John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Kooikerhondje, also known as the little cager hound, little caging hound and Kooiker, is a dog breed of small size that originated in the Netherlands. This dog breed of Dutch ancestry was very popular during the 17th and 18th century and you might recognize it from the paintings of Rembrandt and Jan Steen. The original role of this cute dog was to lure ducks into traps so the hunters can catch them. The Kooiker bears a resemblance to spaniel type dogs and has a unique coat color. This breed is relatively unknown to the most people in the world but it has been gaining popularity.

Breed Characteristics:

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessBelow Average
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Sporting Dogs
Height:1 foot, 2 inches to 1 foot, 4 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 20 to 25 pounds
Life Span:12 to 14 years

When it comes to adaptability, the most important thing you need to know about the Kooiker is that he is not a dog suitable for apartment living. He is a dog breed of small size but he still needs a lot of space and the only way for him to be suitable in an apartment would be for it to be really big and spacious. Additionally, this dog has in its genes a need for hunting and spending lots of time outdoors, which means that if you decide to keep him in a spacious apartment, you would need to spend a lot of time outdoors as well.

The Kooiker is not suitable for novice owners. The main reason for this is that this dog is not easily trained and he can be very stubborn. Inexperienced owners would need to have a strong will and patience, but even that would not be enough. The Kooiker can be a real challenge in terms of trainability and exercising, so you should think twice before purchasing a puppy because this is certainly not an easy to train dog! . With his high intelligence and a moderate potential for mouthiness, the training should start as early as possible.

This dog breed also has a moderate prey drive, wanderlust potential and tendency to bark or howl. Nothing extreme, but it can worsen if the dog is not trained properly. Having in mind that the Kooiker is a sporting type of dog that loves hunting in nature and being taught to set traps, it means that he loves being taught and he is intelligent enough to understand you, but not very cooperative.

When it comes to his level of sensitivity, the Kooiker is pretty much a sensitive dog; moreover, he is not used to harsh weather and hard working. However, he tolerates cold weather and low temperatures amazingly well due to his thick coat; and he also tolerates hot weather moderately well. The Kooiker is also very sensitive when it comes to being alone; of course, that means that he should never be ignored or left out outside alone for a long period of time, because this dog breed thrives on human companionship and loves being close to his owner.

When it comes to health and grooming, the Kooiker is known for being a generally healthy dog. He sheds moderately and you should not worry about the grooming because it is not difficult and you won’t need a professional groomer. Additionally, this dog does not drool at all, which is another plus.

However, the Kooiker has a potential for weight gaining and some conditions that can be partially contributed to his small gene pool. Some of the conditions that affect this breed are: von Willebrand’s disease, a blood clotting disorder, cataract and other eye diseases, patellar luxation, hereditary Necrotising Myelopathy (ENM) — a fatal neurologic disease, etc.

The Kooiker is a very interesting dog because he is not very friendly, but not in an aggressive way. He is very sensitive to being alone and far away from his owner, but when it comes to strangers and unfamiliar people, he is completely disinterested. If a Kooiker puppy grows up with other smaller animals or dogs he will most likely be friendly towards them, however, you must socialize him on time in order for him not to be become too suspicious.

Additionally, this is not a family dog, he prefers a companionship of one owner and he is loyal to only one owner. This also means that he does not really go well with children, especially toddlers; because he may not be affectionate and interested in them, and if the children do not behave properly the Kooiker would not hesitate to defend himself.

Speaking of exercise needs, they are very high. The Kooiker might be a dog of small to medium size, but he still needs high intensity exercises that would satisfy his energy level which is also very high. Having in mind that he loves being playful, it should not be very hard to engage him in a variety of positive reinforcement games and exercises. However, that does not the real training any less difficult and if you are ready to train your Kooiker and to apply him to dog agility sports, then you need to arm yourself with patience and positivity.

Main Highlights
  • The Kooiker is thought to be the ancestor of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.
  • The Kooiker served as a hunting dog whose primary job was to hunt down and lure a duck so it can be shot.
  • This dog breed was so popular in the 17th and 18th century that you can see him in the paintings of Rembrandt and Jan Steen.
  • This dog breed is not really a suitable companion for children and even though he is friendly, he does not trust unfamiliar people and animals.
  • He is a very intelligent, alert and playful dog; however, he is very difficult to train and you need to be a very patient owner.
  • The Kooiker has amazing athletic abilities and he is great at dog sports.
  • The breed almost became extinct after World War II but it has gained popularity once again.
  • His name comes from the term ‘kooien’ (which represents the cages in the form of canals with traps at the ends), where the hunter (called ‘Kooiker’) could easily catch a duck.
Breed History

It is believed that the Kooikerhondje was developed in the Netherlands around the 16th century to be a tolling dog whose very popular role turned out to be hunting down and luring ducks and other game into the traps set by the hunters. His intelligence and agility became very famous and many famous people back then kept this dog breed (which can be seen in the famous paintings even today). Since the hunters were called the ‘Kooiker’, their dogs became the ‘Kooikerhondje’, as in ‘Kooiker’s hondjes’ (Kooiker’s dogs).

The World War II brought many changes and the need for this dog breed became almost nonexistent; however, some breeders managed to bring it back and nowadays the popularity for it is back. The Dutch Kennel Club was formed in 1971.


The Kooiker is a dog breed of small to medium size. The males are a bit bigger than females. The height at the withers is 15 to 17 inches for males and 14 to 16 inches for females. The weight is 20 to 25 pounds for both sexes.

Personality and Character

The Kooikerhondje is known as an intelligent, alert, agile, smart, playful, affectionate and good-natured dog. He loves being around his owner and spending time with him playing, playing fetch, taking walks in nature and so on. He is a great dog at sports such as flyball and agility and he is very suspicious of strangers and unfamiliar people. Proper training and socialization from an early age should take care of this problem, but you should be aware that it is not in his nature to be friendly towards everyone.

If you introduce Kooiker to other dogs, smaller pets and children when he is a puppy, he should get along just fine with them as they grow up together. This cheerful spaniel-like dog breed would be great for you if you are ready to give him your full attention and love.

Health and Potential Problems

The Kooikerhondjes are known as generally healthy dogs; however, due to their small genetic base they are more prone to certain genetic diseases than other dogs. Additionally, they have high appetites and have a tendency to become overweight. Their life is span is generally 12 to 14 years. Some of the conditions that usually affect them are:

  • Von Willebrand’s disease is an inherited blood disorder prevents blood from clotting. Some of the most recognizable symptoms include the excessive bleeding from gums, nose, injuries and especially wounds after surgeries. There is no known cure for this disease but there is a treatment that includes transfusions and medications. Dogs with this condition are not allowed to breed but they can lead normal lives.
  • Cataract and other eye diseases — that is why only dogs free of them are allowed to breed.
  • Patellar luxation is a condition that affects a kneecap, and the only treatment is surgery. The knee joint slides in and out of its place which results in severe pain.
  • Hereditary Necrotising Myelopathy (ENM) is a fatal neurologic disease that affects the spinal cord and hind limbs.
  • Other: weight gain
Care Features

Speaking of care, the basic care is the same just for all dogs: you need to clip your dog nails regularly so they would not become overgrown and start hurting your pet. Then you must brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week and bath him at least once a month, depending on how much time he spends outside. Everyday checkups should be performed so you can make sure your Kooiker has not got hurt or cut anywhere and also to make sure that there are no fleas or ticks on him.

The Kooikers demand everyday walks and time for playing. They are high energy dogs who like spending time outside and do not handle being stuffed up in a small and cramped apartment. In order to suit your dog’s temperament you should be an owner who is also an energetic and active person.

Feeding Schedule

When it comes to a recommended daily dosage of food for your Kooiker, it should be 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality dog food per one day (for adult dogs), which should be divided into two meals. Puppies should eat at least 4 cups daily. However, according to your Kooiker’s energy level, metabolism and the intensity of exercises, you should give him more if he spends more energy or less, if he is more of a lazy dog type. Any extreme exercise should be avoided because they can lead to health problems.

Make sure to always buy food of high quality and include vitamins, healthy vegetables and proteins in your dog meals. Keep in mind that this dog breed is prone to overfeeding, so never give them more even if they beg you with puppy eyes.

Coat, Color and Grooming

When it comes to coat, color and grooming, the Kooiker shed moderately so they need regular brushing; but when it comes to grooming, they do not need any professional service since their coat is not very thick or difficult to groom. The coat is of orange or red color with recognizable white patches on it. It is allowed for the coat to have black tail rings where the color changes from red to orange or vice versa.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

As we already stated above, the Kooiker is not really a family dog even though he is very affectionate and playful. He prefers being a one owner dog and in order for him to get along with other pets and children is to actually grow up with them and in that way gets used to them and they to him.

You should avoid leaving your Kooiker with small children and toddlers because he won’t be very patient with them. The same applies to small birds. The early socialization and training is a must.

To sum up, we have covered the most important characterizes of a dog breed called the Kooikerhondje. You are now familiar with his physical traits, personality quirks and most importantly – his basic needs. If you are a playful person who has time for spending time outdoors and lives in a spacious house with a big yard – then this dog breed might be for you.

The Kooikerhondjes also need an owner who is strong-willed and patient because he can be very stubborn and strong-willed and if he is not trained on time you might never be able to train him later on. Giving him proper love and meeting his needs will make not only him happy, but you as well. Kooiker is a small dog but he has an energy level and cheerfulness of a much bigger dog.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.