Modern Natural Rearing: The Companion Dog

Image: "Tony", Ch. Sylvan On Broadway
Bred, owned & shown by: Maureen Larsen, Sylvan Kees WA
This page is maintained by Donna Stekli, last updated 02/22/2005

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This section will cover the companion dog. This may be a retired show dog, an obedience dog, an agility dog that is also a Companion animal. The primary focus will be the routine care of a dog that is a family pet. It makes no difference whether the Companion is a dog or bitch, because the article will assume the dog is spayed or neutered, as all strictly Companion pets should be. It will be referred to as "Companion" or "dog" or "he", even though it may be a "she". As with previous articles, interjected are my beliefs, others may differ. The routine, care, feeding are what has worked for me. Others may have different results and routines.


The main things to be concerned with in a Companion are diet and general care. Involving the Companion in family activities is a given. Vacations, holidays and special events such as children's sports activities should involve the Companion when possible. After all, the definition of a companion is a buddy, a fellow, an associate, a mate.

When you get your Companion, whether it is a young or older kees, enroll in an obedience class at a local kennel club. This will give both of you a good start at forming a lasting bond. You will learn how to train your dog effectively and your dog will learn how to interpret what you mean. Even if you have trained other kees before, each dog needs socialization and going to a training class is important for a well-rounded individual.

The Companion should always stay current on vaccinations and be pest and worm free. If you walk your dog in public parks, this will require more monitoring.

Based upon the age of the Companion, the diet will be adjusted to the age and amount of activity. A Kees over 2 years of age and under 7 years with average activity should have food with a protein level of 23-26% and a fat level of 13-15%. Do not assume that dogs can live and be healthy on meat alone. If you are cooking completely for your dog without using commercial foods at all, the rule of thumb is 22% protein (sources: meat, fish, eggs, cheese, beans), 20% oils, 58% from the cereal/grain family. If you and your dog are not so active together, less fat and protein will be necessary. A young dog will require more. A puppy even more, but do refer to the info on the Puppy for suggestions. An older dog requires less, but refer to the info on the Senior Dog. As with all dog foods, steer clear of foods preserved with anything other than Vitamins C and E. Cooking for your dog is suggested because it is the only way to ensure good food sources along with fresh ingredients full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Try adding the Dog Stew and/or Choice Chow along with the Cupcake recipe. [Recipes are in the Recipes section.] The amount of food given will vary by individual, but on the average about 2 cups of dry food per day with the suggested recipes will maintain an average Kees. I suggest feeding all dogs individually, if you have more than one. Food should be served at room temperature and in the same location each day. You should always know how much each dog is eating so you can tell when their maintenance amount needs to be adjusted or when they aren't feeling well. Kees over 18 months should be fed once a day with food down for 30 minutes and removed after that time. I don't believe in free feeding dogs. They assimilate their food much better if fed once a day [excluding puppies, pregnant females, special cases].

For stress and overall health, the vitamins I give are 1,000 mgs of Vit C, 400 IU Vit E, 6mg Pantothenic Acid [Vit B6] and 30 mg Zinc every other day along with the herbal additives. The Vit C is for overall health and stress. Vit E is for boosting the blood supply, circulatory system, immune system, effects of air pollution, rejuvenating, overall skin and coat health. B6 is for increasing lifespan, immune system, adrenal glands (hormonal system). Zinc is for enzyme production, healthy skin and coat, expedites healing. Zinc is lost through stress and should be added back in for a Companion because it helps the Vit E to be used. Add yogurt (about 1 tablespoon of plain unflavored) on top of the food three times a week. This will restore the good bacteria in the digestive tract and help with any gassy problems your dog may have. If your Companion eats dirt or grass, let them. They are attempting to add minerals and herbs to their diet and this is a natural way for them to do it.

I cannot stress enough the benefits of bee pollen to any dogs diet! It has natural enzymes and it helps strengthen the immune system. It is one of nature's most perfect foods full of protein, vitamins, minerals & micronutrient. It comes in granulated or capsule forms. Add fresh garlic [not garlic salt or seasoning in a shaker] in the amount of 1/2 a clove a day. Mince garlic works best and is easier to deal with. Garlic is a natural antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal. It is good for worms, parasites, digestive problems. Because most Companion Kees are from questionable backgrounds, they can use the extra boost these vitamins give to help their weak genetic systems.

About half the phone calls I receive from owners of Companion kees, have to do with diet. The owners have the dog on some kind of enzyme additive because their vet suggested it for the problems the dog is having digesting food properly. The first thing I tell them is to get on a good diet [without corn meal as the first ingredient!] & gradually get rid of the enzyme additive, replacing it with the bee pollen & yogurt. In addition, adding dandelion, garlic, ginger, papaya, peppermint and slippery elm bark is good for digestive disorders.

Be sure the water the Companion drinks is as pure as possible. Spring fed well water in uncontaminated areas is best.

During the winter months when you have the heat on in your home, your Companion may need extra moisturizing for the skin and coat. There are many things you can to help this. First would be to feed a good quality dog food with the vitamins and herbs added. This will help the coat from the inside. Additional oils may be needed for dry coat and skin that are not required during the other months. Sunflower oil, oil of evening primrose and flax seed oils can be used singly or in combination and given every other day. Drs. Foster and Smith have a wonderful oil that I use called VitaCoat Plus that, used in conjunction with Biotin, usually results in most kees holding a nice coat.

From the outside, coat sprays can be used that contain natural emollients like rosemary, blackberry leaves, lemon, horsetail and red clover tops. To use, make a tea out of the herbs, dilute with about 1/2 water and mix with your coat spray or use alone. Golden seal root can be mixed as a powder and added in a diluted amount to your coat spray. This is good for overall skin / coat health combating eczema and other skin disorders. If fleas are a problem, try a few drops of pennyroyal, tree tea, eucalyptus, cajeput, rue, wormwood or citronella oil in the coat spray. [Never use essential oils directly on the skin undiluted!] Green Ban (from Australia) has a wonderful line of herbal dog care products including a great natural flea powder, skin soother and shampoo. [Consider using the suggestions on coat sprays from the Show Dog info.]

A word about using topical Flea / Tick controls such as TopSpot, Frontline or the like: These are poisons. They seep into your dog's skin and the poison systemically kills the pests that bite your dog. While this sounds like a great invention for flea control, it can actually cause your dog to become ill...maybe not right away, but it can and has happened. The only safe flea controls are natural methods and Program (an enzyme that is given orally).

Traveling with your Companion

Since your companion shares your daily life, chances are they will be traveling with you when you visit friends or relatives, for holidays or daily quick trips. One thing to be concerned with is for them to wear proper ID on their collar. A rolled leather collar is best for a kees. Consider getting your pet tattooed by a local vet or grooming clinic in addition to the ID. After getting the tattoo, register it with a national registry such as National Dog Registry or Tattoo-A-Pet. The latest in pet ids is the microchip. I have recently started to use the microchip instead or in addition to the tattoo. The registry service I recommend for the microchips is the CAR (Companion Animal Recovery) offered by the AKC. See for details. Take along the rabies tag with certificate on trips.

When traveling on overnight trips, take along the same food you feed everyday along with a supply of water. Some dogs are sensitive to changes in their water supply. You won't know the quality of water available where you are going, most likely. Always walk your dog on a leash when away from home even if they are the most well trained obedience dog.

Clean up stools using a baggy as a glove to pick up with, invert it and dispose in a well-ventilated trash container (such as those at rest areas). Avoid allowing your dog to explore the feces of other animals. Don't allow your dog to walk in marshy areas where they can pick up giardia or any number of other bacteria/protozoa. When exercising your dog on the road, avoid busy traffic areas if possible. Stop at rest areas as opposed to pulling over on the side of an interstate.

Never leave your dog in a hot car for any length of time. Never allow your dog to travel with any part of his head out of the window. Dogs should always travel in crates and not be allowed to wander all over your car while traveling. The crate is like a seat belt. Take along rawhide chews, cow hooves or other favorite toys that don't have sharp edges to jab your dog while riding in the car.

If you are staying in a motel, don't allow your dog to be alone in the room. Always crate your dog in the room when you cannot supervise them (for example while you sleep). Some dogs are sensitive to treatments used on motel carpets. Take along a coat spray and waterless shampoo in the case your dog becomes itchy. [Air & foreign travel, camping not covered.]

Coat care

Your Companion should not need very many baths in a year. The only times you may want to wash him would be if he gets into something foul, has skin/coat problems or has a pest problem. Make sure when washing your kees, that you first dilute the shampoo even if it doesn't call for it to be diluted. Once your dog is lathered up, rinse him well! That is a big mistake some groomers and owners make...not rinsing the kees well. It can cause many skin and coat problems when the shampoo dries on the skin. Weekly grooming sessions for maintenance grooming are a good way to instill the human animal bond with your dog. Do a complete grooming, clipping toenails if necessary. Check the ears, eyes and pads of feet. Trim the hair between the pads flush with the pads. Check the teeth and scale if you see any buildup. Because your Companion is altered, shedding will not happen as often. When it does, using a wide tooth comb or rake will help get dead coat out. Warm baths two weeks apart will expedite coat blowing.

Benefits of Socializing with other dogs

If you have an "only" Companion dog, they will benefit from some time with members of their own species. If a neighbor dog is available, some fun time with that dog would be good socialization on a regular basis. Dogs really do need to remember they are dogs and do benefit from having time with others like themselves in addition to being your Companion.


Exercise is important to overall health. Take your dog for walks and be sure that includes some running time for them to stretch. If you dog retrieves, this is great exercise. A ball, Frisbee or stick will all provide great stretch of the muscles along with good heart and lung exercise.

Herbs to use

Remember when using herbs & vitamins, some can have disastrous side effects when used in excess or in the wrong applications. They can cause illness or even death. When in doubt, read further and consult someone more knowledgeable and your veterinarian. Don't use something your aren't sure of.

The herbs [& related] I mix in the Companion Dog herbal formula are:
Nettles, Oil of Evening Primrose, Garlic, Slippery Elm Bark, Peppermint, Dandelion, Parsley, Alfalfa, Cayenne, Rosemary Leaves, Sea Vegetables, Spirulina, Bee Pollen, Red Clover, Sage, Echinacea.

Benefits of the above:

nettle - rich in iron to help with the circulatory system. It is rich in Vit A, C, D and calcium & protein.

Oil of evening Primrose - helps alleviate toxins related to an unhealthy diet. Helps stop growth of many kinds of cancer. Stimulates stomach action to help liver & spleen conditions. Very high in gamma linolenic acid (GLA) [an essential fatty acid] which aids in manufacturing prostaglandin. Studies are showing this to stimulate the hormone system which may be blocked in some cases. [not to be used in epileptics]

garlic - natural antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal. It rejuvenates all parts of the body. Great for circulatory system. It also is a natural flea fighter and digestive calmer.

slippery elm - for gastric distress [colitis], draws out impurities, heals all parts of the body

peppermint - for digestion, poor appetite & gas

dandelion - fresh, chopped. Rich in iron, copper & potassium great for the heart.

parsley - cleanses the liver, tones the body, builds resistance, strengthens digestion, source of Vit C, iron, manganese, calcium, phosphorus.

alfalfa - helps in weight gain, stimulates appetite, good for muscle/joint pains, contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, magnesium, enzymes, choline, sodium, silicon, Vits A B, D, K & P

cayenne - good for heart muscles & worm control

rosemary leaves - good tonic for reproductive organs. Relieves depression. One of the most powerful herbs to stimulate the nervous system. Rich in Vit A & C, calcium. Good for the circulatory system.

sea vegetables - rich in vitamins, minerals and thyroid gland stimulant. Helps with any joint problems.

spirulina - provides nutrients to the body when it is not getting enough in regular diet. Good during or after battle with a chronic disease. It helps with vitality, purifies and builds the blood. Easy to digest. Rich in protein, chlorophyll and essential fatty acids.

bee pollen - one of nature's most perfect foods. Contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids. Improves stamina, endurance, increased energy.

red clover - an anticoagulant, helpful with heart problems. Just being realized in cancer treatments with success. Also for skin complaints & arthritis.

sage - rich in Vit A, C & B complex, a lot of calcium & potassium. Good for the brain, to improve memory, for mental exhaustion & improve the ability to concentrate.

echinacea - stimulates the immune system, is an antibacterial & antiviral

Where do most kees come from?

Assumptions: Where do the Kees come from?
In addressing the Companion dog as a whole, I will assume that most are obtained from backyard breeders, pet shops or as rescued dogs.* It is important to note, that in these situations, the health of the dog cannot be as easily predicted as with a dog from a known background. Those Companions that are obtained from a reputable breeder will be more easily raised because the breeder knows the background of the dog and the familial history. They will be able to share diet tips, health care tips and things you may have to watch out for as your dog grows up. Companions from other backgrounds are not as fortunate to have their familial health history known. Because of this, allergic conditions, digestive disorders, skin and coat conditions cannot be as easily treated because the genetics are usually weak.

Hips xrays, stifle checks and blood work testing are not done by less reputable folks. This is due to the fact that these Companions come from questionable backgrounds, having ancestors that have weak immune and maladjusted psychology systems due to lack of proper nutrition and socialization through generations of such poor conditions. I am not saying that kees from reputable sources are free from problems, but at least their nutrition and care through many generations would not be neglected because they are not raised as money making prospects. [Again, assuming responsible breeders are truly responsible.] Kees from reputable sources are bred [assumption] to the AKC Breed Standard. Others are not. These basic assumptions become important when the health of the dog is addressed.

*[FYI: In making the assumption above [ie most Companion kees come from questionable breeders], the statistics were used obtained from a 6month period of AKC numbers of Kees and kees litters registered. Projecting that six month figure, in a year's time 1,664 kees litters were produced resulting in 8,028 individual kees registrations. In order for KCA members [of which there are approx 300& assuming they are ethical/responsible] to have produced that number of kees, each member would have to average 5.54 litters per year, which is highly unlikely. In attempting to project the most number of kees bred from reputable sources, it is more likely that each KCA member breeds 2 litters per year of 4.8 puppies [average litter size based upon AKC figures even though many KCA members do not breed], resulting in 2,880 individual registrations. That would account for 35% of the total kees registered, maximum number. The rest, 5,148 or 65% minimum, are coming from somewhere else.]

Where to get a healthy Kees

A healthy, well raised kees with a quality background whose parents (and ancestors) have been tested clear of genetic problems can *ONLY* be obtained from a reputable breeder.

How do you know they are reputable? Ask questions. Ask if they belong to any keeshond clubs, all-breed dog clubs, obedience clubs. Ask for references, then follow through by checking them. Ask for names and phone numbers of previous dog buyers. If the breeder is reluctant to offer the info, you don't need to buy from them. Visit the breeder and find out the conditions their dogs are kept in. Do they have a backyard full? Do they have many breeds of dogs? Do they show their dogs in AKC competition? Can they provide you information & guidance once you get a puppy? Will they be willing to have you call them when the dog is a year old? Will they take the dog back if you are confronted with a change in your lifestyle that requires you can no longer keep the dog? If they don't ask for spay and neuter on your companion, this is a red flag. If they advertise in the newspaper, this is a red flag. If they have the *parents on premises* that can be a red flag. If the breeder doesn't ask many questions of you, then that is a red flag. Obtain a copy of the prospective puppy's pedigree and call the someone in a national kees club (Keeshond Club of America or The American Keeshond Society) and find out if these are known bloodlines or just a mishmash of pet shop quality dogs. [For a list of Dogs Available pages click here.]

If the breeder thinks you are asking too many questions, don't deal with them.

If the breeder can't produce the paper work to prove the sire and dam are clear of genetic defects, then chances are they are not or they were never tested.

Don't take less than the best, even if it is not intended to be a *show dog*. You want your kees to look like a kees when its grown. Remember, AKC papers are *not* an indication of quality AND they are not a guarantee that your puppy is a result of a keeshond bred to a keeshond. You want the pup to be healthy and able to walk when it's 8 years old. You should intend to keep it for life and that life shouldn't be a few years.

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This page is maintained by Donna Stekli, last updated 02/22/2005

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