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21 Kooikerhondje Temperament Traits: Meet the Dutch Duck Whisperer

The Kooikerhondje temperament is delightful. This is a special little dog with a sunny disposition. He forms strong bonds with his people.

The Kooikerhondje is a small dog from the Netherlands. He is a member of the spaniel family. His ancestors were working dogs, as their name suggests. “Kooiker” means hunter in Dutch, and “hondje” is Dutch for dog.

Today most Kooikerhondje are companion dogs, and they make wonderful household pets. But they still retain the athletic spirit of their heritage as duck dogs. This makes them a fun mix and a good choice for an active family.

The Kooikerhondje Temperament and Personality


The Kooikerhondje is an intelligent dog who is a little on the independent side. He can be determined to get his way in training.


Some say that if they could describe the Kooikerhondje temperament in one word, it would be friendly. However, he can be slow to warm up to strangers and very young children.


The Kooikerhondje will have a very close bond with his family. He loves to be with his people, either playing or just “hanging out” (as long he gets enough exercise).

Eager to Please

The Kooikerhondje is happy to please his owner.


The Kooikerhondje temperament is happy and sweet.


The Kooikerhondje is kind and even-tempered.


The Kooikerhondje is enthusiastic and loves to play. He will be happy to go along with whatever fun you have in min and he oves to play ball and to swim.

He is good with children and is a great companion dog for active kids.

Quiet and Well-behaved

He only barks when necessary. If he gets enough exercise, he is calm and content indoors.


The Kooikerhondje temperament adapts to new situations easily. He can be lively one moment and then quiet when needed.


He is eager and busy and loves to explorer outdoors. He is also very agile, so he excels in agility-type activities.

If you love hiking and swimming, then your Kooikerhondje will fit right in.


The Kooikerhondje is still a sporting dog at heart. He is often described as driven. When he is outside, he is tough, energetic, and ready for anything.

Alert and Attentive

The breed still has these Kooikerhondje traits from his heritage as a hunting dog. He keeps a close eye on what’s going on around him.


He is a wonderful companion and family dog, and he is also an exceptional athlete. He is happy to be home with his family, but he also loves to play outdoors.

The Kooikerhondje loves water as much as loves land sports. He has a waterproof coat and is a good swimmer.


The Kooikerhondje likes to be busy but is not hyperactive. If he doesn’t get the exercise he needs, though, he is likely to find some mischief to get into.

Prey Drive

He likes to work and still has a strong prey drive. Because of this, he may not do well with cats (unless they were brought up together) or other small animals in the home.

He needs a fenced-in yard that will contain him or he will run off to chase small animals.


The Kooikerhondje temperament is very sensitive. He needs gentle treatment, especially in training. They can feel stressed by a loud environment, people shouting, or unruly children.

He also startles easily. Early socialization should help with this.


This breed can be territorial, so they make good watchdogs. The Kooikerhondje is not a breed that barks a lot, but he will let you know when a stranger is around.


Kooikerhondje can be reactive with strange dogs, but they can be good with them with supervision. Again, he will do well with other dogs or cats in the house if you raise them together.

The Kooikerhondje enjoys kids, but he can be reactive with small or loud children. He doesn’t care for a lot of handling.

Wary of Strangers

He can be aloof with strangers. Once you introduce him to a stranger, though, he will happily accept them as trusted friends.


The Kooikerhondje is outgoing with a healthy self-esteem. He walks with his head held high.


The Kooikerhondje temperament is to love his people. He wants to be around them as much as he can.

Kooikerhondje History

Longstanding Breed

The Kooikerhondje is an ancient breed that originated in the Netherlands. Its Dutch name is Nederlandse Kooikerhondje.

The Kooikerhondje’s history goes back to at least the 1600s. Dutch masters Rembrandt and Jan Steen painted the Kooikerhondje in some of their works.


The Kooikerhondje is a working dog that hunted as a duck decoy. His job was to lure flocks of wild ducks into cages. For this reason, the Kooikerhondje was also called a Dutch Decoy Spaniel.

Something about the Kooikerhondje fascinated the ducks.

Some think the ducks simply enjoyed the Kooikerhondje’s playful behaviors. Some say they followed him because they were attracted to his long, feathery tail, which he wagged in front of them.

Whatever it was, the ducks would line up behind him and follow him right into the hunter’s traps.

The Kooikerhondje is the only hunting breed that leads their prey instead of chasing it.

Almost Extinct

During World War II, the Kooikerhondje nearly went extinct because hunting guns were readily available after the war. The hunters didn’t need the Kooikerhondje’s services anymore. Historians believe that after the war, there were only 25 Kooikerhondje left.

Saved by the Baroness

An eccentric dog lover named Baroness van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol saved the breed. She searched until she found a female to mate with her male. They had two litters.

With those pups and a few other Kooikerhondje she was able to locate, she started a breeding program. She bred 52 litters between 1942 and 1976. They were the beginning of the Kooikerhondje’s comeback.

Today, there are still very few Kooikerhondje outside of the Netherlands. The American Kennel Club (AKC) did not recognize the Kooikerhondje until 2018. The breed is only beginning to become popular in North America.

The first litter recorded in the United States was born in 1999.

Kooikerhondje Appearance

General Appearance

The Kooikerhondje is a muscular and athletic dog that resembles a spaniel or setter. He has a springy gait.

He has hanging ears, a silky double-coat that’s slightly wavy, and a feathery tail.

Kooikerhondje Size

The Kooikerhondje is a small breed.

For males the Kooikerhondje height is 15-17 inches and 14-16 inches for females.

While the Kooikerhondje weight is 20 to 30 pounds.

Kooikerhondje Colors

The Kooikerhondje is white with patches of orange or red. He has black tips on his ears called “earrings.”

Kooikerhondje Training

The Kooikerhondje temperament responds best to gentle training methods. This is a very sensitive breed, so harsh training techniques will only upset him.

Because of his intelligence, he is highly trainable. Like many intelligent dogs, though, he likes doing things his own way.

This can make training challenging. He is eager to please, though, so with firm and consistent training, he is a fast learner.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Kooikerhondje dog you should, take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Caring for the Kooikerhondje


Kooikerhondje shedding begins at age 3 to 4 months. They need regular brushing and only an occasional bath. They also need occasional trimming of the hair on their feet.

It’s also important to do regular ear checks and to keep them clean. Their nails grow fast and need frequent trimming.

Kooikerhondje Diet

The Kooikerhondje should do well on a good, high-quality dog food. They can put on weight easily, so you will need to keep a careful eye on their diet and exercise.

You may want to consider a food with an antioxidant supplement, which may help with cataracts.

Kooikerhondje Exercise

The Kooikerhondje has a moderate to high need for exercise. He can be happy in an apartment if he gets enough exercise outside. He will do better, though, with a fenced-in yard where he can run and play.

This breed enjoys organized dog sports and excels in them.

They are great candidates for agility, scent work, obedience, Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Tests), and even dance.

Kooikerhondje also make good search-and-rescue and therapy dogs.

And they enjoy activities with the family too, like swimming, hiking, hide-and-seek, and fetch.

Kooikerhondje Health Issues

The Kooikerhondje is generally a healthy breed, but he is prone to a few diseases:

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a malformation of the hip joint’s ball and socket. It can lead to arthritis and loss of function.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: This is a blood-clotting disorder. Most dogs don’t have symptoms of this disease. It only comes out when an accident or injury causes bleeding that won’t stop.
  • Hereditary Necrotizing Myelopathy (HNM): This is a fatal neurologic disease. It is very rare, but in the Netherlands, only dogs who test negative may be used for breeding. If both dogs being considered carry the gene for HNM, those dogs are not approved to breed.
  • Patellar Luxation: This is a dislocation of the kneecap. It can be temporary and will cause the dog to lift its leg to let the kneecap slide back into place. In severe cases, the dog will need surgery to correct it.
  • Cataracts and Other Eye Diseases
  • Cataracts may eventually cause blindness. A dog with cataracts may need surgery and lifetime medication.
  • Polymyositis: This is muscle damage caused by inflammation. It can be caused by infection, drugs, or cancer. Symptoms to look out for are muscle stiffness or swelling, difficulty swallowing, and breathing problems.
  • You should call your vet for any of these symptoms.
  • Kidney Problems: These are usually hereditary and diagnosed before the age of 5. Early stages of kidney disease don’t have any symptoms. Increased thirst is the earliest symptom. Call your vet if you notice your Kooikerhondje drinking more than usual.

Helpful Health Resource

Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely Kooikerhondje pet from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expectancy.

Kooikerhondje Must-knows

Kooikerhondje Lifespan

The Kooikerhondje average life expectancy is 12 to 14 years, though many live longer.

Kooikerhondje Challenges

The Kooikerhondje temperament may not be an easy one for beginners. They are very sensitive and need socializing when they’re very young to prevent fear of strangers.

Although they are eager to please their owners, they are also independent-minded. They need gentle consistency with training.

Finding a Kooikerhondje

Buying a Puppy from a Kooikerhondje Breeder

If you are looking for a Kooikerhondje for sale, you may have a long wait. They are rare, and there are not many breeders in North America.

Kooikerhondje price can be as high as $2500 from a responsible breeder.

You could consider importing one from the Netherlands, but this should be more costly. You can find Dutch breeders with an Internet search.

Before buying a Kooikerhondje puppy, you may want to check with the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje Club of the USA (NKCUSA). This group keeps a database of all registered Kooikerhondje.

They screen them for the hereditary health issues that this breed is prone to. Only healthy dogs are approved for breeding. If the parents of a puppy have had this screening, they will be registered with the NKCUSA.

The NKCUSA also maintains a breeder directory on their web site. They advise, though, that no responsible breeder has puppies available all the time. You should expect a waiting list.

You may also want to ask the breeder if the puppy has had any socializing and how it was done.

Kooikerhondje Adoption

Again, because this is a rare breed, finding a Kooikerhondje for adoption isn’t easy. It wouldn’t hurt, though, to put the word out at any shelters near your location that you are looking for one.

Kooikerhondje Rescue

The NKCUSA would be your best bet if you choose to rescue a Kooikerhondje. There aren’t many Kooikerhondje rescues in North America. The NKCUSA is the best resource for finding one.

Why the Kooikerhondje?

The Kooikerhondje is a delightful dog who is a lovable companion. He is happy at home with family and loves outdoor activities. He is active, loves to play, and has a sweet, affectionate temperament.

Kooikerhondje are rare and hard to find outside of the Netherlands. However, they are gaining popularity in the US and in Canada, and with good reason.

The Kooikerhondje temperament makes him an ideal dog for active families. If you enjoy outdoor activities but would also like a gentle and loving household pet, consider the Kooikerhondje. He might be the perfect breed for you.