Schipperke are a Belgian dog breed.
They’re a small breed of dog whose descendants originated from Belgium in the late 17th century.
Originally derived from a black sheepdog called the Leauvenaar, the first Schipperke club was founded in 1888.
Nowadays, the confident but curious black dog can be found throughout the world.
Sometimes described as a Spitz or miniature sheepdog, the Schipperke has a striking jet black coat and pointed ears.
The American Kennel Club describes the Schipperke as a “curious, lively and intense but mischievous” little dog.
In this article, we’ll hear from Okami (@okami.the.dog), Pickle (@pickletheschipperke) and Roe (@schipalong) to learn more about the Schipperke breed and share some of their photos (with their permission).
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What Is A Schippperke?
The Schipperke is sometimes dubbed Belgium’s “little captain”. The AKC write on their website that they’re the “traditional barge dog of the Low Countries”.
Wikipedia explains that the breed name of Schipperke is sometimes translated as “little boat man” but the original function of the breed was not to work on barges. Instead, the “schipper” part of their name refers to the word for shepherd, hence Schipperke is can be translated to “little shepherd”.
These striking black dogs can trace their origins back to a seventeenth-century black shepherd dog called a Leuvenaar. Described as a 40-pound dog, the Leuvenaar was used to guard flocks and transports.
The Schipperke Club Of America’s website provides some more information on the Leauvenaar.
In the mid-19th century some of these 40-pound sheepdogs were still herding sheep in the neighborhood of Louvain, and from these both the Schipperke and the Groenendael have descended. The Schipperke was bred down to become that “excellent and faithful” little watchdog that we know.
The organisation add that despite being nicknamed the “canal boat dog”, Schipperke were popular with shoemakers and other workmen. Seeing as Schipperke have powerful jaws and an alert personality, it’s no surprise the AKC describe these Belgian dogs as the “ideal rat-catching machines”.
The first breed standard for Schipperkes was written in the late 1800s and Schipperkes were imported to the USA from 1888. The Schipperke Club of America was founded in 1929.
The Schipperke is a member of the non-sporting group. They are between 10 and 13 inches tall and they weigh between 10 and 13 inches. Schipperke are identifiable thanks to their black coats. The Schipperke have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years.
They’re a tailless dog – perhaps one of their most notable characteristics. The Schipperke Club of America share a story that could explain why these charming dogs don’t have a tail.
The legend of the Schipperke relates that the custom of cutting the tails arose in 1609. It tells the story of a shoemaker who, angered by the repeated thieving of his neighbor’s dog, cut off its tail-thereby showing the improved appearance soon copied by others and continued to this day. There is no evidence that the breed was ever born tailless; in fact, it seems that more dogs are born without tails now than earlier in their history.
The AKC’s breed standard outlines the following where the general appearance of the Schipperke is concerned.
The Schipperke is an agile, active watchdog and hunter of vermin. In appearance he is a small, thickset, cobby, black, tailless dog, with a fox-like face. The dog is square in profile and possesses a distinctive coat, which includes a stand-out ruff, cape and culottes. All of these create a unique silhouette, appearing to slope from shoulders to croup.
Schipperke tend to be confident dogs that are alert and curious. These little black dogs are lively and inquisitive with an occasional stubborn streak.
The breed standard has the following to say on Schipperke temperament.
The Schipperke is curious, interested in everything around him, and is an excellent and faithful little watchdog. He is reserved with strangers and ready to protect his family and property if necessary. He displays a confident and independent personality, reflecting the breed’s original purpose as watchdog and hunter of vermin.
Anna described her Schipperke Okami as a big dog in a small dog’s body!
Schipperkes are very curious and fearless. Okami is often in front when we walk, and sometimes she takes paths where I can’t go. Even if we can’t follow her, she always comes back to us. She loves to play with big dogs more than small ones (even if her best friend is a Spitz). I believe she thinks she’s a big dog with a small body!
She went on to add that Schipperke are alert and cautious in unfamiliar situations.
Schipperkes are also watchful. They’re suspicious and don’t trust right away when they meet someone or something new. If Okami sees something new in her familiar path, like a garbage bag on the street, she starts to bark .
Pickle’s owner Camille highlighted the Schipperke’s mischievous streak.
I don’t meet a lot of Schipperkes but it seems like they are all a lot of commons like they are fearless, peepy, smart, loyal and a lot mischievous!
Hilary, who lives with her Schipperke Roe, explained that the breed demand respect and if given it, they’ll become dedicated, loyal and loving companion dogs.
You’ll question whether they’re really dogs, or if the breed has evolved to a higher level. They’re the corvids of the dog world. Brilliantly smart, absolutely engaging. They want to be involved in literally every part of your life. Whether that’s climbing a mountain, browsing a market, or curled up next to you when you’re sick. They’re meant to be your equal, and behave better when treated as such. You get back exactly as much as you give. If you respect them, they will move heaven and earth for you.
Schippperke Exercise Requirements
Schipperkes are active dogs that require mental and physical stimulation to keep these clever canines busy. However, Schipperke owners don’t have to be marathon runners or hiking enthusiasts to live with a member of this breed. They love to play and explore whether that’s inside, in the garden or on a walk.
Hilary explained in her experience that Schipperke can adjust to the schedules of their owners.
Fairly high, but not unobtainable. It depends how much time you spend with them. A Schipperke that goes to work with you (or if you are home all day) might be okay with 30 minute sniff walks, whereas a Schipperke who spends most of the day alone is going to need more. They’re quite popular with retired people who want a companion and enjoy taking walks with their dog.
Hilary went on to suggest some alternative exercise methods to keep Schipperke mentally stimulated if you’re unable to walk a mini marathon with your dog every day.
Generally they aren’t the type of dog to become destructive if they don’t get enough exercise (although I have been told of two that tore all the wallpaper down), but they’re definitely happier. Being a working breed, they have inherent drives that need to be met or behaviour problems (such as barking and anxiety) can pop up. You don’t need to be a super athlete to own one though. Lower activity sports like nose work are great for keeping their brain happy, which is the most important part of keeping a happy Schipperke. More than just hours of walking or running, they need their mental needs met. A sniff walk, training routine, or sport where you are engaging with them is going to do much more for them than, say, turning them loose to run around and hoping they exercise themselves. That’ll just build their exercise stamina without doing much to tire them out.
Are Schippperke Hard To Train?
The AKC describe the Schipperke as independent dogs that can be challenging to train. However, the Schipperke owners featured in this article provided an encouraging insight into training one of these little captains.
Anna believes positive training methods are the way to go with Schipperke after training her first-ever dog Okami.
Schipperkes are very intelligent. They understand quickly and they love to learn with games. Positive training is the better way to go, even if sometimes we have to be a little firmer in our voice. Sometimes you have to be more stubborn than they are. Okami is our first dog (my boyfriend and I). We never had one before, nor our families. With the help of positive dog trainers, books and patience, we manage to train Okami, so she can feel good in her paws.
Hilary supported Anna’s point by underlining positive methods work best when it comes to training Schipperke.
They’re sensitive dogs and don’t respond well to harsh training methods. They have a reputation for being stubborn because they will shut down under harsh training, which can manifest as things like sniffing, turning their back to you, etc. It looks like they’re ignoring you, when in actuality that’s canine for peace signals and they just need you to explain what you want more clearly.
Do Schippperke Shed A Lot?
Schipperke shed twice a year at the changing of the seasons – but you may be surprised to learn that these small Belgian dogs don’t shed quite as much as you may think.
Camille revealed that she brushes Pickle once a week to keep her Schipperke’s coat in good shape.
They shed their hair coat at least twice a year and I brush it once a week.
Anna went on to add that Schipperke owners should expect their little black dog to blow out their coat two or three times a year.
The coat is very easy to maintain. I brush Okami one a week, a little more when she sheds (about 2 or 3 times a year).
Hilary provided a little more detail about the Schipperke coat.
Schipperkes have a very natural or “wild-type” coat, with a woolly undercoat and very sleek outercoat/guard hairs, so they’re very low maintenance. Due to the smoothness of their outercoat their undercoat doesn’t get caught in the guard hairs, so they don’t tend to get matted or impacted undercoat. A quick brush out with a coat rake once a week at most is all that’s needed.
Schipperke have the added bonus of not omitting a doggie odor, unlike some other breeds. Hilary explains that as a result, Schipperke don’t require more than a couple of baths a year.
Their outer-coat sheds water, dirt, sand, those velcro-like plant seeds, etc. and they don’t have a strong doggie odor, so they hardly need any bathing at all to stay looking and smelling good (I would recommend every 3-6 months at most). They shed their undercoat twice a year. A bath will help loosen the coat, and frequent brushing during that time will help save your vacuum. I recommend a double row undercoat rake. Don’t try to brush right to the skin, it will pull on their live hair. Start out lightly brushing through, working down to the skin as the loose hair comes out.
Are Schippperke Good Family Dogs?
Having owned two Schipperke, Hilary provided an insight into her experience with the breed around children, highlighting their patient and tolerant personalties.
Every description says they’re very fond of children. Some Schipperke owners have gone so far as to say their Schips have helped raise their children. Like all dogs, they will have a breaking point for torment and kids need to be taught to be respectful. But they are pretty tolerant of poking, prodding, and having their coat grabbed. Most Schips have a very high bite threshold, and will give an air nip warning if they’re repeatedly tormented rather than a bite, so there’s a large safety cushion. It takes a lot to make a Schipperke actually bite.
Camille added that Schipperke love children and most other pets.
They are small and love to play, so they can be perfect for kids. They love to receive tons of attention. They generally love cats but pay attention to rodents (because of their past as “little captain.”). They love to be around other dogs.
Schippperke Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a chronic canine condition that can affect dogs. It usually occurs when owners are about to leave the home or have left. Some of the symptoms include incessant barking, howling, whining and more.
As companion pets, Anna believes Schipperke can be prone to some separation anxiety but it can be combated with training.
They can suffer from separation if they haven’t used to being left all alone before. With training, this is not a problem. But a Schipperke will always prefer to have company than being alone.
However, it’s important to remember that every dog is different, a point emphasised by Roe’s owner Hilary.
Generally no, at least not extreme separation anxiety where they become destructive trying to chew their way out of the house. Roe is completely silent when left alone, you wouldn’t even know there’s a dog in the house. Suki would howl.
Are Schippperke Fussy Eaters?
Some Schipperke can be prone to fussiness so you’ll need to work with your vet to find what type of diet is best for your dog.
Anna shared her experience with Okami.
We feed Okami with half wet food / half raw food. At the beginning we fed her only with raw food, but she stopped eating all the fleshy bones and some vegetables so we went another way. She is a little difficult with food, but when she likes what is on her plate, she will eat well fast.
Hilary warned that owners need to keep an eye on their Schipperke’s weight as these small Belgian dogs can be prone to obesity.
Sometimes young Schipperkes can be, but they generally grow out of it and love food. Roe loves kale, broccoli, and cabbage. He once climbed into a garden bed and ate an entire head of cabbage. They love food so much they can be prone to obesity because it’s hard not to share everything with them, or give too many treats.
Interestingly, all three Schipperke owners featured in this article feed raw or a mixed diet with raw. You can check out some of the best dog food delivery options in the USA and in the UK.
Editor's note: It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with raw pet food, as it can be contaminated with harmful bacteria (such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and E. coli). The UK government website offers the following advice to pet owners: wash your hands with hot water and soap immediately after handling raw pet food or treats; clean and disinfect all surfaces and utensils that the raw pet food touches; store and defrost raw pet food away from where human food is stored. Young children should not touch or eat raw pet food, as they’re more at risk of illness because their immune system is still developing and they’re more likely to put their hands in their mouth. You can check out the UK government’s guidance in full via this link.
How Much Do Schippperke Cost?
If you’re looking to get a Schipperke from a registered breeder, you should expect to pay between $1000 and $1500 in the USA, around £1000 in the UK and €1000-1500 in Europe.
Hilary warned that anyone interested in getting a Schipperke may face a wait of up to two years given the lack of breeders.
Approach it as a two year plan. They’re not very common, and sadly the number of breeders is decreasing as people retire, so it can take a while to get a puppy (and rescues potentially even longer). Find a breeder you like, then wait for a litter. They’re worth the wait.
Schippperke To Follow On Instagram
• Okami (@okami.the.dog)
• Pickle (@pickletheschipperke)
• Roe (@schipalong)
We’ve reached the end of our feature on the Schipperke.
They’re a small black dog that can trace their roots back to the 17th-century Belgian dog called Leauvenaar.
Schipperke can make great family pets as they’re patient dogs that like to be a valued member of the household.
Their alert and curious personalities mean Schipperke can also excel as watchdogs.
Schipperke don’t shed a lot but they do require regular exercise whether it’s a walk or playtime in the home or in the garden.