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Wolfspitz Breed Description
Keeshond, Chien Loup, German Wolfspitz, Dutch Barge Dog, Smiling Dutchman, Deutscher Wolfspitz
Approximately 12-15 Years
Average 3-8 Puppies
The Keeshond is a medium-sized dog with a plush two-layer coat of silver and black fur with a ruff and a curled tail. It originated in the Netherlands, and its closest relatives are the German spitzes such as the Mittelspitz, and Kleinspitz or Pomeranian. Originally called the German Spitz, more specifically the Wolfspitz, the name was officially changed to Keeshond, in 1926 in England, where it had been known as the Dutch Barge Dog.
Head: They have a wedge shaped head, a medium-length muzzle with a definite stop.
Ears: Small pointed ears and an expressive face.
Eyes: The "spectacles," a delicate dark line running from the outer corner of each eye toward the lower corner of each ear, which, coupled with markings forming short eyebrows, is necessary for the distinct expressive look of the breed. All markings should be clear, not muddled or broken.
Body: Sturdily built, they have a typical spitz appearance, neither coarse nor refined.
Tail: The tail is tightly curled and, in profile, should not be carried as so to be distinguished from the compact body of the dog.
Hair: The Keeshond is a color-specific spitz type; many of the names of the dog refer to the distinctive wolf color of the breed. The color is a mix of grey, black and cream. The top coat is tipped with black, while the undercoat is pale grey, white, or cream (never tawny). The color can range from very pale to very dark, but the Kees should neither be black nor white, and the ruff and "trousers" of the hind legs should be a distinctly lighter grey.
Coat: Like all spitzes, the Kees has a profuse double coat, with a thick ruff around the neck. The tail is well plumed, and feathering on the fore and hind legs add to the soft look of the breed. The coat is shown naturally, and should not be wavy, silky, or long enough to form a natural part down the back.
Size: The Kees is 17 to 18 inches (about 45 cm) tall
Weight: 35 to 40 pounds (about 16 to 18 kg).
The Keeshond was named after the 18th-century Dutch Patriot, Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, leader of the rebellion against the House of Orange. The dog became the rebels' symbol; and, when the House of Orange returned to power, this breed almost disappeared. In the Netherlands, "keeshond" is the term for German Spitzes that encompass them all from the toy or dwarf (Pomeranian) to the Wolfspitz (Keeshond). The sole difference among the German Spitzes is their coloring and size guidelines. Although many American references point to the Keeshond as we know it originating in the Netherlands, the breed is cited as being part of the German Spitz family, originating in Germany along with the Pomeranian (toy or dwarf German Spitz) and American Eskimo dog (small or standard German Spitz) according to the FCI.
The first standard for "Wolfspitze" was posted at the Dog Show of 1880 in Berlin. The Club for German Spitzes was founded in 1899. The German standard was revised in 1901 to specify the characteristic color that we know today, "silver grey tipped with black". In the late 19th century the "Overweight Pomeranian", a white German Spitz and most likely a Standard German Spitz, was shown in the British Kennel Club. The "Overweight Pomeranian" was no longer recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1915. In the 1920s, Baroness van Hardenbroeck took an interest in the breed and began to build it up again. The Nederlandse Keeshond Club was formed in 1924. The Dutch Barge Dog Club of England was formed in 1925 by Mrs. Wingfield-Digby and accepted into the British Kennel Club in 1926, when the breed and the club were renamed to Keeshond.
Carl Hinderer is credited with bringing his Schloss Adelsburg Kennel, which he founded in 1922 in Germany, with him to America in 1923. His German Champion Wolfspitz followed him two by two in 1926. At that time, less than ten years after World War I, Germany was not regarded fondly in England and America; and the Wolfspitz/Keeshond was not recognized by the AKC. Consequently, Carl had to register each puppy with his club in Germany. Despite this, Carl joined the Maryland KC and attended local shows.
Carl regularly wrote to the AKC, including the New York headquarters, to promote the Wolfspitz. While going through New York on his way to Germany in 1930, Carl visited the AKC offices and presented Wachter, his Germany champion, to AKC President, Dr. DeMond, who promptly agreed to start the recognition process, with some caveats including changing the name to Keeshond, and asked Carl to bring back all the relevant data from Germany. Carl also translated the German standard to English for the AKC. The Keeshond was accepted for AKC registration in 1930.
Despite intense lobbying the FCI would not accept the Keeshond as a separate breed since it viewed the Wolfspitz and Keeshond as identical. In 1997, the German Spitz Club updated its standard so that the typically smaller Keeshond preferred in America and other English-speaking countries could be included. This greatly expanded the gene pool and unified the standard internationally for the first time. Now bred for many generations as a companion dog, the Keeshond easily becomes a loving family member.
As a result of the breed's history and friendly disposition, Keeshond are sometimes referred to as "The Smiling Dutchman".
keeshond tend to be very playful, with quick reflexes and strong jumping ability. They are thoughtful, eager to please and very quick learners, which means they are also quick to learn things their humans did not intend to teach them. However, keeshond make excellent agility and obedience dogs. In fact, so amenable to proper training is this bright, sturdy dog that they have been successfully trained to serve as guide dogs for the blind; only their lack of size has prevented them from being more widely used in this role.
They love children and are excellent family dogs, preferring to be close to their humans whenever possible. They generally get along with other dogs as well and will enjoy a good chase around the yard. keeshond are very intuitive and empathetic and are often used as comfort dogs. Most notably, at least one Keeshond, Tikva, was at Ground Zero following the September 11 attacks to help comfort the rescue workers. The breed has a tendency to become especially clingy towards their owners, more so than most other breeds. If their owner is out, or in another room behind a closed door, they may sit, waiting for their owner to reappear, even if there are other people nearby. Many have been referred to as their "owner's shadow", or "velcro dogs".
They are known by their loud, distinctive bark. Throughout the centuries, the Keeshond has been very popular as a watch dog on barges on canals in the Netherlands and middle Europe. This trait is evident to this day, and they are alert dogs that warn their owners of any new visitors. Although loud and alert, keeshond are not aggressive towards visitors. They generally welcome visitors affectionately once their family has accepted them. Unfortunately, barking may become a problem if not properly handled. keeshond that are kept in a yard, and not allowed to be with their humans, are unhappy and often become nuisance barkers.
They will be okay in an apartment although they should at least have an average-sized yard. Keeshond prefer cool climates; they cannot withstand the heat well due to their thick coats. Daily brushing of the long coat with a stiff bristle brush is important.
Keeshond are generally a very healthy breed. Though congenital health issues are not common, the conditions which have been known to sometimes occur in keeshond are hip dysplasia, luxating patellas (trick knee), epilepsy, Cushing's disease, diabetes, primary hyperparathyroidism, and hypothyroidism. Von Willebrand's disease has been known in Keeshond but is very rare. An accurate test for the gene causing primary hyperparathyroidism (or PHPT) has recently been developed at Cornell University. As with any breed, it is important when buying a puppy to make sure that both parents have been tested and certified free from inherited problems. Test results may be obtained from the breeder, and directly from the Orthopaedic Foundation For Animals site.
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Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network
Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. RescueShelter.com is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.