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Kooikerhondje is a small, lively natured, red and white coloured gun dog. In its home country, the Netherlands, it was and still is used successfully – but rarely – as a duck decoy dog. The fox-like appearance of a dog lures the ducks in a cage trap. Outside hunting season kooikerhondje was working as vermin eradicator and a guardian of its owner. The name of the breed consists of two words: kooiker and hondje. "Kooiker" refers to a hunter with a cage, and “hondje" to a smallish dog. In other words, Kooikerhondje is a bird hunter’s small dog. The breed belongs to the FCI group 8.


The breed standard says a kooikerhondje to be "happy, not noisy, very dependent on the domestic environment, friendly, good-natured and alert". They can be the reserved with strangers, but once you get to know them, you will get a life-long friend. In order to have a kooikerhondje with suitable community skills and a brisk nature, it requires a thorough socialization. Nevertheless, many adult kooikerhondjes mainly just get along with the members of their own pack.

Kooikerhondje learns quickly - both good and bad. It is eager to please and greedy and therefore easy to motivate. Positive reinforcement works very well on them. However, there are more sensitive individuals for whom one snarl at the wrong time could destroy months of training. It needs consistent training in order to learn to trust the owner's ability to manage the changing situations. Most kooikerhondjes are happy to fetch anything and like to swim also.


The appearance of kooikerhondje reminds a small spaniel or setter. The ideal height of bitches is 38 cm and males’ 40 cm, but the size varies a lot. The structure is well-balanced and almost a square by proportions. The color scheme of the breed is orange-red and white. Kooikerhondje is often identified by their specific "earrings" which is some black hair that they have in the tips of their ears. Their coat is a half-length and slightly wavy or straight, and they have a feathered tail.


The early history of a small Dutch waterfowl dog is described in paintings from 1400-1800 centuries. In particular, during the 1600s the artists described these red and white dogs in their work. In the early 1900's the breed almost disappeared. During World War II, Baroness van Ammerstol Hardenbroek became interested in these small beautiful dogs found in old paintings. She gave a picture of a kooikerhondje to a merchant and asked him to look for dogs that were similar. That way the new ancestress, Tommie, was found. She gave birth to her first litter in 1942.

In 1966, the breed was approved in the Netherlands temporarily and in 1971 officially. The first Kooikerhondje Association was founded in Holland in 1967. The FCI gave its approval and a formal breed standard in 1990. Falony-Flame Urjette v. Muskyteira was the first kooikerhondje that was brought to Finland in 1991. A kooikerhondje is suitable for many kinds of hobbies and therefore it has become more common in Finland. In year 2013 over 1000 kooikerhondjes had been registered altogether over the years.

Maintenance and health

Kooikerhondjes are quite easy to maintain. Whether the coat is the right quality, it repels dirt and occasional brushing is all the hair treatment needed. Sometimes kooikerhondjes enjoy playing in mud and then they need to be washed. The coat is double layered, so the dog leaves the hair more or less.

The average life span of a kooikerhondje is 10-14 years. The breed is not included in the Finnish PEVISA program, but eyes, knees and hips are examined from a stud dog. In addition, since the beginning of 2014 at least the other dog of the breeding combination must be DNA-tested against ENM (Hereditary Necrotizing Myelopathy). In the past, the breed suffered from von Willebrand's disease but as a result of genetic testing, the disease has practically disappeared completely. Although there are a number of potentially serious genetic diseases known as polymyositis, autoimmune diseases (in particular renal failure) and epilepsy, they occur relatively infrequently, and the breed is quite healthy in Finland, despite the small origins.

The original use of the breed

In its home country, the breed was used primarily as a bird hunter’s helper. A small red and white dog with a white tail tip is similar to the natural enemy of ducks – the fox. As ducks should pay their attention to the dog, they won’t notice the hunter's presence. After the dog has lured a duck in to a channel that is leading to a cage trap, the bird hunter scares the bird deeper into the trap. Outside the hunting season kooikerhondjes were also pest eradicators. At night, the dog had an important role to warm and guard his owner. Videos of a kooikerhondje in its work can be found in Youtube with a keyword Eendenkooi. An example video can be found here.


In Finland, kooikerhondjes are mostly used as a versatile dog for all kinds of activities, ​​because they are alert, active and always ready for action. Many breeders are especially hoping to have active owners and homes for their puppies. The breed isn’t aligned and the same individual may succeed very well in a variety of hobbies. Here are a few popular activities among kooikerhondjes:


As a fast and agile dog kooikerhondje has achieved great popularity among enthusiasts. Finnish dogs have succeeded in agility both nationally and internationally. There are a number of Agility Champions.


Kooikerhondje is truly a nose user and a suitable blood tracking dog. Tracking is a good way to let the dog use its best sense. A number of kooikerhondjes have a title of Blood tracking Champion. Some of the dogs are also used in the practical work of tracking the injured wild animals.

Dog shows

The main event for kooikerhondjes is Spaniel Club’s Specialty Show. The judge is invited from Dutch and is an expert in knowing the breed. There can be over 90 kooikerhondjes at a Spaniels’ Specialty Show, but kooikerhondjes are well represented also in smaller dog shows especially during summertime. Dogs don’t need any special preparations for the ring, a little brushing is enough. Going to dog shows is a common hobby. Kooikerhondjes are shown freely and naturally.


In Finland there aren’t any obedience champions, but a number of dogs, however, compete successfully. Training obedience with a kooikerhondje requires a lot of patience since it can have a lively and soft temperament, but greed makes it also an enthusiastic learner.

In addition, many kooikerhondjes have been to a MH-character description or have done or a Character test or a BH-test, which is used to test the behavior of the dog in everyday situations. More than 20 kooikerhondjes have participated in Spaniel working ability test, which states operating features of the spaniel breeds.


Kooikerhondje is an active working dog that needs a lot of stimulation and exercise, as well as a consistent but friendly education. The appearance and character of the breed are inconsistent to some extent. Although the merits of a puppy's parents are not inherited, you might want to choose a puppy that has the kind of parents you would like your dog to be.

Last Updated: Thursday, 05 January 2023 18:20