Schipperkes are born with either a bobtail, a short tail, or a full tail. The breed standard states that a tail should not be present, but it is not required that the tail be docked. The presence of a tail is only a fault, and not a disqualification in the show ring. Full-tailed Schips display an impressive curled tail that begins to curve over the back from a few weeks after birth.
While the AKC breed standard requires Schipperkes be solid black, the gene pool does include a variety of colors. The United Kennel Club (UKC) requires only a solid color to compete in show, regardless of the color. After much debate, the Schipperke breed standard for the AKC was written to require solid black coloring only. Schips can display a variety of colors including blonde, brown, black and tan, tricolor, and dilute. A breeder charging extra for a ‘rare’ color Schipperke should be scrutinized before purchase—and because the colors are considered against breed standard, breeding for the trait is irresponsible.
MPS IIIB is a rare condition that has been diagnosed in humans, dogs, and emu—and other types of the disorder have been observed in other animals. Though rare, between 15 and 20% of Schipperke appear to present the disease—a significantly higher rate than any other breed. The heritable disorder, also known as Sanfilippo syndrome type IIIB, is caused by a gene mutation that affects the storage of enzymes, which leads to an accumulation of enzymes in the lysosomes. Affected Schipperke will often begin showing clinical signs—lack of balance, difficulty walking or using stairs, and tremors—between two and four years of age. There is no cure, and the disease will get progressively worse over a span of one to two years. While management of the condition is possible, euthanasia is necessary within a few years.
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 receive only one copy of the gene. A DNA test is available to check whether dogs are affected or are carriers of the gene. Carriers and affected dogs should never be bred.