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The Breed Standard

Breed Standard: A description of the ideal dog of each recognized breed, to serve as an ideal against which dogs are judged at shows, originally laid down by a parent breed club and accepted officially by national or international bodies.

Official Standard of the Keeshond

General Appearance: The Keeshond (pronounced kayz-hawnd) is a natural, handsome dog of well-balanced, short-coupled body, attracting attention not only by his coloration, alert carriage, and intelligent expression, but also by his stand-off coat, his richly plumed tail well curled over his back, his foxlike expression, and his small pointed ears. His coat is very thick around the neck, fore part of the shoulders and chest, forming a lion-like ruff-more profuse in the male. His rump and hind legs, down to the hocks, are also thickly coated, forming the characteristic "trousers." His head, ears, and lower legs are covered with thick, short hair.


Size, Proportion, Substance: The Keeshond is a medium-sized, square-appearing, sturdy dog, neither coarse nor lightly made. The ideal height of fully matured dogs when measured from top of withers to the ground is 18 inches for males and 17 inches for bitches - a 1 inch variance either way is acceptable. While correct size is very important, it should not outweigh that of type.

Head: Expression - Expression is largely dependent on the distinctive characteristic called "spectacles" - 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. Markings (or shadings) on face and head must present a pleasing appearance, imparting to the dog an alert and intelligent expression. Very Serious Fault

- Absence of dark lines which form the "spectacles."

Eyes - Eyes should be dark brown in color, of medium size, almond shaped, set obliquely and neither too wide apart nor too close together. Eye rims are black. Faults - Round and/or protruding eyes or eyes light of color.


Ears - Ears should be small, triangular in shape, mounted high on head and carried erect. Size should be proportionate to the head-length approximating the distance from the outer corner of the eye to the nearest edge of the ear. Fault - Ears not carried erect when at attention.


Skull - The head should be well-proportioned to the body and wedge-shaped when viewed from above - not only the muzzle, but the whole head should give this impression when the ears are drawn back by covering the nape of the neck and the ears with one hand. Head in profile should exhibit a definite stop. Faults - Apple head or absence of stop.


Muzzle - Of medium length, neither coarse nor snipey, and well-proportioned to the skull. Mouth - The mouth should be neither overshot nor undershot. Lips should be black and closely meeting-not thick, coarse or sagging, and with no wrinkle at the corner of the mouth. Faults - Overshot, undershot or wry mouth. Teeth - The teeth should be white, sound and strong meeting in a scissors bite. Fault - Misaligned teeth.


Neck, Topline, Body: The neck should be moderately long, well-shaped and well set on shoulders. The body should be compact with a short, straight back sloping slightly downward toward the hindquarters: well ribbed, barrel well rounded, short in loin, belly moderately tucked up, deep and strong of chest.


Tail - The tail should be moderately long and well feathered, set on high and tightly curled over the back. It should lie flat and close to the body. The tail must form a part of the "silhouette" of the dog's body, rather than give the appearance of an appendage. Fault - Tail not lying close to the back.

Forequarters - Forelegs should be straight seen from any angle. Pasterns are strong with a slight slope. Legs must be of good bone in proportion to the overall dog. Shoulder to upper arm angulation is between slight to moderate.


Hindquarters - Angulation in rear should be between slight to moderate to complement the forequarters, creating balance and typical gait. Hindquarters are well muscled with hocks perpendicular to the ground.

Feet - The feet should be compact, well rounded, cat-like. Toes are nicely arched, with black nails.


Coat: The body should be abundantly covered with long, straight, harsh hair standing well out from a thick, downy undercoat. Head, including muzzle, skull and ears, should be covered with smooth, soft, short hair-velvety in texture on the ears. The neck is covered with a mane-more profuse in the male-sweeping from under the jaw and covering the whole of the front part of the shoulders and chest, as well as the top part of the shoulders. The hair on the legs should be smooth and short, except for feathering on the front legs and "trousers" on the hind legs. Hind legs should be profusely feathered down to the hocks-not below. The hair on the tail should form a rich plume. Coat must not part down the back. The Keeshond is to be shown in a natural state with trimming permissible only on feet, pasterns, hocks and - if desired - whiskers. Trimming other than as described to be severely penalized. Faults - Silky, wavy, or curly coats. Part in coat down the back.


Color and Markings: A dramatically marked dog, the Keeshond is a mixture of gray, black and cream. This coloration may vary from light to dark. The hair of the outer coat is black tipped, the length of the black tips producing the characteristic shading of color. Puppies are often less intensely marked. The undercoat is very pale gray or cream, never tawny.


Head - The muzzle should be dark in color. "Spectacles" and shadings, as previously described, are characteristic of the breed and must be present to some degree. Ears should be very darkalmost black.

Ruff, Shoulders and "Trousers" - The color of the ruff and "trousers" is lighter than that of the body. The shoulder line markings of light gray must be well defined.


Tail - The plume of the tail is very light in color when curled on the back, and the tip of the tail should be black.


Legs and Feet - Legs and feet are cream.

Faults - Pronounced white markings. Black markings more than halfway down the foreleg, penciling excepted. White foot or feet. Very Serious Faults - Entirely black or white or any solid color; any pronounced deviation from the color as described.


Gait: The distinctive gait of the Keeshond is unique to the breed. Dogs should move boldly and keep tails curled over the back. They should move cleanly and briskly; the movement should be straight and sharp with reach and drive between slight to moderate.

Temperament: Temperament is of primary importance. The Keeshond is neither timid nor aggressive but, instead, is outgoing and friendly with both people and other dogs. The Keeshond is a lively, intelligent, alert and affectionate companion.


Approved November 14, 1989

Effective January 1, 1990 


View the Breed Illustrated Standard

Head Type and Expression

The late Dick Beauchamp, respected dog writer, breeder and judge, once said that head type was one of the hallmarks of breed type. So in exploring the aspects of Keeshond head type we need to examine the wording in the breed standard and apply that to our dogs.

Spectacles are the first thing mentioned in the standard. Judges new to the breed often confuse the reference to spectacles as the appearance of light areas around the eyes circled with darker hair – like glasses. However, the standard states that spectacles are not only the orbital area but “the delicate line slanting from the outer corner of each eye toward the lower corner of each ear.” This combined with the eyebrows give the dog an alert and intelligent expression. This is essential to breed type. A dull and lack luster expression are true Keeshond expressions. A very serious fault is the lack of the dark line forming the spectacles.

The next descriptors in Keeshond standard have to do with the eyes and the ears. These are hallmarks of true Arctic breed type. Both have practical applications in the arctic environment. Eyes are to be dark brown in color, medium size, almond in shape, set obliquely (at an angle slanting upward) and not too close together or too far apart. One can imagine in an outdoor arctic environment that round, protruding eye would be a disadvantage and round eyes would be more prone to injury. Dark eyes, and eye rims are also required. Why? Arctic breeds are required to “squint down” in the snow. Much easier to do with almond shaped, dark eyes. Faults are round, light or protruding eyes.

Ears are required to be small, triangular in shape, and mounted high on the head. There are functional reasons as well for these ear requirements in arctic breeds. You can imagine that large ears would be subject to freezing and the dog would at least lose the tips of the ears in subzero temperatures. The smaller, higher placed ear is also more mobile and alert to the many sounds of the outdoor environment. One test that breeders (not suggested for judges) can do when evaluating puppies or adults is to fold the ear down toward the corner of the eye. The ears should just reach the corner of the eye. If the ear covers the eye it is probably too large.

The standard says that the shape of the head should be in proportion to the body. When viewed from above, not just the muzzle but the whole head should give the appearance of a wedge. Dogs that cheeky, or coarse will not have smooth wedge and there will be a distinct break where the muzzle fits into the back skull. In profile the head should exhibit a definite stop. It is somewhat controversial how much stop, but definite is definite and most would agree that ski slope is not definite. Faults are an apple head, or absence of stop. David Cavill, an English judge and expert on arctic breeds says that the rise of the stop over the nasal sinus is required in arctic breeds as it gives space for the air to warm as dog breathes in the colder climates. One can imagine the difficulty that a brachycephalic breed would have in this challenging and very cold climate.

The muzzle is called to be of medium length, neither coarse nor snippy. Bitches, of course, will have more delicate muzzles than dogs. Once illustration of a beautiful Keeshond head is the portrait of Eng. Ch. Furstin of Evenlode, her muzzle is delicate but strong and fits into a smooth wedge. The mouth is called to be neither overshot nor undershot and lips should be black with no wrinkle or sagging. A scissors bite is called for and a fault is misaligned teeth.

Given this outline balance is the key in seeking the ideal Keeshond head type. Breeding a true Keeshond expression can be a challenge for breeders. I think breeders fall in love with their dog's head and expression and sometimes find it difficult to fault their heads – while they may find it much easier to fault, color, coat and structure. As in all breeding decisions objectivity is the key. It is helpful in evaluating head type as in other areas to measure dogs head. You will find that those with the most pleasing expressions will have many measurements that equal, such as the distance from the corner of the eye to the base of the ear, the length of the muzzle, the depth of the muzzle, the length of the back skull, etc. Keep the measurements on hand and compare generations. The information will be enlightening. Every generation of Keeshonden has individuals that are known for idea head type observe them and look at generations past. What they all have in common is balance and the exquisite alert and intelligent expression called for the Keeshond standard.

Debbie Lynch

Breed Columnist

Keeshond Club of America

July 6, 2014

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