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Schipperke Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 12.2”- 13.3”
Weight: 6 – 19 lbs.
Life Span: 13 -15 years
Coloring: Black
Area of Origin: Belgium
Similar Breeds: Spitz, small shepherds and small sheepdogs

History and Origin:

Belgium claims the birthplace of the Schipperke and the breed as a small sheepdog. They were popular on ships as exterminators and watchdogs. The shopkeepers and sailors of Antwerp and Brussels named these dogs the Schipperke which means “little captain”. It was also a nickname for the captain’s dog. According to the Belgium story the Schipperke was bred by a man named Renssens, a canal boat captain.

The ancestor was a black sheepdog, weighing forty pounds and called the Leauvenaar. This is the same line that produced the black Belgian Sheepdog. This sheepdog was bred over and over with smaller and smaller specimens until it was so small it was called a new breed. The Schipperke not only rid the barges of vermin but they also herded livestock, guarded homes and helped with hunts.

By the end of the 1800s the Schipperke was becoming very popular with the general public. The first time the breed participated in a dog show was 1880. The exposure from that show led to growing popularity throughout the world and a high demand for the exportation of the breed. By 1904 the American Kennel Club had recognized the Schipperke as a separate breed.

The European version of the Schipperke is much more aggressive than the version of the breed found in the United States today.

Personality and Temperament:

The Schipperke is known to be mischievous, stubborn and headstrong, as well as chasing vermin and animals smaller than itself. They have a high level of energy and a high level of curiosity. They can get themselves in trouble with those two traits.

Schipperkes are highly intelligent, independent, and often disregard the commands of their owners. Because of this they are not the best choice for a first time dog owner. They are a very impulsive and inquisitive breed of dogs.

The Schipperkes will trot or run instead of walking and the breed is always busy. This dog needs a job and if you do not give it to them they will find it for themselves. They are always in motion and this is why you should always have them on a leash. Their life’s motivation is to go go go.

They will chase anything that they see moving so you need to keep them in a fenced yard. And you need to keep your eye on them when they are fenced in so they do not climb up on things or dig their way out of your yard.

He has a great sense of smell, is naturally suspicious of strangers and does not sleep deeply. Sure that he is a big dog he will face any challenge that comes his way, and will not be afraid to bark.

Schipperkes need a firm hand and an alpha owner as well as intense training and fenced lawn for exercise. They tend to bark a lot and they tend to be somewhat aggressive toward other dogs. Being bred to kill rodents the breed maintains a very high prey drive and with a strong owner will perform well in obedience and agility.

They are fine with animals in their own family and home, but can be very territorial and aggressive with strange animals. Because of this high prey drive the Schipperke can be very aggressive with other caged pets such as rodents or even birds. Be careful that these pets never get loose in his presence as they would not stand a chance against the Schipperke’s speed and agility.

The Schipperkes found in the United States today are not nearly as aggressive as the European version. The European Schipperke needed these traits but the American version is bred for companionship. They still however maintain their arrogance, their confidence, and their independence.

They are natural watch dogs as well as loving comedians for their people. They tend to be healthy and live a long, happy and amusing life. They are so inquisitive that they are interested in everyone and everything around them. They will respond best to the owner who displays confidence in their leadership, expects the Schipperke to obey and who is consistent in their firmness with the breed.

Being stubborn like many other terriers and toy breeds, the Schipperke is difficult to housebreak, stubborn and with a strong sense of self. The breed is confident in what it likes and does not like and will take advantage of any weakness shown to him. They hate being teased or handled roughly and their barking could be a problem for your neighbors.

Exercise & Training:

Although the Schipperke is a small dog, it is a very active one. Although the Schipperke is a good apartment dog, it lives a very active life. They are quick, they are agile and they are fast. You will need a fenced yard for your Schipperke. In order to be happy the breed needs lots of activity and lots of exercise. Take them for a long walk every day.

It takes persistence and it takes consistency to successfully train a Schipperke. It requires a clear leader to tame this little dog and a whole lot of patience. The breed is stubborn and does not respond immediately to your commands and will not do something just because you ask them to. They have to perceive that there is something in it for them.

When this is achieved the Schipperke can be very successful at agility, obedience and confirmation American Kennel Club sponsored events.


The Schipperke is a black dog, a very black dog with a heavy ruff and full tail. Because of its looks the Schipperke has acquired many nicknames such as the Tasmanian black devil, the little black devil and the little black fox. They are a double coated breed with a thick undercoat and a shiny black top coat.

The Schipperke does not need a lot of professional grooming as they shed only moderately. Use a brush that also reaches the undercoat and a strong comb on the top coat. They need to be brushed at least once a week but that should be enough. You never have to trim or cut the ruff as it is the most attractive part of a Schipperke and will fluff on its own.

Like other double coated breeds the Schipperke will blow their coat several times a year. A warm bath will help to loosen and remove the undercoat rather than waiting for the dog to shed it. The AKC standard for the Schipperke is very specific about both the under and outer coat.

There are a variety of lengths to the coat of a Schipperke including short hair on the hocks, ears, front of legs, and face. The hair on the body is medium and the ruff is long. The culottes, jabot and cape are also longer. When you pet the Schipperke, their coat will be slightly rough. The dense undercoat is much softer. The Schipperke would not meet the breed standard if its coat was silky or smooth.

The Schipperke’s whiskers should be trimmed but nothing else unless you choose to trim the hair between their foot pads. The only acceptable color for the outer coat is black – solid black. The undercoat might be lighter but not by very much.

When they shed or when you are bathing them to remove the undercoat, it may appear that there is some red in the coat but this is just an illusion. There are however ‘blonde’ versions of the Schipperke but they are not acceptable to the American Kennel Club.

The American Schipperke has no tail while in most of Europe tail docking is illegal. The dewclaws are more often than not removed. Most Schipperkes are very meticulous about its own grooming. This cat like dog takes care of itself. It can take two to three months for the blown coat to grow back and until it does the Schipperke is not nearly as attractive as they are with their full luxurious coat.

Similar Breeds:

There are not a lot of health issues with the Schipperke but overeating and lack of exercise can be deadly to the breed. It can cause joint problems, digestive problems, heart, tooth and lung issues. A UK Kennel Club survey revealed that most Schipperkes live on average about 13 years with 20% living to 15 years. The oldest dog surveyed was 17 ½.

They can have issues with a luxating patella and Legg-Perthes Syndrome. The luxating patella is an orthopedic condition where the kneecap (patella) dislocates or moves. This is also known a trick knee. It has also been called a floating kneecap, a floating patella or subluxation of patella. It is fairly common in small or miniature dogs. Usually this disease will show itself around a puppy at 4 to 6 months of age.

Legg-Perthes Syndrome is known to show up in very young dogs – puppies actually, who are less than a year old. The first signs are gradual lameness in the hind –end. This disease is most often simply known as Legg’s Disease, is a necrosis of the femoral head and causes a spontaneous breakdown in the top of the femur or long thigh bone. This is the bone that connects the hip and knee.

There is no known cause and it is much more prevalent in smaller, toy and miniature breeds such as the Schipperke. It is thought to be a genetic disorder. What actually happens is that there is a break for some reason in the blood supply to the upper femur and the bone and cartilage cells eventually die. This causes the joints of the hips to become distorted and painful. The structural integrity of the hip is lost to the point where it is no longer weight bearing and the dog is unable to stand or walk.

There is no known cause and the disease is therefore idiopathic but it is thought by the majority of researchers to be genetic. The treatment and prognosis depends upon where in the progress of the disease it is caught. If caught early enough non-surgical means can be used to restore the weight bearing function to the hip. NSAIDS or Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory DrugS are often given at this stage. If not caught soon enough, surgery might be required. The success rate for surgery is much higher than for medical interventions.

In addition almost 15% of all Schipperkes have MPS IIIB. This is a genetic mutation that only appears in Schipperkes and is the only auto immune disease known to affect the companion animal population. There is a test for the disease and many breeders of Schipperkes are using it. This disease shows up in dogs between the ages of 2 and 4 and there is no cure nor is there any effective treatment.

The effects of MPS IIIB include loss of balance and loss of ability to negotiate stairs and other obstacles. MPS IIIB is most similar to a couple diseases in humans such as Gaucher Disease and Tay Sachs Disease. Other possible medical issue for Schipperkes includes epilepsy, hypothyroid disease, cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

Interesting Facts about the Schipperke:

  1. The Schipperke was once called the Belgian Barge Dog, reflecting its origin as a shipboard rat catcher.
  2. These terrier like little black dogs were originally bred for the pursuit of mice and rats. At the same time the Schipperkes also protected food and supplies for the ships.
  3. The Schipperke is very cat like with a cat personality and balance. They have tight close paws that allow the Schipperke to walk on the edge of furniture, fences and window ledges.

Organizations dedicated to the Schipperke:

Breeds Similar to Schipperke Dogs:

Breed Information Schipperke

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