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Schipperke – Everything you need to know

Schipperke Basic Information 

  • Name: Schipperke 
  • Size: Small 
  • Height: Males: 11 to 13 inches & Females: 10 to 12 inches 
  • Weight: 10 to 19 pounds 
  • Coat: Double coat 
  • Lifespan: 12 to 14 years 
  • Color: Black, Cream, Black and Tan, Blue, Apricot, Chocolate
  • Energy: Medium to High 
  • Origin: Belgium 
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Activities: Watchdog, Guard dog, Curious, Smart, Agile 
  • Barking Level: Medium to High 
  • Shedding Level: Moderate 
  • Litter Size: 3 to 7 Puppies 
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group 
  • Other Names: Little Black Devil, Tasmanian Black, Little Munchkin 
  • Breed’s Original Pastime: Watchdog, Companion 

Schipperke History

The Schipperke, an old breed, originated in Belgium. Schipperke has often been falsely called a “Dutch Dog,” and the breed is not associated with Holland in any way.

The Schipperke is descended from a black sheepdog called Leauvenaar, the same breed that laid the foundation for the Groenendael (the Belgian Sheepdog). While the Groenendael was developed as a herding breed, the Schipperke was developed to be a tiny watchdog. Schipperke was often seen guarding the boats that used the canals between Brussels & Antwerp.

Originally familiar as the Spitske or Spits, the Schipperke was given its current name when the breed club was formed in 1888. The name Schipperke means “little shepherd” or “little captain,” either of which would be a good fit for this breed’s heritage.

The Schipperke became a popular pet after Queen Marie Henriette saw one at a Brussels dog show in 1885. The breed’s popularity grew, and the Schipperke was finally imported to the United States in 1888.

The United States’ first specialty club for the Schipperke dog breed was formed in 1905, but the Schipperke Club of America’s official breed club was not founded until 1929.

Today, Schipperkes are loved for their brilliance, devotion, versatility, and sharp sense of humor. He ranks 82nd among the 155 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Schipperke Breed Overview

Schipperke is a curious, confident, and faithful dog breed, originated in the Flemish provinces of Belgium. Schipperkes are pretty small black dogs with pricked ears and a coat that gives the impression of a sloped back known for their beauty and aggressive nature. Schipperkes are selective in picking their friends, usually limiting it to family members with whom they build strong relationships. Protective of its people and property, Schipperke is an excellent house dog fond of children. Schipperkes are naturally suspicious of strangers, making them excellent watchdogs. Schipperkes are among the long-living breeds (above 15 years). These are flexible dogs who can do well in any environment, including life on a boat or in urban areas, as long as they get loads of daily exercise and the neighbors are tolerant of barking. This active breed benefits from obedience classes and should receive regular exercise. When it comes to training, they’re prankish and headstrong, but with positive reinforcement, they learn things quickly. Schipperke is generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to specific health conditions such as luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (hip problems), eye problems, and thyroid problems.

Schipperke Breed Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Very energetic and playfulStrong prey drive
Excellent WatchdogEscape artists
Does well with other petsAggressive towards strangers

Schipperke Highlights

  • Schipperkes are adaptable dogs who can do well in any environment
  • The Schipperke is an excellent family dog who does well with children
  • Schipperkes bark a lot
  • Schipperkes has a longer lifespan. As an owner of this breed, you must be prepared and committed enough to take care of this breed for a longer period, say for the next 15 or more years. 
  • Schipperkes can adapt to any environment provided they are exercised regularly, leashed, and have a fenced yard to burn their energy. 
  • Schipperkes shed heavily only twice a year. Weekly brushing and an occasional bath are recommended. 
  • Schipperkes are not easy to train. It requires patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency with a good sense of humor to get them trained. 

Schipperke Personality

Schipperkes are active and brilliant dogs. Because of their past as companions, Schipperkes do not make good kennel dogs and prefer staying with their owners. They need activities to keep them engaged to prevent destructive behavior such as excessive barking, digging, and chewing.

Schipperkes are very intelligent but may be headstrong. A pet beginner may find it challenging to train them without an experienced trainer’s help. Schipperkes need to be fenced-in backyard and must be on a leash when not crated. They may not come when called. Pronounced as SKIP-per-key, Schipperkes are small dogs weighing 12 to 16 pounds. A male stands 11 to 13 inches in height at the shoulder; females are slightly smaller at 10 to 12 inches tall.

Schipperkes have a unique outline, sloping from the highest point at the withers to the tail’s base. They have a fox-like head, deep chest, tiny feet, and no tail. Schipperkes generally mature at 1-2 years, although they reach their full size around six to eight months.

Friendliness Overview

Affection Level                           Medium
Family-FriendlyHigh
Kid-FriendlyHigh
Pet-FriendlyLow to Medium
Strangers-FriendlyLow to Medium

Adaptability Overview

Good for New Pet OwnersLow to Medium
Good for Apartment LivingMedium to High
Sensitivity LevelHigh
Tolerates Being AloneMedium
Heat ToleranceLow to Medium 
Cold ToleranceMedium 

Trainability Overview

Easy to TrainLow to Medium
IntelligenceMedium to High
Prey DriveLow to Medium
Tendency to Chew, Nip & Play-biteMedium
Tendency to Bark or HowlMedium to High
Wanderlust AbilityHigh
Tendency to DigLow
Tendency to SnoreLow
Attention/Social NeedsHigh

Schipperke Physical Features

Head
The head is fox-like. The expression is questioning, mischievous, bold, and alert, but never mean or wild. The well-proportioned head, followed by correct eyes and ears, will give the dog a decent Schipperke expression. The skull is of medium width, narrowing towards the muzzle. Seen in profile with its ears laid back, the skull is a bit rounded. The upper jaw is slightly filled in under the eyes so that, when viewed from the top, the head forms a wedge narrowing smoothly from the back of the skull to the nose tip. The stop is definite but not remarkable. Schipperke’s muzzle length is slightly less than its skull’s length. The ideal Schipperke’s eyes are small, oval rather than round, dark brown, and set forward on the head. The ears are small, triangular, set high on the head, and, at attention, very erect. A drop ear or ears is a severe disqualification. The nose is small and black. The bite must be scissors or level. Any deviation from the above listing is considered to be severely penalized.

Neck
The neck is of medium length, slightly curved and balanced with the rest of the dog to give the correct profile.

Topline
The topline is level or slanting slightly from the withers to croup. The stand-out ruff continues to the slope, making the dog appear somewhat higher at the shoulders than at the rump.

Body
The chest is broad, deep, and reaches to the elbows. The well-sprung ribs are wide behind the shoulders and taper to its sternum. The fore-chest stretches in front of the shoulders between the front legs. The loin is short, muscular, and slightly drawn up. The croup is wide and well-rounded, with the tail cropped.

Tail
Usually, Schipperke doesn’t have a tail, but those born with a tail have it cropped to one inch.

Forequarters
The shoulders are well placed back, with the legs stretching straight down from the body when seen from the front. From the side, legs are placed under the body. Pasterns are short, thick and robust, but still flexible, showing a slight curve when viewed from the side. Dewclaws are generally removed. 

Feet
Feet are small, round, and tight, and the nails are short, solid, and black.

Hindquarters
The hindquarters seem slightly lighter than the forequarters but are well-muscled and balanced with the front. The hocks are let down well, and the stifles are somewhat bent. The extreme curve is to be penalized. The legs spread straight down from the hip through the hock to the feet from the rear. Dewclaws must be removed. 

Coat
The Schipperke’s coat has a solid black medium-length outer coat and a thick undercoat or double coat easily maintained with brushing and combing once a week. Schipperkes have more extended fur on the neck and chest and down the limbs and shed twice a year. Schipperkes need a bath once a month or more if untidy.

Color
The outer coat needs to be black. Any color other than natural black is a severe disqualification. The undercoat, however, may be slightly lighter. During the shedding season, the coat might take on a fleeting reddish cast, which is penalized to the degree that it reduces from the overall black look of the dog. Graying due to age, i.e., seven years or older, or occasional white hairs should not be penalized.

Gait
Proper Schipperke movement is a smooth, well-coordinated, and graceful trot, which gradually converges toward the center of balance beneath the dog as speed boosts. The front and rear must be in ideal balance with good reach in front and drive in the rear. The topline remains level or somewhat sloping downward from the shoulders to the rump. Seen from the front, the elbows rest close to the body. The legs form a straight line of the shoulders through the elbows to the toes, with the feet facing straight ahead. From the rear, the legs make a straight line from the hip through the hocks to the pads, with the feet pointing straight forward.

Schipperke Temperament

The Schipperke is a quick, dynamic little dog. It is high-spirited, sharp, and self-confident. Very devoted and loyal with the family, especially with children. It bonds to its master perfectly. Schipperkes will happily accept pet cats and usually does well with other dogs. It is brilliant, curious, and mischievous. These dogs do incredibly well on boats. Among Schipperke’s best qualities is the ability to defend its home against troubles by backing down from nobody. Some can be challenging to housebreak. Socialize a Schipperke to prevent them from becoming cautious and aloof with strangers. These dogs are easy to train as they are intelligent and keen to learn. Often small dogs such as the Schipperke develop Small Dog Syndrome, ranging from human-induced behaviors, where your Schipperke thinks he is the pack leader to his people. When your dog is allowed to rule the house, it can develop behavior problems, like but not limited to guarding, separation anxiety, obsessive barking, snapping, growling, and even biting. Schipperkes that have been permitted to take over are said to have become hot-tempered, willful, and protective. If someone new visits, they will choose a watchful position and try to defend their territory, whether it is an apartment or a portion of land, against both two-legged and four-legged strangers. Schipperkes like to howl. Post the initial bark to alert you, and they need to be said enough to quiet down. A Schipperke that is given rules to follow, limits as to what they are not allowed to do, along with a constant, firm pack leader and a daily pack walk, will not acquire these negative behaviors. Dogs that have already developed such behaviors will change for the better as soon as their canine instincts are being met.

Schipperke Exercise Needs

The Schipperke is an active and energetic breed. To be fit and mentally stable, they need a daily long walk or trot. They also enjoy playing with their humans and getting a chance to run. This breed is very active indoors and will gain a lot of its exercise running around your home. Schipperke enjoys running free off its lead in a safely fenced-in yard or a park.

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy Level                                High
Exercise Needs                           High
Playfulness                                  High
IntensityMedium

Schipperke Grooming

The Schipperke is very clean and takes pretty much care of its own grooming, but to maintain the medium-length double-coat in top condition, comb and brush regularly with a firm brush. They shed little until the coat “blows,” which can be seen as often as three times a year among females; less seen in males and spayed females, especially as they grow older. This coat changes in a sudden drop of all undercoats within about ten days. Schipperkes are literally naked and look ugly for about 2-3 months, depending on the time of year and how much time they spend outdoors, for the hair to come back to a new shiny coat.

Grooming Overview

Amount of Shedding                  Medium
Tendency to DroolLow
Easy to GroomHigh

Schipperke Health

Schipperkes are generally healthy, but they can be subject to specific health conditions like all breeds. Not all Schipperkes will get all or any of these diseases, but it’s essential to be aware of them if you’re considering this dog breed.

Health Overview

Basic HealthMedium 
Weight Gain PossibilitiesHigh
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: A disease that affects the hip joint and results in a hip joint ball’s deformity. It starts with a fall in the blood supply to the head of the femur bone until the bone ultimately dies off and collapses, and becomes deformed. The consequence of this deformation is arthritis or inflammation of the hip joint. It is unknown what causes Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, but it is supposed the cause is either inherent or injury-related. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease symptoms indicate chewing at the hip, stiffness in the affected limb, atrophy of muscles in the limb, pain during movement, progressive lameness, and irritation. Treatment is usually crate rest, physical therapy, and surgically eliminating the deformed femoral head and neck. Prognosis is generally excellent after the operation, and many dogs only suffer insignificant lameness, particularly during weather changes.
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis: The most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in dogs. The disease tends to manifest at 2 to 5 years of age. Dogs may be normal for years, only to become hypothyroid later. Hypothyroidism is a deficient level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A common sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, low energy levels, mental dullness, drooping of the eyelids, and irregular heat cycles. Your dog’s fur becomes rough and brittle and begins to shed, while the skin becomes firm and dark. Hypothyroidism can be handled with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog’s life. A dog undergoing daily thyroid treatment can live a whole and happy life.
  • Epilepsy: A disorder that causes seizures. Epilepsy can be controlled by medication, but it cannot be healed. A dog can live a whole and healthy life with the precise management of this disorder, which can be hereditary or of unidentified cause.
  • Patellar Luxation: It is also known as “slipped stifles,” a common problem in small dog breeds that is caused when the patella, which has 3 parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not correctly bounded. This leads to lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, like a hop or a skip. This condition is caused by birth, although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation leads to arthritis. There are 4 patellar luxation grades, ranging from phase I, an occasional luxation causing unstable lameness in the joint, to grade IV, where the turning of the tibia is heavy, and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives your dog a bow-legged appearance. Uphill grades of patellar luxation may require surgery.
  • Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IIIB (MPSIIIB): This disease is also known as Sanfilippo syndrome type IIIB, MPS IIIB, caused by a gene mutation. When that gene mutates, the enzyme N-acetyl-a-D-glucoseaminidase (NAGLU) goes missing, which leads to the body not being able to dismantle the molecule, heparan sulfate, which leads to the build-up. MPS IIIB usually occurs between the ages of 2 to 4 years. Symptoms include tremors, difficulty in walking or navigating obstacles, and difficulty in balancing. There is no medication for this disease, but there is a DNA test. If a Schipperke is identified as displaying this gene, he should not be bred. Before purchasing a puppy, make sure that the parents have the proper DNA clearances.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes mellitus is a common disease among dogs. In diabetes, the dogs cannot metabolize the blood sugar, causing increased drinking, eating, and urination along with weight loss. Treatment includes medication and insulin injection. 
  • Cataracts: It is a common cause of blindness. The lens of the eyes becomes cloudy and opaque. Treatment includes surgery. 
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: It is a genetic disease caused by bilateral degeneration of the retina. Symptoms include vision loss and blindness. 
  • Heart Disease: It causes abnormal heart murmurs and heart rhythm. The best way to diagnose is through an X-ray, an ECG, or an echocardiogram. Treatment includes medication, dental care, and weight control. 
  • Mange: The presence of Demodex mite in the hair follicles of dogs causes dry, irritated, hairless lesions. It often occurs on the feet or face; itching may or may not be present. 
  • Pattern Baldness: The fur on the Schipperkes rear legs or neck becomes sparse or patchy that easily breaks off and doesn’t grow readily. 
  • Pancreatitis: The inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that produces digestive enzymes and insulin, causes pancreatitis. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, lethargy, vomiting, belly pain, and dehydration. 
  • Thyroid Problems: The Schipperkes suffer from hypothyroidism, in which the body produces low thyroid hormone. Symptoms include hair loss, dry skin and coat, weight gain, aggression, fearfulness, and behavioral changes. Treatment includes a replacement hormone pill. 
  • Tracheal Collapse: The cartilage rings of the trachea, or windpipe, become weak and formed incorrectly, causing narrowness or collapse of the trachea. Symptoms include difficulty in breathing and coughing. It can be treated by surgery and medications. 
  • Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL): It is a neurologic disease affecting young Schipperke aged one to three years. Symptoms include imbalance, weakness in legs, and loss of vision. The treatment for this disease is not available, although a genetic test can be done to diagnose the disease. It is advisable not to breed dogs with this disease. 
  • Underbite(prognathism): Schipperkes is more prone to this disease. The lower jaw is outwards and further than the upper jaw. Symptoms include chronic pain if the abnormally positioned teeth dig into his mouth. It can be treated by Extractions or orthodontic work. 
  • Dental disease: It affects 80% of pets by the age of two. It causes tartar build-up on the teeth, infection of the gums and roots, and in extreme cases, loss of teeth and damage to the kidneys. 
  • Infections: The Schipperke is prone to certain bacterial and viral infections such as rabies, parvo, and distemper. The viral infection can be prevented by giving a vaccination based on the dog’s age. 
  • Parasites: The Schipperke can be infested with worms, bugs, fleas, and ticks that can get into their systems through unclean water, contaminated soil, or bitten by an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted to you and your family. Symptoms include discomfort, pain, and even death. 
  • Obesity: It is a significant health condition in Schipperkes. Excess weight can cause joint problems, back pain, digestive disorders, and heart disease. The best way to prevent this lifestyle disease is a healthy diet and regular exercise. 
  • Spay or Neuter: In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and also decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer. 

If you’re acquiring a puppy, find a responsible breeder who will give you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances show that a dog’s been tested for and cleared of a particular medical condition.

In Schipperkes, you should receive health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for thyroid and patellas (knees), certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that the eyes are ideal, and DNA clearance for MPS IIIB.

Because some problems don’t appear until a dog matures, health clearances aren’t issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn’t breed his dogs until they’re 2 or 3 years old.

  • Patella Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Schipperke Diet and Nutrition

The Schipperke should be fed high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age like a puppy, adult, or senior and their activity level. Determine which human foods are safe for dogs and which are not. Check with your veterinarian or the dog’s breeder if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, freshwater should always be available for your Schipperke.

Schipperke Required Living Conditions

Schipperkes are a good fit for urban living, such as apartment life. They are very active indoors. These dogs are speedy, and it is a good idea to have a fenced yard.

Did you know?

  • In 1904, Schipperke was recognized by AKC as their 55th breed
  • Schipperkes are one of the best watchdogs
  • In the United States, the Schipperkes are a tailless breed.
  • The Schipperke is not derived or related to pomeranian or spitz. It is a miniature version of a black sheepdog called Leauvenaar. 

Schipperke Club Recognition

ACA = American Canine Association Inc.

ACR = American Canine Registry

AKC = American Kennel Club

ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club

APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.

CKC = Canadian Kennel Club

CKC = Continental Kennel Club

DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.

FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale

KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain

NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.

NKC = National Kennel Club

NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club

SCiPS = Schipperke Club of Puget Sound

UKC = United Kennel Club

Adding a Schipperke to Your Family

Schipperke Rescue Groups

  1. Schipperke Rescue – Adopt/Foster
  2. Kunic Ranch

Adopt a Pet – Buy or Adopt a Schipperke

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