An Unemployed Worker

Present dog show standards, within the U.S.A., generally place the Keeshond within the non-sporting group. True, they are not known for a particular sport. However, Gatacre, in her book The Keeshond (1938), did note that they could help a hunter. That is an unnecessary defense. For the point is entirely missed by discussing sport versus non-sport. The Keeshond is neither. It is absolutely a working dog. The Kees just happens to be out of work…

There exists documentation within Dutch literature that notes that the Keeshond contributed to the shipping industry for a period that goes beyond 500 years. The Keeshond had very specific duties, and did them with the intent and power that one attributes to other breeds and their duties, like, for instance, the Australian Shepherd and herding. *The Kees herding instinct is also extremely powerful; just ask parents in a household where the Kees resides with small children. But the Kees' ship duties were entirely different from herding and very complicated.

The Kees was the early equivalent to radar and sonar. When the ships sailed, whether in canals or at sea, the crew expected the Kees to sound alarms in different intensities, frequency and character, according to the distance from other ships, buoys or the land itself. With night time or harsh weather, especially fog, the Kees value increased. The extra senses were necessary to prevent catastrophe. When the ship was tied in port, the Kees became the standard watchdog, but with strict Dutch training…and a natural suspicion of bribes by anyone outside the family (see "Flying Dutchman's Dream").

Jan, the Dutch Barge Dog (1953) portrays such work dramatically and in great detail. Though fiction, the descriptions of the Kees' duties were based on Dutch daily life, and should make it clear to even the strongest die-hard that the Kees is a working dog. It is just a fact, that like so many humans, the Kees has been put out of work by modern electronics. The Keeshond would still be at work, if only its family had a ship, any ship… Today, most of us who now live with a Kees, must continuously watch the dog turn cars into imaginary barges, slight elevations into lookouts and the house into a port.