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Keeshond Traits | How to Examine a Coated Breed for Correct Structure

Keeshond's Correct Structure

Keeshond Traits | The Relationship Between Structure and Movement in the Keeshond – How to Examine a Coated Breed for Correct Structure by Debbie Lynch

This article discusses the relationship between structure and movement in the Keeshond. However, it is applicable to many breeds and covers how to examine coated breeds with your hands for correct structure. Basic anatomical references are used. If you are a judge, or a student of dogs and breeding, you will be familiar with them. If not, please refer to texts like Rachel Page Elliot’s Dog Steps, McDowell Lyons’ The Dog in Action, or Ed and Pat Gilbert’s Encyclopedia of K-9 Terminology for details and illustrations.

Keeshond Traits – Structure and Movement

The rules regarding structure and movement dictate that form follows function. This means that the structure of a dog will control, to a great degree, how that dog (or any animal) will move. So, why do we qualify this by saying to a great degree? This is because movement is affected not only by the way a dog is built but also by how he is conditioned and how he feels at that given moment. Think about yourself. If you played an intense game of tennis the day before, you may be stiff when you get up and not move so sprightly when you jog. The same is true for your dog.

If you are evaluating an individual dog for the purposes of your breeding program, you will want to the see the dog move on more than one occasion.

That being said, what we are looking for in the Keeshond is structure that will produce the movement described in the standard, this being: “They should move cleanly and briskly; the movement should be straight and sharp with reach and drive between slight and moderate.” Also, “Dogs should move boldly and keep tails curled over the back.” The movement is described as a “distinctive gait… unique to the breed”

Keeshond Traits – Head and Expression

The late Dick Beauchamp, in his book, Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type, said that head and expression are one of the principle keys to breed type. Head type in the Keeshond would require an article all by itself. For this article, we will summarize what you should expect to observe when you first approach a Keeshond. Keeshonden are lively, curious dogs and when they are first approached by a stranger they will want to greet you. Puppies are especially so, and will want to say hello and lick your face.
The handler will attempt to keep them from doing this. You should observe characteristics that are typical of arctic dogs. Medium, neat ears, set up on the head and not to the side, are required, as in a cold environment large ears would freeze. Dark, almond-shaped eyes are typical, so they can squint down in the bright snow. A dark muzzle and the spectacles, which are the line drawn from the corner of the eye to the base of the ear, complete the picture. The dog should appear alert, friendly, and curious.

Keeshond Traits – Front: Examining the Shoulders and Chest

Balance is the first requirement. When you look at the dog in profile, the dog should appear balanced in three parts; front, middle, and rear. These should blend smoothly and be in equal proportion. When you go over the dog, examine the shoulders. Place your right hand on the withers and follow that down to the point of shoulder. You should feel a moderate layback of shoulder. Then, place your left hand at the point of shoulder and move it toward the point of the opposite shoulder. In between these points, you will find the prosternum that is even with the points of shoulder.

If the prosternum is slightly higher than the point of the shoulder, this can mean the shoulder is steep and lacks angulation. Unless the dog also has very little rear angulation, the dog will not be balanced. For the health and performance of the dog, a minimum of angulation should be present, which will bring the prosternum even with the points of the shoulder.

From the point of shoulder, follow down the upper arm to the elbow. The angle of the shoulder and the upper arm should form a “V” of approximately equal lengths. If the upper arm is short, the elbow will finish in front of the withers. A short, steep upper arm will give the dog a straight front and the dog will not be able to extend his front leg very far, giving him a limited front stride.

Go back to the withers and feel the distance between the shoulder blades. This is sometimes one or two fingers. If it is more, the dog may move wide in front and wing or paddle, depending on his other physical characteristics.

Keeshond Traits – Body and Loin

Keeshonden should slope slightly from the withers to the tail. Some call this being “built uphill.” A dog that is built “downhill” will slope downward from tail to the withers. This will produce a dog that is heavy in front and moves with the head low. The standard says, “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.” Okay, are most of our dogs built like this? A few are, many are not.

Now, run your hand from the withers straight down to the point of the elbow. The body should at least meet your fingers at this point. This means that the dog has good depth of body. The distance from the withers to the point of elbow and from the bottom of the body to the ground should be roughly equal. Now, starting again at the withers, run your hand from the withers to the base of the tail. The withers should be higher than the base of the tail. Also, importantly, the back should be short, straight, and not dip, so that the body is not slung between withers and hip. Dogs that are built this way will generally trot with their heads down, and without a firm mid-piece to transfer energy from the rear quarters to the front; they will have poor, shambling movement, not the brisk, sprightly movement described in the breed standard.

To find the length of loin, find the last rib and measure from there to where the hip begins. You will have to go over several dogs to determine average length. Dogs that are long in loin will generally have flat toplines and sloppy movement, but there are exceptions.

Keeshond Traits – Examining the Rear Quarters

Begin at the base of the tail and determine the set-on of the tail. Find the point of hip and run your hand down the inside of the thigh. When you get to the second thigh muscle on the inside of the thigh, just run your fingers down the second thigh and feel for the muscle development. Dogs that are well-exercised will have a firm and well-developed second thigh muscle that feels like a small bicep. Dogs that are strictly couch potatoes will have a flat second thigh muscle, and a generally sloppy and poor rear movement. They will have poor control of their rear movement and may move with hocks in or twisting out.

It is important to observe the length of hock in the Keeshond. Hocks should be short and well-let-down. Dogs with long hocks will have difficulty producing correct movement and will not be well-balanced. Long hocks may also cause them to be high in the rear.

Keeshond Traits – Coat Color and Texture

Again, both of these topics are articles in themselves. As you are judging, there are things you can look for to assess correctness to the standard. First, texture of the coat. In an arctic breed, correct coat texture means nothing less than survival. A harsh outer coat, to protect from rain and snow, and a soft undercoat, to keep the dog warm, are essential. What can be lacking is the harsher outer coat. As a last touch, run your hand from the tail to the shoulder against the lay of the coat. You should feel a slightly coarse texture. If you do this to each dog, you will feel a difference. If you are judging outside and it is damp, you will notice that the coat on some dogs will “stand off.” These dogs have correct coat texture.

When I first work with judges on judging the Keeshond, they often ask, “Is that dog too dark, or is that dog too light?” The question is not is a dog too dark or too light, but does the dog show contrast? In the illustration above, each of the dogs
is correct. We have a range of shades in the breed, and they are all acceptable, but they must have a dark muzzle, a lighter ruff on their neck, a shoulder stripe, saddle on their back, and silver britches and tail. You may have a preference for a darker or lighter Keeshond, but the breed standard does not.

Keeshond Traits
All three have acceptable color and markings. © KCA Illustrated Standard

Keeshond Traits – Putting It All Together

You will want to observe the dog on a loose lead, standing in a position that is natural for him and not posed. Dogs with good, natural balance will find it easy to stand squarely. Look for balance. Examine the front, middle, and rear quarters. Ask the handler to move the dog on a loose lead; coming and going, and from the side. You are looking for a dog that moves with its head up naturally and one that moves off his hocks, smoothly transmitting energy from the rear to the front. At a good paced trot, the end of the front foot will reach at or near the end of the dog’s nose. The hind foot will extend at the same length and angle as the front foot. Coming at you, you are looking for a dog that moves smoothly, and at a brisk trot the legs will converge very slightly toward the center line. There will be no rocking, paddling or winging. Observing the dog from the rear, you will look for smoothness and steady hocks with no inward or outward twist. At a brisk trot, the legs will converge slightly toward the center line. There should not be any cow-hocked movement or spraddle hocks.

Lastly, observe the dog standing naturally after it has moved. A dog that is properly built will have a nice arch of neck and will stand squarely and comfortably. This is the dog you are looking for—first place!