5 Things to Know About Kooikerhondjes

These dogs may have a funny name, but they are affectionate and have a strong working instinct.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Groups: Sporting
  • Height: 14–16.5 inches
  • Weight: 22–28 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years or longer

The kooikerhondje is a small sporting dog used to lure ducks into decoys or traps; in fact, the breed is often referred to as the “Dutch decoy dog.”

The nose is black, and the eyes are dark brown and almond-shaped. The ears may feature black tips (referred to as “earrings”), a genetic feature usually expected if the puppy is born with black hairs on its coat that later shed.

The body frame is square and ends with a feathered, waving tail that is white. The coat is medium length with either slightly wavy or straight hair. Patches of orange color that may have a reddish tint are evident throughout the lighter coat.

2. Where They Came From

The kooikerhondje’s origins date back to the 1500s, from which old family portraits depict a small hunting dog believed to be the kooikerhondje. The ancestor of the breed is thought to be a spaniel.

The breed was developed to work in duck decoys during the 1600s and trained to weave in and out of duck blinds. Ducks were interested in the weaving behavior and would follow the dogs, who lured them into a pen or trap, after which they were brought to a market.

The duck decoy practice declined in the 19th century, although a few kooikerhondje dogs are still in Holland today for tagging and research purposes. The breed, also believed to be an ancestor to the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, nearly went extinct in the 1930s, but it was revived by Baroness van Hardenbroek in 1939.

The Dutch Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1971, and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (English: World Canine Organization) recognized the breed in 1990. The American Kennel Club added the breed to its Foundation Stock Service register in 2004 and later added it to the Sporting Group in 2018.

3. How Friendly Are They?

Kooikerhondje dogs love to be around people. They have been described as:

  • Agile
  • Confident
  • Alert
  • Sensitive
  • Curious
  • Friendly
  • Energetic
  • Cheerful
  • Affectionate
  • Intelligent

They can be suspicious of strangers and need socialization. They are also good watchdogs but are not noisy; usually, when a kooikerhondje barks, it’s either for attention or to ward off intruders.

This breed can be very sensitive and does not respond well to rough handling. They can enjoy children when both have been socialized to each other.

Consistent training is required for this active breed, but they do not respond well to harsh discipline. Positive reinforcement is highly recommended.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

HIGH: Kooikerhondjes are high-energy, high-stamina dogs.

They can seem tireless at times and require regular exercise and mental stimulation to avoid negative behaviors. Keep yours on a leash when outdoors — they like chasing after smaller animals.

Kooikerhondjes would appreciate a yard, but they can do well in apartments if the family is active.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: The kooikerhondje’s first shed occurs within 3–4 months. Regular weekly brushing will maintain the coat and minimize shedding on a continuous basis.

Like with all dog breeds, kooikerhondjes require teeth, ear and nail care. Check active working kooikerhondje dogs for ticks and injuries when they return from their working duties.

Health Problems

MEDIUM: There are a few health problems associated with these active dogs, such as:

Meet fearless Flora, the kooikerhondje who never seems to sit still:

5. Where to Adopt One

Purebred dogs end up in shelters and rescues every day. Please check adoption resources first, and you can start with our adoptable dog search.

Because the kooikerhondje is not as recognizable as some other breeds, it may be difficult to find one. If you choose to contact a breeder, please get to know the breeders so you can be sure they are not operating a puppy mill.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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