- The Schipperke is a small black tailless dog with a foxy face. He has a square body and a distinctive coat, characterized by a ruff that stands out from the neck, a cape, jabot and culottes, all creating a dog with a unique silhouette. The ruff begins behind the ears and goes all the way around the neck. The cape is an additional layer beyond the ruff. The jabot .
- The Schipperke has a wedge-shaped head with prick ears and small oval dark-brown eyes. His expression is questioning, mischievous, impudent, and alert.
- The Schipperke is what’s called a natural breed, meaning his coat should not be sculpted in any way. Only the whiskers and the hair between the pads of the feet may be trimmed for the show ring.
- This breed’s name is often pronounced “skipper-kee” but in Flemish it is pronounced “sheep-er-ker.”
- One of the earliest, maybe the first, dog shows was one for Schipperkes held in Brussels in 1690.
- Legend has it that the Schipperke’s taillessness arose in the 17th century when a shoemaker became angry that his neighbor’s dog kept stealing from him and cut off the tail.
AKC group: Non-sporting
UKC group: Companion
Average lifespan: 13 – 15 years
Average size: 10 – 16 pounds
Coat appearance: Thick and soft
Other identifiers: Fox-like look to medium-sized body; wide chest and large, erect ears; small black nose and oval eyes; typically born tailless
Possible alterations: Can be tan or fawn in color, although not accepted by the UKCComparable Breeds: Keeshond, Samoyed
The Schipperke is an old breed that was developed in Belgium. He has often been erroneously called a “Dutch Dog,” but the breed is not associated with Holland in any way.
The Schipperke is believed to be descended from a black sheepdog called a Leauvenaar, the same breed credited with being the foundation dog for the Groenendael. While the Groenendael was developed to be a herding breed, the Schipperke was developed to be a small watchdog. They were often seen guarding the boats that plied the canals between Brussels and Antwerp.
The Schipperke has the distinction of having one of the first “specialty shows.” This show took place in 1690, when members of the shoemakers guild were invited to display their Schipperkes and their hammered brass collars, which were a custom at the time, in the Grand Place of Brussels.
Originally known as the Spitske or Spits, the Schipperke was given its current name when the breed club was formed in 1888. The word Schipperke may mean “little shepherd” or “little captain,” either of which would be appropriate given this breed’s heritage.
The Schipperke became a fashionable pet after Queen Marie Henriette saw one at a Brussels dog show in 1885. The popularity of the breed grew and the Schipperke was eventually imported to the United States in 1888.
The first United States specialty club for the Schipperke was formed in 1905, but the official breed club, the Schipperke Club of America, was not founded until 1929.
Today, the Schipperke is loved for his cleverness, devotion, and versatility, as well as his sly sense of humor. He ranks 82nd among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club.
The Schipperke is the proverbial “big dog in a little dog’s body.” He’s active, confident, and curious. A closed door is simply a challenge to be overcome.
The Schipperke retains his puppylike qualities — including the troublesome ones — until he’s 4 or 5 years old.
He loves his people and wants to please them, but he also likes to have his own way. If he’s allowed to, the Schipperke will soon be running the household. Protective, fearless, and naturally suspicious of strangers, he makes an excellent watchdog and will take on anyone who seems to have evil intent.
Schipperkes are selective in offering their friendship, generally limiting it to family members, with whom they create strong bonds. When it comes to training, they’re mischievous and can be stubborn, but with positive reinforcement they learn quickly.
Like every dog, Schipperkes need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Schipperke puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
The average life expectancy of the Schipperke is 12 to 15 years. Increased health risks associated with this breed include epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy, Legg-Calves-Perthes disease, and cataracts.
The Schipperke is an easy to care for and adaptable breed who should live indoors with his family. During hot weather, which he doesn’t tolerate well, he enjoys lying in front of a fan or beneath a ceiling fan.
He generally does well in all types of settings and families, as long as he gets plenty of daily exercise and firm and consistent guidance from someone with a sense of humor.
With his high activity level, however, he may be best suited to a home with a small but securely fenced yard where he can run off some of his energy. Be aware that Schipperkes like to dig, especially if there may be a mole at the end of the tunnel.
Schipperkes need at least half an hour of exercise daily, and more is better. Their people are usually tired before they are. They are always running and playing and will use your house as a racetrack when the mood strikes. Walk them on leash to prevent a sudden dash toward an interesting animal or object.
Count on two daily walks to keep your Schipperke’s desire for action satisfied. He’ll also enjoy riding in a basket on a bicycle or cruising the aisles of the pet supply store in a grocery cart.
Begin training when your Schipperke is young, and continue to reinforce lessons throughout his life. He requires a trainer who’s patient and consistent and responds best to positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards, praise, and play.
The Schipperke is known for being stubborn. Although he’s intelligent and wants you to be happy, his idea of how things should be may outweigh any desire to please. Some Schipperkes can be difficult to housetrain, and crate-training is recommended.
Schipperkes are good dogs for apartment life. They are very active indoors. These dogs are incredibly quick and it is a good idea to have a fenced yard.
Schipperkes can be a handful to train, but with a little patience, it can be done. They bore easily, so it is important to keep sessions short and to vary the routine in order to hold their interest. Positive reinforcement is all you need to get your Schipperke to learn new behavior, as they soak up praise and treats. These little dogs are smart, however, and they can often manipulate you into bending the rules, whether it be flaunting their sheer cuteness or blatantly breaking a rule so many times that you give up enforcing it. 100% consistency is key in raising an obedient Schipperke.
Housebreaking a Schipperke can also be a challenge as they will flaunt their independence by relieving themselves where and when they please. Crate training is the best recipe for success, and expect anywhere from six to eight months of training before your Schipperke finally follows the program.
The Schipperke is an active and tireless breed. To be happy and mentally stable, they need to be taken on a daily, long walk or jog. They also enjoy play and getting a chance to run. This breed is very active indoors and will get a lot of its exercise running around your house. It will greatly enjoy running free off its lead in a safely fenced-in yard or a park.
The Schipperke’s abundant double coat is straight and slightly harsh to the touch, with a soft, dense undercoat. The coat should never be silky or excessively long or short.
Although the Schipperke’s coat looks like a lot of work, it can be maintained with brushing once a week — more often when he’s shedding, which occurs once or twice a year. Bathe him only when he’s dirty or every three or four months.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, but Schipperkes are not fond of having their nails trimmed, so consider using a nail grinder instead.
Keep the ears clean and dry. Check them weekly for redness or a bad odor that might indicate infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a mild pH-balanced cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
It is important to begin grooming the Schipperke when he is very young. An early introduction teaches the independent Schipperke that grooming is a normal part of his life and to patiently accept the handling and fuss of the grooming process.
Sturdy and energetic, Schipperkes can be loyal and affectionate companions to children. They generally get along well with children of all ages, playing gently and kindly with younger ones.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how good-natured, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
The Schipperke generally does very well with cats who share his home. This acceptance is stronger if the Schipperke has been raised with cats. He can also get along with other dogs if he’s raised with them, but it’s important to realize that the breed is territorial and will defend its property from unknown dogs as well as people.
Is this breed right for you?
Extremely devoted to his master, the Schipperke is an intelligent and active breed. Very loving with children and getting along well with other animals if exposed to them early on, it’s likely that the Schipperke will attach himself to his master. Easy to train and a good guard dog, the breed will need proper leadership to avoid behavioral issues. If he believes he’s the pack leader, he will act unlike himself with an erratic personality. Likely to bark, he will need to be socialized well. Doing OK with apartment life if properly exercised, the Schipperke does best with a small yard that he can play in. Requiring little grooming, he is an average shedder.
Did You Know?
Legend has it that the Schipperke’s taillessness arose in the 17th century when a shoemaker became angry that his neighbor’s dog kept stealing from him and cut off the tail.
- In World War II, the Belgian Resistance used the dogs to run messages between various resistance hideouts and cells, to which occupying Nazi Forces were none the wiser.
- A Schipperke is intermittently featured in the tiger-centric movie Two Brothers (2004).
A dream day in the life of a Schipperke
Waking up in the bed of his master, the Schipperke will go downstairs to greet the other members of the family with a few licks. Going outside for a quick run around the yard, he’ll come back inside for playtime with the kiddos. A great guard dog, he’ll bark at any strangers that approach the home. Enjoying a walk in the afternoon, he’ll come in and out of the house, taking a small nap and hanging out with the family. After practicing a few tricks, the Schipperke will tuck himself in next to his master for a good snooze.