The Versatile Keeshond by Debbie Lynch
While purebred Keeshond owners and breeders always knew that their dogs were eager to please and learned things quickly, it was not until the last few decades that they learned how truly talented Keeshonden are. Northern breeds are usually thought of as independent and sometimes stubborn, but the Keeshond has proved to be quite the exception to that old theory. Easily bonded to their owners and to children, highly motivated with treats, and a quick in intelligence, Keeshonden excel in many fields.
New titles added by AKC have opened up even more opportunities for purebred Keeshonden who have shown themselves to be the “multi-tool” for a number of events. In Obedience, a Keeshond topped the Non-Sporting Group at the AKC National Obedience Invitational. In current Obedience standings, a Keeshond is in the top-five dogs for all breeds. In Agility, it is was a Keeshond, “Molly,” MACH 17, that was the first multiple MACH dog of all breeds. Called a queuing machine, Molly was a Keeshond rescue who earned the nickname, Molly MACH-a-Million. It took a while for the rest of the field to catch up to her. The MACH Molly award is now given annually to the highest scoring MACH dog for the year at the AKC National Agility event held in Orlando, Florida.
An area where the breed really shines is in therapy work. Purebred Keeshonden were among the first breeds awarded the AKC Therapy Dog title. The first Keeshond to hold the title is Ruttkay Autumn Bronze, VCK1, CDX, RE, OF OAJ, THD, TD1, AOV. She is owned and loved by Daisy Kramer. The breed’s unique empathy for people and children has led Keeshonden to serve in many settings. One of the most well-known is the service of “Tikva,” a young Keeshond from Washington State, owned by Cindy Ehlers. One of their first assignments was working to comfort the 911 rescue workers. Dr. Cindy Otto who provided veterinary services to the dogs working Ground Zero said, “The first time I saw the rescue workers smile was when the therapy dogs arrived. Among them was a young Keeshond, Tikva, whose smile brightened the day of everyone.” Dr. Otto was in touch with me daily, as AKC/CHF helped to organize supplies for the dogs working the site.
Agility Angels is a group in Northwest Ohio that shares their trained agility dogs with autistic children. As you can see the accompanying photos, the dogs run readily for the children and bond quickly with them. This experience increases the children’s self-confidence and their self-esteem. The group hasseveral breeds working with it, including the dogs of John and Joan Malak.
Keeshond were originally farm dogs throughout Europe. They performed the traditional roles of farm dogs by keeping watch over the farm, alerting to strangers, acting as playmates for children, hunting vermin, and herding livestock. Imagine the surprise of Keeshond owners when their clubs hosted Herding Instinct Tests and their dogs actually showed an interest in sheep! In 2011, Majik Kees Chocolate Mystic Mint RN, NA, NAJ, NT, HTAD, earned the first Keeshond HCT (Herding Capability Test).
Canine Assisted Therapy for Stuttering is a newer treatment for those who suffer from stuttering. It is a common disorder that affects five percent of children. Margaret Griffo is a retired speech and hearing therapist who has used dogs in her work and noticed the connection between patients and dogs.
Margaret realized that the reasons dogs worked so well with her patients was due to their non-judgmental nature. People are judgmental, dogs are not, and those who struggle with fluency know the difference. Margaret and her Keeshond, “Waverly,” became a registered Pet Partners@team in 2013. Margaret says, “Waverly makes great eye contact, is very patient and always comforting. Most importantly, there is no time pressure. She is happy to wait for the complete command. To Waverly, words are important but fluency isn’t.”
None of these stories will be a surprise to those who know the breed well. Keeshonden have an internal wellspring of joy and trust that they are willing to share with anyone who has the time to listen.
Reference: The Stuttering Foundation Newsletter, Winter 2016