Schipperke are spirited, companions who need plenty of opportunity to run and play—exercise is a top priority for this high-energy breed. Without enough activity to burn off their energy, they can become difficult to deal with. The intelligent Schipperke has a persistent independent streak and can be stubborn if he doesn't see the value in your request. Give him a job to do and you'll earn yourself a tired out Schipperke—which equates to a better behaved Schipperke. First-time dog owners may want to look elsewhere, the Schipperke needs to have plenty of time dedicated to training. Without an experienced trainer, it may be the dog who is training the human. With appropriate training and socialization from puppyhood, the Schip is a friendly and affectionate breed who enjoys spending time with family, no matter the activity.
Schipperkes are nicknamed Schips, and have previously been known as Spitzke. The pronunciation of the name is SHEEP-er-ker but SKIP-er-kee is also accepted.
Physical Description/Breed Standard
Coat - The Schipperke's coat is a defining feature of the breed, it consists of a harsh overcoat and a soft undercoat. The coat should be solid black.
Breed Standard and History
The Schipperke is a thick-set, square dog with a balanced appearance. Small, oval eyes and erect, triangular ears give the breed a questioning, mischievous expression. The neck is slightly arched, but balanced with the rest of the body. An abundant black coat is slightly harsh to the touch, and a softer undercoat is present. A variation in coat length is required as an essential breed quality—a ruff around the neck blends with an impressive cape and apron, and culottes are present at the rear thighs, with flat hair along the back. The coat should be in a natural state, with no excessive trimming allowed. Presence of a tail is considered a fault. Well-muscled hind and forequarters present the appearance of a hardworking, rugged dog. Curious, interested, and loyal. – AKC Breed Standards
The origin and intended use of the Schipperke has been the center of debate for decades. The breed is from Belgium, and that is one of the few undisputed facts about this fox-like dog. Some stories claim the dog resided on barges to hunt vermin, while others stories claim the breed was kept by shoemakers who competed annually to decorate their Schipperke with the most impressive brass collar.
The most widely accepted theory is that the development of the Schipperke began with Belgian shepherd dogs, specifically the now-extinct Leauvenaar. In the 14th century, France ruled Belgium and restrictions were placed on dog ownership. Because large dogs were only allowed to be owned by the aristocracy, the small shepherd dogs were developed to do everything the large shepherd dogs could—they were kept by common families to tend flocks and hunt vermin.
The Schipperke earned a royal fancier when Queen Marie-Henriette discovered the breed at a dog show in 1885 and had to have one of her own. They made their way to America in 1888 and the AKC accepted the breed in 1904.
AKC Breed Category
The bold little Schipperke is known for its mischievousness and curiosity, two traits that can make for a challenging canine without training from a consistent owner. Confident, headstrong Schipperke require early socialization and training to ensure the strong personality is harnessed in acceptable ways. Schipperke are affectionate family companions, and often get along with new people if given the chance to warm up to them.
Are Schipperke Good with Kids? Schipperke may be able to live with older kids and teens, but toddlers and babies aren't ideal for this breed. They will not tolerate rough handling or rambunctious behavior, and may nip or bite if they feel mistreated.
Are Schipperke Good with Other Pets? If introduced early, Schipperke may be able to live with other dogs, however, they aren't likely to back down from a confrontation in the home or at the dog park. Plenty of socialization can help prevent scrappy behaviors with other dogs. They are likely to chase, so cats and small animals aren't ideal companions for the Schip.
Schipperke are alert and loyal. Their protective nature and tendency to bark ensure you'll know the moment a stranger or critter sets foot on your property—or the property next door, or down the road. They're too small to be effective guard dogs, but they're dependable watchdogs. They may be standoffish, but polite, with newcomers.
The Schipperke is an energetic dog, but with enough exercise can be a relaxed companion.Specific Concerns
Indoor This breed can adapt to many living situations, including apartments and small houses, if provided with adequate exercise and time outdoors. They're natural barkers, but with gentle correction from puppyhood, you may be able to minimize the behavior. Schips are known to attempt to bolt through open doors, precautions should be taken to prevent escapes.
Outdoor Schipperkes appreciate time outdoors, but they are not meant to live outside full-time. They should be contained within a fence and walked on a leash when outdoors. They should always be supervised when outdoors, even in a fenced area. Fences won't keep a determined Schip contained, the clever escape artist can get out in moments.
Exercise At least half an hour of exercise per day is required to keep a Schipperke happy and healthy—more is better. A fenced area for play and plenty of long walks on-leash are ideal to keep a Schip safe.
Endurance Schipperkes are likely to outlast their owners and they're often ready to go at any moment. They have no shortage of stamina and appreciate an active lifestyle.
Activity distance rating
Food The recommended diet for most Schipperkes is about ¾ - 1 ½ cups of high-quality dry food daily, based on the dog's average weight and activity level. This amount should be split between two meals, or can be offered in a food-dispensing puzzle toy.
Schipperkes do not tend to guard their food more than any other breed, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
Alone Time With enough exercise and attention otherwise, Schipperke may be able to stay home alone for 5-8 hours during the day. With too little exercise, the breed may become destructive or bark. Crate training can help keep a Schipperke safe while he is home alone.
Health and Grooming
13 - 15 years
Schipperkes don't require excessive grooming or regular trips to the groomers, but weekly brushing—more during seasonal sheds—and occasional baths will help keep the coat healthy. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or breaks. Schipperke can be sensitive about having their paws touched, so getting them accustomed to nail trimming early can make it less stressful.
Common Health Issues
Though generally healthy and long-lived, breed-specific concerns in the Schipperke can include:
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Schipperke by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Early, consistent training is the best way to create a well-behaved Schipperke. The intelligent breed is often stubborn, and it can be a challenge to convince them to cooperate without proper motivation. Working to minimize barking, socializing with people and other animals, and basic obedience should be priorities.
Giving the Schipperke a job to do is a perfect way to win good behavior. Agility, advanced tricks, and obedience can give the Schip a sense of purpose. Many Schipperkes like to stand on their hind legs, which can make a good starting point for advanced tricks. They've been used as assistance dogs, on search and rescue teams, and as herding dogs.
Sporting Dog Training
Schipperkes maintain their hunting instinct and may enjoy participating in barn hunt activities, but they aren't ideal for as a sporting dog for other forms of hunting.
Are Schipperkes natural bobtails?
Do Schipperkes come in colors other than black?
What is Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB (MPS IIIB)?
The recessive gene-linked disorder occurs when both parents are carriers of the gene. A carrier will not have symptoms of the disease as they are not affected, but they can pass the mutated gene to offspring. Offspring of carriers will develop the disease if both parents were carriers, or will pass the mutation to their offspring if they only receive one copy of the gene. There is a DNA test available to check whether dogs are affected or are carriers of the gene. Carriers and affected dogs should never be bred.
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