The Schipperke is a tiny dog with a huge coat and an even bigger personality. They look similar to Pomeranians, but they are not related. So, if you are looking for a dog almost identical to the Pom but rarer, this could be the breed for you. They are nearly always black, with a heavily layered and natural coat, but their foxy face and cheeky smile is usually the trait that people fall in love with.
Schipperkes have a few quirks that soon-to-be owners need to be aware of. They have a protective personality with a heavy streak of stubbornness, which means they need proper and consistent training. Without an experienced owner, they can become unruly dogs. They also have an extremely high prey drive you must be aware of. The sight of a squirrel can turn them into a rocket.
But Schips also have many endearing qualities that make them excellent family additions. They are bright, fun, sprightly, loyal, and affectionate. They are also less needy and demanding of your time and attention than other small dogs, which appeals to many owners. So, let’s take a closer look at the Schipperke.
Americans usually pronounce Schipperke as “skip-er-kee,” but the correct pronunciation is “sheep-er-ker.” Schipperkes originate from late medieval Belgium, and their name translates to “little captain.”
Although they look like Spitz descendants, they are related to a black sheepdog called a Leauvenaar. The same foundation breed for the Belgian Sheepdog, also known as the Groenendael. The Sheepdog was created to be a herding breed, and the smaller Schipperke was developed to be a small watchdog. They were commonly used to watch over the ships, barges, and city shops around the canals in their birthplace and surrounding countries. They were also appointed rat catchers and did a great job at this.
The Schip is credited with having one of the first “specialty shows” in 1690. Shoemakers showcased their brass collars on their Schipperkes in the Grand Place of Brussels. Although Schipperkes were popular among the working class, their popularity didn’t kick off until much later. Queen Marie Henriette set eyes on a Schipperke in a dog show in 1885 and fell in love with the breed, increasing their popularity tenfold.
The Schipperke was eventually imported into America in 1888, and the Schipperke Club of America was formed in 1929. Today the Schipperke is still a relatively rare dog breed, ranking between 110th and 120th place out of 280+ breeds registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC.)
The Schipperke was built to be a watchdog, and these personality traits are easily observed in the family home. They are curious and always alert, making them brilliant watchdogs. This is great if you are looking for a little four-legged alarm system, but not so great if you aren’t a fan of loud dogs. Schips are also very confident and fearless, happy to put themselves on the line to protect their family and property. Schipperkes are territorial towards other people and dogs.
Schipperkes are exceptionally loyal and dote on their family. Once they have exercised enough and ensured their family and home are safe, they are more than happy to relax on the sofa with you. They are cuddly when in the mood for it, but occasionally they like to chill on their own. Be sure not to smother the independent Schipperke if they need time to themselves. They can be cat-like in this way.
This is a little dog with a huge personality. They also retain their puppylike qualities until they are four or five years old. Schips are slow to mature, which makes them intense dogs to have. And a little naughty too, but never dull. However, if you’ve got the time and energy to keep up with a puppy, they make a fun family pet, providing hours of entertainment.
Schips have an exceptionally high prey drive. They chase anything that moves, especially if it resembles a rodent. Their hunting style is like a cat, stealthy and quick. This is something to bear in mind when out in public. You shouldn’t let these guys off-leash in an uncontained area because they might not come back if they spot something.
Size & Appearance
Schipperkes are small, square dogs that only weigh between 10 and 16 pounds, and they rarely exceed 13 inches in height, from paw to shoulder. Their small size and overall appearance are why they are often mistaken for black Pomeranians.
Schipperkes have narrow muzzles and small, triangular-shaped ears that stand to attention when alert, giving them a foxy face. They always look mischievous even when they are not. Schipperkes are naturally tailless, with no shape there at all. If you want to show your Schip in the show ring, they must comply with the rules in the Schipperke breed standard. These rules are not too important if you are looking for a family pet.
Coat & Colors
The Schipperke coat is one of their most distinctive characteristics. It is profuse around the neck, shoulders, and legs, giving them a silhouette that slopes from the shoulders to the croup. Making them appear much bigger than they are. The outer coat is straight and slightly harsh to the touch, whereas the undercoat is soft and dense, providing insulation.
The hair around the neck and ears is called the ruff, and there is an additional layer beyond the cape. The hair extending beyond the ruff and down the chest is called the jabot, and the coat around the rear of the thighs forms culottes. Around the face, ears, front of the forelegs, and the hocks, the hair is much shorter. The different layering and hair lengths are important in the show ring and should be natural rather than trimmed.
Schips should always have a black coat, and no other color is allowed in the show ring. Unless they are seven and above, a little graying or white is permitted. However, different colors include apricot, blue, chocolate, cream, fawn, gray, red, white, and black and tan. These colors are rare, and breeders usually charge more for them. However, it’s vital that you ask for proof of your pup’s Schipperke lineage.
Exercise & Living Conditions
Despite their toy size, they’re anything but. They are curious and hardworking, meaning they need adequate daily exercise to keep them physically and mentally healthy. They need around 30 to 40 minutes of activity outside the home, with playtime sessions in between. Squeaky toys are always a big hit with the driven Schip.
The Schipperke is an adaptable little dog who can live in any type of home, from small apartments to large estates. However, they appreciate a yard they can play in and burn off excess energy. Just make sure that your yard is secure because they chase everything that comes into their space. You can be sure if they can get out, they will.
Schipperkes can live with other animals if they are properly socialized and introduced to them as puppies. This pup is highly territorial, and they might not welcome a new animal into the family later. They can live with children, but the kiddos must be dog-savvy and know when to give the Schipperke space. Plus, they must understand that this tiny pooch is not a toy because despite being tough, small Schips are prone to injury still.
But thankfully, they are also eager to please, which makes training a little easier. It’s essential to discover what motivates them and use this to train them with positive rewards. Negative correction does not work well with this pooch.
Make training fun to keep your Schip’s attention. Because they are fun and mischievous, you can expect them to add a twist to your training sessions, but go with it. Start training as early as possible, be consistent, and don’t let them overrule you. Although trainable, they can be challenging, so they need experienced dog owners.
Early socialization is vital for Schipperkes because they can become unruly and obnoxious if they aren’t. Expose them to as many strangers, animals, sights, and sounds as possible to increase their confidence. Regularly mixing with dogs at the local doggy park is a great way to keep their manners in check.
Teaching your Schip the quiet command is an important training tool because they can become nuisance barkers if left to their own devices. You’ll never stop a Schip from barking, but you can direct them to stop after a bark or two. Crate training your pooch is also great because it gives them a safe and quiet space to retreat when they need time away from busy family life.
The Schipperke is a relatively healthy pooch who typically lives up to 16 years, making them a long-living breed. Although you cannot predict what they might suffer from, here are the most common health problems associated with this breed.
There are a few eye conditions to be aware of, including cataracts, distichiasis, where the eyelashes grow inwards, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Distichiasis is more common in the Schip breed than in other breeds. But once the abnormal hairs have been removed, it shouldn’t cause further issues.
Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IIIB
This is also known as Sanfilippo syndrome, a fatal disease that prevents the body from breaking down specific molecules. The symptoms usually occur between two and four years old and include difficulty walking, balancing, and tremors. Although no treatment exists, a DNA test can identify the inheritable gene. Responsible owners will not breed dogs who carry this gene.
Patella luxation is a common problem in small dogs. It occurs when the knee (patella) does not form and line up correctly, allowing it to slip out of place. This abnormality can cause pain, mobility issues, and lameness. Although it is present from birth, it might not slip until much later.
Autoimmune thyroiditis is the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in doggos, and symptoms usually appear between two and five years of age. It occurs when the thyroid gland produces abnormally low levels of hormones. Symptoms include mental dullness, obesity, infertility, drooping of the eyelids, dry and brittle fur, and lethargy. With a diagnosis, you can manage it with daily medication.
The Schipperke is a small dog that does not need much food to sustain them throughout the day. How much you feed them depends on various factors, including age, size, sex, activity levels, and what you feed them. Schips do well on high-quality diets, whether kibble or fresh options like Ollie.
Schipperkes rarely become overweight due to their energy levels and general focus on toys over treats. However, weight gain and obesity are symptoms of thyroid diseases, so it’s essential to check out any weight gain with your vet. Follow the feeding instructions on the food packaging to avoid overfeeding your pooch.
The Schipperke has a relatively simple grooming regime that only requires twice weekly brushing to remove dead hair and stimulate the skin to keep it healthy. They shed moderately throughout the year and a little heavier during the shedding season. Although they aren’t heavy shedders, you need to expect a bit of hair around the home. A slicker brush is an excellent tool for the Schipperke’s coat.
Schips are very clean dogs with very little odor. They are cat-like and fastidious in keeping themselves clean, and they only need bathing as and when they get dirty or stinky. Aim for several times a year. Dental hygiene is essential for Schipperkes because of their small mouth and increased exposure to periodontal diseases. Brush their teeth several times a week as a minimum.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Looking for a Schipperke puppy is an important process you should not rush. It is essential to work with a responsible breeder who screens their dogs and does everything they can to produce healthy litters. Research for breeders with experience and independent reviews. Always meet the puppies and at least one parent in person before committing. A great place to start your Schipperke search is with the AKC’s list of Schipperke breeders.
The average cost of a Schipperke puppy falls between $800 and $1,000. However, you can expect to pay more for a puppy from an award-winning breeder or a rare-colored pup. Just remember to check out their lineage and health certificates with the breeder. Irresponsible breeders mix breeds to create desirable colors and advertise them as purebreds. Remember the other costs involved in buying a puppy, such as buying all the equipment and escape-proofing your yard.
Rescue & Shelters
The Schipperke is a rare breed in America, so they are even rarer in local rescue centers. Many puppy contracts stipulate that the dogs are surrendered to the breeder rather than sent to shelters. But it won’t hurt to visit your local shelters and speak to the staff who might be able to help you with your Schipperke search.
Alternatively, there are breed-dedicated organizations that rehome Schipperkes. Speak to the contacts listed and express your interest. It is usually cheaper to rehome a dog in need rather than buy a puppy from a breeder. Instead of thousands of dollars, it is likely to be several hundred dollars instead.
As A Family Pet
- The Schipperke is a rare and small dog.
- They are hardy, robust, and hardworking.
- Schips need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily.
- This breed is energetic and playful, and they need regular interactive playtime.
- The Schipperke is an excellent watchdog with a loud and consistent bark.
- They are territorial and aloof with strangers and other animals.
- Schips are a great balance of loving and affectionate and independent and not too needy.
- Schips have a relatively simple grooming regime despite their thick coat.
- Schipperkes make great family pets and live well with dog-savvy children.
- They are adaptable but need a secure home and yard that they cannot escape.
- Schips have an extremely high prey drive.
The Schipperke is a wonderfully rare but tiny pooch that adores their family and would protect them with their life if needed. Thankfully their loud bark is enough to scare anyone or anything away. They have larger-than-life personalities and are incredibly playful. They need a relatively active family that matches their needs and offers consistent training to keep their manners in check. Overall, Schips make lovely family additions.