The Kooikerhondje is a breed developed in the Netherlands with a history dating back to the 1500s. These dogs were originally used to drive ducks into waiting traps. This was a complicated technique that required the dog and hunter to work closely together using many silent cues such as hand signals and even decoy docks. The hunters that employed this complex technique were known as “Kooikers” and these dogs were originally known as “Kooiker’s hondjes” which literally translates to “Kooiker’s dogs.” This is how the breed got the name they are known as today. These dogs were somewhat popular and were even depicted in many pieces of Dutch artwork around the 17th century. Like many European breeds, World War II threatened the population of the Kooikerhondje. This was due not only to the war itself, but also because duck hunting was a dwindling practice due to the shrink in the duck population. The number of Kooikerhondjes shrunk so much that at one point there were believed to be only 25 of them left in the whole world. Eventually a breeder named Baroness van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol stepped in to rescue the breed. The breed eventually made it’s way throughout the rest of the world, though they are still mostly unknown in the United States. They are not yet officially recognized by the AKC, but they are being recorded in the Foundation Stock Service. The purpose of this service is to collect information and keep records for breeders of dogs that are rare or still being developed.
The Kooikerhondje is a somewhat small but athletic breed that is slightly longer than it is tall. They stand at about 14 to 16 inches tall at the withers and they should weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. The broad head is moderately rounded with a long and slightly wedge shaped muzzle that has a moderate stop. The nose is black and the eyes and almond shaped and dark brown in color. The ears are somewhat large and set high on the head. The are draped forward and rest close to the cheeks. The ears are well feathered and the black tips called “earrings” are highly desired. The long tail is high set and also well feathered. The tail is usually carried straight up. The Kooikerhondje has a medium length, double coat that is slightly wavy and lies close against the body. There is long feathering on the legs, tail, and ears. These dogs are primarily white with orange-red patches. Black hair in a slight ticking pattern is acceptable. This breed needs to be brushed about once a week, but may require more frequent brushing during shedding seasons. The coat is naturally waterproof and stay relatively clean. Kooikerhondjes only need a bath when necessary. Bathing them too often will strip the coat of its waterproofing oils.
Kooikerhondjes are a friendly breed and they can make an enjoyable family companion. They are alert and make great watch dogs. Although they are a good-natured breed, these dogs can be somewhat sensitive and they do not make good companions for small or unruly children that may be too rough with them. That does not mean that these dogs don’t enjoy playing games such as fetch. The Kooikerhondje should be introduced to cats and other dogs while they are still puppies. They should also be well socialized, which means taking them out to expose them to new people, places, and situations. Doing that will ensure that the dog doesn’t startle easily or act afraid when they are adults. A dog that is not well socialized will have a tendency to bark obsessively or even be aggressive with unfamiliar people and dogs. These dogs are smart and can learn quickly. Their obedience training should begin while they are still puppies. Training should be firm and consistent.
The Kooikerhondje can live happily in an apartment or other small home environment as long as they are getting enough exercise. They were developed as hunters and therefore they are a fairly active breed. These dogs will prefer to live somewhere with a yard where they can run and play as they please. Ideally these dogs will go on a long walk or jog every day in addition to playing games and other mental exercise. They also enjoy going for a swim. These dogs are very curious and will run off after anything they find interesting. Therefore it is very important to keep them on their leash any time they aren’t in an enclosed space.
There are a few health concerns that Kooikerhondje owners should be aware of. They may sometimes develop cataracts or suffer from other eye issues. These dogs can also develop patellar luxation, which can affect their mobility as they age. Some individuals may suffer from von Willebrands Disease, which is a blood clotting disorder. A dog with this condition may bleed for a long time from even a small cut. The most serious condition the Kooikerhondje may suffer from is hereditary necrotizing myelopathy. This genetic disease causes progressive spinal degeneration. Currently there is no known cure. This disease presents usually within the first year of the dog’s life. A healthy Kooikerhondje will live about 12 to 14 years.
Overall the Kooikerhondje is a breed that is not only a good companion, but a very effective hunter. These dogs are intelligent and can learn quickly. They are best suited to an owner that is active and can make sure to get the dog out for plenty of exercise every day.