Choosing a Schipperke

Choosing a Schipperke

The schipperke was originally bred to be a guard dog and vermin hunter on the canal boats in Belgium. Today, he is a much-adored companion that is a very active and playful dog.

History and Origin

The schipperke originated in the Flemish provinces of Belgium. Thought to have been developed by Renssens, a canal boat captain, this dog is a descendent of the Belgian sheepdog. These dogs were used on the canal boats to protect the boats and get rid of any vermin. In Flemish, the word schipper mean captain of the boat. Schipperke means little captain of the boat.

In the late 1800s, the breed became a popular Belgian household pet. By the late 1800s, the breed had become popular throughout the world. Today, this breed is primarily a companion and does well on boats and in homes. By 1904, the schipperke was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the non-sporting group.

Appearance and Size

The schipperke is a small dog with triangular, erect ears and a completely docked tail. The head of the schipperke is wedge shaped with a pointed muzzle, similar to a fox. The coat of the schipperke is characteristic of the breed. It is a thick double coat with differentiation in lengths. Around the neck, chest and back of the thighs, the hair is longer. The hair of the face, ears, forelegs and hocks is shorter. In the United States, the coat is solid black. Other colors may be seen in other countries.

The adult schipperke stands around 10 to 13 inches at the shoulder and weighs about 12 to 18 pounds.


The schipperke is a curious, mischievous and playful dog. Reserved with strangers, this little bundle of energy is a faithful companion, good watchdog and excellent vermin hunter. Be prepared – this dog can be quite active indoors and likes to howl and bark.

Home and Family Relations

The schipperke is an energetic little dog that is very protective of his family and is hesitant around strangers. Often called the "best house dog", this breed can be a little independent and sometimes stubborn. The schipperke can be very protective of what he thinks is his property, including his family. Schipperkes are very fond of children. This breed can be do well in an apartment if taken on daily walks or allowed to spend time in a fenced yard to expend some of his pent up energy.


The schipperke is an intelligent dog that can be somewhat willful but can be trained if the owner is patient and persistent and uses positive reinforcement. Some may be difficult to housetrain.

Special Concerns

The schipperke will shed heavily two to three times a year, especially in females that have not been spayed.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Diseases that may be seen in this breed include:

  • Hypothyroidism is a disorder affecting the thyroid gland. Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to lethargy and weight loss.
  • Epilepsy is a disorder resulting in seizures.
  • Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB – is a genetic disease caused by the deficiency of the lysosomal enzyme N-acetyl-a-D-glucoseaminidase. This results in weakness, incoordination, and generalized balance problems. It affects dogs between 2 to 4 years of age and is eventually fatal.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint leading the pain and lameness.
  • Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas related to insufficient amounts of insulin production.
  • Progressive retinal degeneration (PRD) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. You may see a cloudy, white color in the pupil, which is normally black. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Legg-Calve Perthes a disease of the hip joints that leads to lameness.

    Life Span

    The average life span of the schipperke is over 15 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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