptoms of Heart Disease Include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen abdomen
- Reduced desire to exercise
Diabetes mellitus or ‘sugar’ diabetes is the most common type of diabetes seen in dogs. This is when the pancreas is damaged or not working properly and doesn’t produce enough insulin to cope with the body’s sugar intake.
It can cause weight loss, organ damage, and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Dogs suspected of being diabetic should have their blood tested by a vet for a confirmed diagnosis. Treatment includes regular insulin injections, lifestyle changes, and constant monitoring. The prognosis is very good.
Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus Include:
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite and thirst
- Increased urination
How to Breed Keeshonds Ethically
So how do you go about breeding a Keeshond? These are the most important things to consider.
Choosing the Right Pair for Mating
The most important thing to be sure of when breeding any two dogs together is that they are healthy. Check with the dogs’ vets that they don’t have any genetic diseases which could be passed on to the puppies. Don’t take any chances!
The other thing is to make sure the dogs being bred are both of good temperament. Personality traits can often be inherited, so make sure that both dogs are sweet-natured and well trained!
Lastly, make sure the dogs are registered with the appropriate kennel clubs.
Signs of pregnancy include weight gain and increased nipple size, and signs of labor include restlessness and licking of the vulva. Dogs are only pregnant for about two months, so during that time, you need to make sure the mother is well cared for, and that you’re fully prepared for the arrival of newborn pups!
The most crucial ways to look after a pregnant dog are regular vet visits and proper nutrition. If the dog is already a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet, you won’t have to make any changes to their eating habits right away.
But as her weight increases in the last month of pregnancy, you should in turn increase her food intake until she is consuming between 35% and 50% more than normal.
To prepare for the birth, you’re going to need a birthing box and a basket with a heating pad to put the puppies in once they’re born. As well as towels to clean up the mother & puppies, and a local emergency vet’s phone number just in case.
Emergency supplies you may also need include clean scissors to cut the umbilical cords, antiseptic solution for their bellies, and dental floss in case you need to tie umbilical cords.
Once the pups are born, the mother’s milk will be all they need for the first four weeks of their lives, and then you should start to transition them to a high quality dry solid kibble soaked with warm water and milk replacer 4 – 5 times a day.
Water bowls should also be made available from this age. After a couple of weeks, gradually decrease the milk replacer until the food is dry and the puppies are 7-8 weeks old.
Keeshonds, on average, tend to birth between 3 – 8 puppies, which is a fairly medium-sized litter. According to the AKC, dog moms can have puppies only once a year between the ages of 1 and 8, and no dog should have more than 4 litters throughout their lives.
It is a better idea to wait until the dog is 2 or 3 years old, however, just to be extra sure they have no health conditions. Most breeders also agree that a breeding dog’s retirement age should be closer to 6 years old.
Pregnancy & Birthing Issues
Infection is a common cause of miscarriage in dogs, and signs include vaginal discharge & depression. If a pregnant dog shows signs of infection, such as vomiting, they should be prescribed antibiotics by a vet to prevent a miscarriage and clear up the infection. A dog that has lost puppies should also be checked over by a vet as soon as possible.
Dystocia encompasses a few different birthing problems that make the process difficult, ranging from an abnormally slow cervix dilation or position of the fetus during labor. To prevent this from happening, keep your dog at a healthy weight & keep their home environment as stress-free as possible. If it does happen, you should call your vet for advice and assistance on how to proceed.
How to Acquire Clientele
The biggest tool at your disposal to get people interested in your pups is social media. Make your pages as visually appealing as possible, include all of the relevant information prospective owners could want, use hashtags to get seen and enquire about advertising your business with pet shops.
When using social media, make sure to target the right people. Keeshonds are family dogs that love to be around lots of people, including children, and other dogs too. So, use that to your advantage and advertise using language that will strike a chord with families looking for a new addition; family-orientated, gentle, affectionate, playful, child friendly, etc. Play to the strengths of the dog!
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, make sure you are providing quality over quantity. Safe, healthy, happy puppies, and mothers that are loved, looked after and well respected. This is not only necessary morally but will make you a reputable & trustworthy breeder in the eyes of clients and increase your clientele.
The average Keeshond puppy costs $700 in the US, with higher-end prices costing somewhere between $1,200 and $4,300. But this varies with the characteristics of the puppies, such as color.
For example, Keeshond dogs with coats that are purely colored with shades of grey are more expensive than those that have shades of brown in their fur. This is because purely grey Keeshonds are considered more ‘desirable’ and in line with the ‘breed standards’ of the Keeshond Club of America.
Breeding Keeshonds – FAQ
Answers to common questions about responsible Keeshond breeding.
In America, Keeshonds are fairly uncommon, ranking 95/196 for popularity according to the AKC. In their country of origin, however, they remain one of the most popular breeds of dog to own.
In the US currently, the average puppy costs somewhere between $400 – $2,000, putting Keeshond puppies in a fairly standard, perhaps slightly more expensive range, with an average cost of $700.
Keeshonds are typically healthy dogs, with congenital issues being an uncommon occurrence. That said, all breeds of dogs are predisposed to certain issues, and Keeshonds are no exception.
The genetic predispositions they most often experience include hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, epilepsy, Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and heart disease.
Keeshonds are among the most gentle and affectionate breeds of dogs. They are extremely family-orientated and love to be around a lot of people, especially children. They also get on well with other dogs & animals.
Now you have all of the information you need about breeding Keeshonds, we want to hear from you! Are you interested in breeding them? Let us know!