Sometimes touted as the "most curious of all breeds," the Schipperke makes an excellent family pet and watchdog. Insatiably interested in everything that is happening, the Schipperke will bond most strongly with its primary caretaker but will also show great affection to others it loves.
Although it may look like it's a derivation of a Pomeranian or Spitz, the Schipperke is really a smaller version of the Leauvenaar, a black sheep dog. These dogs were commonly used in Belgium until the mid-19th century to herd sheep. However, the Schipperke was deliberately scaled down in size to become an "excellent and faithful" little watchdog, and indeed, it has become just that.
It was first bred in Flanders by Renssens, a canal boat captain, and was continually scaled down in size until it became its own breed. These little dogs were favorites as watchdogs for the canal barges in Belgium, and also could be used to herd livestock or hunt game. They are historically excellent at flushing out rats, important for barge work, and were usually captains' dogs; they were often nicknamed "Little Captain," or "Little Skipper." Schipperkes continue to make great boat dogs for those who spend a lot of time on the water, in that they are very comfortable in this environment and make excellent watchdogs when boats anchor for the night.
The first unofficial Schipperke show was held in 1690, although the dogs were called "Spits" or "Spitske" at that time. They earned the name Schipperke after a specialty club was formed in 1888. "Schipperke" means "little captain," although these little dogs were popular guards and companion animals to all workmen, from shoemakers to bricklayers.
The Schipperke made its way to the United States in 1888, and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904. The first specialty club dedicated to the Schipperke was established about 1905 but died out during World War I. Eventually, the Schipperke Club of America was established in 1929.
The Schipperke is a tidy little dog, with a square body; wide chest tapering to the elbows; long outer coat; pert, erect ears; long, stiff overcoat; and soft, fluffy undercoat. It has been called "fox-like" in appearance. Most Schipperkes have ruffs around their necks and their tails are usually docked in Canada and the United States. The Schipperke can be born without a tail, although most puppies are born with tails of varying types. The only accepted coat color for the American Kennel Club is black, but they can also have tan or fawn coats. Adult height is approximately 10 to 13 inches at the shoulder, and adult weight is about 12 to 18 pounds.
If you decide to adopt a Schipperke, be prepared to be dazzled by a little dog that has boundless energy and curiosity! Very quick and energetic, these little dogs are very confident, alert and full of rambunctious fun. Extremely intelligent, the Schipperke adapts well to a family environment, although a devoted "single" owner will also make a Schipperke very happy. Your little pet makes an excellent watchdog and will alert you very quickly if he or she fears there is any danger. Schipperkes can be prone to excessive barking, simply because they are such good watchdogs, but this can be curbed as long as socialization training is done in their early years.
In spite of their size, Schipperkes are not afraid of anything. They won't back down if they fear there's danger and will do everything possible to protect you and your loved ones. With efficient training, they are very good with children but can be aloof with strangers. Because they are so intelligent which is sometimes displayed as obstinacy, they can be difficult to housebreak. As long as you establish yourself as the “alpha dog” in the house, though, and provide firm and gentle discipline, these traits can be tamed, resulting in a truly delightful and unendingly entertaining and loving little pet.
Beware Small Dog Syndrome!
As with many little dogs, Schipperkes can develop "small dog syndrome," where owners who erroneously treat them like children (not dogs) turn them into spoiled rotten brats. If your pet develops small dog syndrome, he or she can become a little terror, stubborn and snippy, and impossible to control. Avoid this by treating your pet as a truly beloved “canine” family member, not as a child. Dogs are inherently pack animals, and need their owners to be the “alpha dogs,” the leaders, in control. Do that, and you will have a happy, healthy, truly contented and well-behaved pet.
The Schipperke is truly the “Energizer Bunny.” This breed must be given lots of exercise to be truly happy and healthy. An excellent jogging or walking companion, and as stated previously, also very adept at maritime activity, this dog can be well suited to apartment living because of its small size. Likewise, its need for exercise can also be satisfied within the confines of a small space.
The best owner is one who can devote plenty of attention to the Schipperke whenever possible to fulfill the dog’s insatiable curiosity and need to bond. This is not a dog to leave alone. Provide plenty of companionship and love, and your pet will show lifelong devotion in return.
Fortunately, the Schipperke is a very sturdy, hardy little dog, with a long life expectancy of about 15 years or even more. It is not unusual for a Schipperke to reach 17 or even 18 years of age. The only serious health consideration is Sanfilippo syndrome, or Mucopolysaccharidosis III (MPS-III), which is a genetic mutation that can occur in approximately 15% of the population. Tests are being developed to screen for this disorder.
Grooming Regular brushing with a firm-bristled brush should usually suffice, with perhaps the occasional dry shampoo. These dogs shed very little with the exception of the occasional "blow," a 10-day affair where they lose their entire undercoat. During these periods, regular brushing is necessary once or twice a day, and bathing in warm water can minimize loose hairs. "Blowing" happens most frequently with unspayed females, two or three times a year, and much less often with males, spayed females and older dogs. Once this occurs, dogs will temporarily have very thin hair, but despite this disconcerting appearance, their hair will grow back fully with magnificent luster.
AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Schipperke. http://www.akc.org/breeds/schipperke/index.cfm. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
PetWave: Schipperke Dog Breed. http://www.petwave.com/Dogs/Dog-Breed-Center/Non-Sporting-Group/Schipperke.aspx. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
Sanfilippo syndrome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanfilippo_syndrome. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
Schipperke. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schipperke. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
Schipperke. http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/schipperke.htm. Retrieved February 13, 2013.