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BaxterBoo Blog
July 27, 2013

Meet the Breed: The Schipperke

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  • Height: 10"- 13”
  • Weight: 12-18 pounds
  • Historical function: Boat guard and ratter in Belgium
  • Modern function: Agility, companion 
  • AKC classification: Non-sporting

Physical Characteristics:

The Schipperke is a small, sturdy dog that is built squarely. The ears are pricked triangles. The head is rounded and the muzzle tapers to the small black nose. The dark oval eyes face forward. The chest is wide and reaches the elbows. Schipperke's are sometimes born without tails and are sometimes docked at birth, though this practice is now illegal in Europe. The double coat is thick and shorter on the face, ears, and bottom legs. The coat is generally solid black and stands away from the body. There is a ruff on the neck and chest. The coat feels harsh to the touch. The AKC only recognizes the black color, but other clubs accept the blonde variants.   

History of the Breed:

The Schipperke was most likely bred down from the Leauvenaar, a 40-pound black sheep dog, which the Belgian Sheepdog also descended from. There is some debate that they are related to the Spitz. Regardless, the dog was bred down to be a ratter and guard on the river barges. They were also farm dogs that worked as sheep herders and ratters. They became quite popular in Belgian households in the 1800s. They were exported around the world after being a popular entry in a dog show in 1880. One of their common names is "The Little Captain" and they are often sought after as boating companions.   


The Schipperke is a feisty dog that can be headstrong and yappy if not properly trained. These traits are helpful as a ship watchdog and ratter, but can be difficult for a first-time dog owner to deal with. Obedience training is highly recommended with this breed. Aside from these cautions, the Schipperke is loyal and bonds with his family and is particularly good with children. In spite of a high prey drive, this dog can be trained to get along well with cats. This fast, active dog should be kept on a lead and have a securely-fenced yard to prevent them from taking off after squirrels and other small animals. They are smart and can be mischievous and clownish. They make excellent watchdogs and will take on larger intruders without fear. Curtail excess barking and Small Dog Syndrome by being a strong, calm, confident pack leader. 

  • Best suited for: Active families, boaters, apartment dwellers.
  • Preferred living conditions: This adaptable, active dog does well nearly anywhere as long as they get adequate exercise.

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Easy care coat does not require excessive grooming. They will keep themselves clean and shed minimally except for when they seasonally blow out their coat (up to three times yearly.) This can take several weeks to complete.  
  • Exercise needs: Daily long walk or jog. 
  • Life expectancy: 15+ years.
  • Health concerns: Generally healthy but less than 15% of the breed can have Mucopolysccharidosis, a disease which only affects Schipperkes. The disease will typically manifest between age 2-4 years and affects balance. Epilepsy, hypothyroidism and luxating patellas have also been noted rarely in this breed.  

Breed Club Links: The Schipperke Club of America Perfect Pairings: Zanies All Paws on Deck Dog Toy - Boat

Have any stories about a Schipperke? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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This entry was posted by Mary.

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