Savvy Sven: Up to his tricks

Photo by Claire Flack Sven is a “smart buddy” and very high energy.

Photo by Claire Flack
Sven is a “smart buddy” and very high energy.

BY HEATHER DUBIN  |  At first glance, many people mistake Sven, a five-year-old Keeshond, for a Chow. His owner, Liz Love, got so tired of strangers asking her if Sven was a Chow, that she taught him a clever trick.

She demonstrated the conversation-stopper at the Tompkins Square Park dog run, their local go-to spot.

“Are you a Chow?” she questioned Sven, and on cue, he shook his head no.

Love, who wanted a family-friendly dog with intelligence, found a “smart buddy” in Sven. She went to a breeder in California, and was matched with Sven based on her personality, energy level and experience of having had a Chow growing up.

“He’s been an awesome dog since,” she said.

Known for its dense fur, curved tail and great companionship with its owners, the breed is the national dog of the Netherlands.

Liz, and her husband, Andrew Love, both originally from Los Angeles, moved here this past January. They came here for Andrew’s job, a customer service manager at Liz is a community specialist at, where she also assists organizations with creating animal meetup groups. She belonged to a Keeshond meetup in California, and wants to start one here, but thinks there might not be enough of the breed in Manhattan.

When the couple first arrived, they sublet an apartment for 15 days.

“Having a dog in New York makes it really hard to find an apartment, and cuts out 75 percent of them,” Andrew said. When they lived in Los Angeles, there were no breed or weight restrictions for dogs in apartments.

“Here, your dog has to be under 25 to 35 pounds, if you rent,” Liz said. “It’s an unspoken rule: Don’t ask, don’t tell. We told them it’s basically a Pomeranian [a toy breed] or bigger.”

Sven weighs about 40 pounds, and according to Liz, is as a very hyperactive male. Sven goes for three to four walks a day, including a long one, and a “sniffing and exploring” adventure. The Loves live on the second floor, and while Sven has no problem climbing the stairs to go home, going downstairs is not easy for him

“As a treat, we take him down the elevator one floor,” Liz said.

Sven exhibited more tricks at the dog run, and a highlight included his playing dead after Andrew pretended to shoot him. Liz has also taught the “too smart” Sven a convenient at-home trick to jump up and turn off the light switch.

Sven is decidedly mellow, and at one point, Andrew pushed him toward another dog to play, but the Keeshond seemed reluctant to get involved. Sven was more concerned with marking his territory, and Liz noted he does it more than other dogs.

“It’s not a breed thing. It must be something I’ve done to him,” she said with a laugh. “I think he needs to see a therapist. In California I wouldn’t be joking — we have pet therapists and Reiki [spiritual healing] for dogs.”

According to Liz, the one trait Sven shares with his breed is that he likes to spin around in circles when he is amped up. Something that can do this is cheese. Sven is obsessed with cheese, and will do anything for it. He also goes bonkers for bananas.

There is one aspect to the breed that is high maintenance — brushing.

“If you don’t like hair, a Keeshond is not for you,” Liz said. They brush Sven three to four times a day, and there are dust-bunny chunks of hair all over their apartment. Some people even make sweaters, scarves and hats with Keeshond hair.

The hair is definitely part of the draw.

“He gets a lot of attention,” Liz said.

Sven, who has posed for a photo shoot in Los Angeles between two men wearing gold Speedos, is popular with the camera. People frequently ask the Loves if they can take a picture of Sven. Recently, a man approached the couple and requested they get out of the picture.

“The guy had his arm around the dog like it was his,” she said.

The Loves feel guilty about leaving Sven home alone during the workweek. In Los Angeles, Andrew worked from home, and he and Sven hung out together all day. The couple are considering getting another dog next year for Sven to have a daytime pal.

Liz volunteers at Bideawee, an animal rescue and adoption agency, and will look there for a Labrador mix or a breed with high energy. In exchange for her volunteer work, Bideawee is helping Liz certify Sven as a therapy dog. She is excited for him to work with senior citizens next year, and make them smile.

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