An old breed makes its way to the Philippines.

Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim

While the Keeshond (also known as the “Kees”) as a breed is estimated to have originated over 500 years ago, cultivated by German farmers who wanted watchdogs which could also be family pets and were playful with yet protective of children, many in the Philippines have never heard of it, not even under its original name of wolf or German spitz.

“The Keeshond has a dense double coat, with a thick ruff around the neck. Coat care requires line brushing on a fairy regular basis. The Keeshond typically ‘blows’ its undercoat once a year for males and twice a year for females. A Keeshond should never be shaved as their undercoat provides a natural barrier against heat and cold. Keeping their coat in good condition will allow for efficient insulation in both hot and cold weather,” says Jimi Lim― owner and breeder of the cute pair featured on these pages―when they were imported by a dog lover.

“It is often mistaken for a big Pomeranian, to which the Keeshond is related―and also to the Chow Chow, Finnish Spitz, Norwegian Elkhound, Samoyed, and Siberian Husky. They first arrived in the Philippines in 2006,” he adds.

Jimi explains, “(The dog lover) campaigned his pair at the PCCI dog shows and it was there that I fell in love with the breed. It is cute and lovable, but manly enough for guys to play with.”

Thus, while it’s a new breed in the country, Jimi continues, “…it is very (common) in Australia, US, UK, and Europe. So far there are only 131 registered keeshonds in our country.” He fell in love with the breed when he saw pictures of it in books and magazines; seeing them at the dog show was a huge thrill. The owner of the original pair of Keeshonds wasn’t breeding them, and so Jimi had to wait until 2010 before he could finally have one of his own.

While initially hesitant to acquire one due to the price, he spent a sleepless night before
returning to purchase the puppy. “After a year and a half, I bred my Keeshond puppy with the imported stud from the dog show. Currently, I have imported a pair from Europe to infuse new blood (into my Keeshonds).”

But the demand for the adorable dogs is growing―and that comes as no surprise. The pair brought to the Animal Scene studio were beautifully behaved, friendly, sweet, and never barked at anyone even once. Once you learn about how relatively easy they are to care for, you understand why some owners joke that the Keeshond is the “Pomeranian, improved and less delicate.” Many breeders have observed that the Keeshond is less rowdy, more intelligent, and less territorial or dominant versus their spitz cousins.

Jimi and his brother Samuel or Ami, with help from other relatives, have bred Keeshonds for some time now. “Apart from our imported pair, we have already produced around forty puppies in our kennel and they have been very much in demand. Through word of mouth, numerous dog lovers have acquired puppies from us. Then their friends will fall in love with their Keeshonds and visit us to get a puppy for themselves as well.”

Keeshonds make ideal companions and are capable of comforting their owners. While they make excellent guard dogs, they also love children, get along well with other dogs, and have a great, balanced temperament. These quick learners live to praise their owners, and they have a wonderfully developed sense of empathy. They are not prone to doggy odor, and tend to become more attached to their owners than most breeds, which makes them ideal for owners who like to bond with their pets.

What are Keeshonds like?

Originally serving as watchdogs for boatmen in Europe, the alertness that characterized their ancestors remains with the Keeshond today. They may bark at strangers but will quickly calm down; it is rare for one to be aggressive with visitors after their owners have welcomed those people.

These playful dogs can surprise owners with their quick reflexes and amazing ability to jump fairly high. Even if they are not taught certain things, such as how to open doors, the Keeshond can learn how to do this on their own. As they are naturally obedient, it is easy to train them, especially since they love to please their owners. They have even been successfully taught as guide dogs for the blind, although bigger dog breeds are generally preferred for this role.

You may have heard of Tikva, the Keeshond who provided comfort to rescue workers at Ground Zero during 9/11. Highly empathic, these dogs are often chosen by people who need emotional support but who cannot get it from other people; their devotion to their owners is legendary.

Families with children also choose the Keeshond for its affection towards kids, though parents of toddlers and younger children will still need to supervise their interactions to ensure the dog does not become too exuberant while playing with them. Breeders recommend that the Keeshond be socialized early, both with humans and with other dogs and animal species, so that they will learn to accept others with ease.

How do you care for a Keeshond?

“You can tell if a Keeshond is healthy if its coat is dense and shiny. Its eyes should be bright. They should always be alert. A responsible owner should always check the (condition) of their pet’s skin, coat, face, eyes, and its excretions. Anything out of the ordinary should be a warning sign and is a reason to consult with the vet,” Jimi says.

Though it looks delicate, the Keeshond is a sturdy dog who can thrive on a diet of good dog food. Owners are advised to feed puppies at regular times during the day to get it used to a feeding schedule.

You should also brush your Keeshond regularly; some owners recommend that this be done for an hour once a week, while others brush them lightly for ten to twenty minutes a day. What’s important is to keep the coat from matting, as the removal of mats can be tedious and may hurt the dog. You’ll also be glad to know that grooming is optional, and shaving the coat is not recommended.

Because they don’t have that “doggy smell” characteristic of other breeds, the Keeshond need not be bathed frequently; once a month seems work for many owners.

You may as well trim your Keeshond’s nails at the same time. Once a week, inspect your dog’s ears for any bad odors, dirt, or redness, which may be signs of infection. And it’s a good idea to brush your Keeshond’s teeth two to three times a week at the minimum; just don’t use regular human toothpaste!

General Appearance:

This Northern dog is characterized by the following:

• A pointed muzzle typical of spitzes and a wedge-shaped head• “Spectacle” markings around the eyes which give it an appealing, inquisitive expression, a “smile” that is most often described as “foxlike,” and curled lips that indicate its friendliness

• Small, upright-pointing ears which add to its so-called “cuteness factor”

• Medium-length neck topped by a thick ruff

• Short, cobby body which is nonetheless well-balanced• Soft, thick, two-layered (double) coat that stands out from the body and looks gray; the undercoat is pale cream or grey while the overcoat is black-tipped

• “Dutchman’s breeches” or markings on the thighs that make it look like the Keeshond is wearing pantaloons

• Curled tail that looks like a plume• Fast mover but gait is ‘clean’

Fast Facts and Trivia:

• When the Keeshond was exhibited in England in 1870, it was billed as the “Overweight Pomeranian” and the “Dutch Barge Dog”; the name “Keeshond” only came about in 1925-1926.

• The Keeshond can stand from 16 to 19 inches tall and weigh from 35 to 65 pounds when fully grown.

• The plural form of Keeshond is Keeshonden

• There are two apparent sources of the breed’s name. The first theory holds that the dogs were named for Cornelis “Kees” de Witt. The second, and more popular, theory is that the Keeshond was named after Cornelis “Kees” de Gyselaer, a Dutch revolutionary who lived in the 18th century.

• The Keeshond has also been known as “Chiens Loup” (France), “Wolfspitzen” (Germany), “Keeshonden” “Lupini” (Italy), and “Keeshonden” in Holland, where it is so popular, it is now called the “Dutch Keeshond”.

• The breed is ranked 16th by Stanley Coren in “The Intelligence of Dogs.”

• Like all dog breeds, there are variations in the temperaments of Keeshonden. If yours is timid or
shy, don’t push it or force it to be more sociable; instead, treat it kindly and affectionately so
it can develop its confidence.

Additional references:


This appeared in Animal Scene’s June 2015 issue.