Schipperke: dog breed appearance, character, training, care, health


The schipperke dog breed is characterized by being the smallest of all sheepdogs. Its character overflows with energy, vitality and affection. It is becoming more and more popular as a pet in many countries. At Petlifey, we explain everything about the Schipperke breed.


Character of the Schipperke breed

The schipperke is the smallest shepherd dog in the world, an independent animal, with a friendly and affectionate character with all people and with other animals.

In addition, it needs very little care; In short, it is the best candidate to become the ideal dog for modern life. With a fun and adaptable temperament, the Schipperke breed can live in the country or in the city, provided that adequate activity is guaranteed.

The origins of the breed are lost in time, although already in the 15th century there are references to a small black dog without a tail that was present in all the houses of the city of Bruges (Belgium).

A descendant of the ancient Leuven sheepdogs, the schipperke has become one of the most popular breeds in Belgium and is now gaining adherents around the world.

Similar to a miniature Belgian shepherd and with a head that bears certain similarities to that of a fox, the schipperke is a small but tireless dog, with great energy and a personality with a great desire to work or carry out any activity.

Due to its behaviour, the schipperke makes an excellent little watchdog because it is an exceptional alerter, brimming with vitality and aloof with strangers. It is always on the move, agile, indefatigable and always aware of what is happening around them.

Very aggressive when it comes to taking care of the objects that have been entrusted to them, it is, on the other hand, very sweet with children. It is a magnificent sniffer that hunts rats, moles, and other vermin.

The ancestral character of this breed has been consolidated over time, and today it is an alert dog, always attentive, very lively and self-confident.

Its intelligence is high, perhaps above average, and its size should not be misleading, since it is a tough, resistant and tireless dog, which does not show signs of hypersensitivity when it comes to learning and training, and who, at times, seems to be unaware of its size,

Endowed with an extraordinary curiosity, the schipperke always wants to be aware of everything that happens around them. If you come across a closed door, you are most likely trying to find out what is going on on the other side.

It loves to travel in any medium, and it is not uncommon to see them on boats and barges in the area of ​​Belgium and Holland.

In fact, the Flemish name of the breed alludes to its association with ships ( schip ). As one more member of the family, or perhaps the most important, feels, it shows its indignation when it is not included in the collective plans or when it is left alone at home.

Its enormous energy, which it does not stop wasting at any time, and its developed intelligence make it easy for them to get bored if it is subjected to an activity that is too repetitive.

The schipperke likes novelties and challenges, and their owners should have at least a level of energy and imagination similar to that of their dog.

At times it can be very stubborn, so it needs to be educated with a firm but fair hand, without ever giving the arm to twist before its games and moneries. It is very easy to succumb to the schipperke’s natural grace, but you have to know that it will always tend to abuse its charm to get what it wants.

Thanks to its thick and strong hair, this breed is prepared to withstand the most extreme climates, in fact, one of its best assets is adaptability, since it can live in a small apartment as well as in a large rural farm.

Due to its character and liveliness, it is an extraordinary guard dog that immediately warns of the presence of strangers with a characteristic, high-pitched and somewhat shrill barkIt is very territorial and if it is given a suitable space it makes it its personal universe.

The schipperke is the complete opposite of an escapist dog, it never leaves “its place”, and in a dog, this characteristic is considered the perfect expression of innate territoriality.

Because it traditionally worked on farms as a shepherd dog in small confined spaces, so it did not have to lead the herds from one field to another or cover huge areas to group the cattle.

Therefore, it knows where its place is, it knows it and lives very comfortable in it, which is perfectly compatible with its condition as a curious animal. Indeed, when you go to new places it is imperative to keep it under control, since you try to inspect and know everything around you , which can lead to some problems.

Another of the characteristic signs of the Schipperke race is its extraordinary loyalty and strong attachment that it shows towards its human family.

It has no problem in its relationship with people or with other animals in the house. It is also an ideal breed of dog for children, who are delighted to tolerate.

With strangers it is inquisitive, and observes their every movement, but without showing signs of aggressiveness. It will seldom bark at those people who are in the house in the company of its owners, although it will not let anyone approach from outside without warning.

With strange dogs or outside the family, it is generally friendly, although it will try to make it clear what its territory is and who is in charge of it.

  • Energy: high level. It is a very active shepherd dog that needs regular exercise, even if it is in a yard or fence.
  • Temperament: excellent watchdog, agile, indefatigable, always attentive and helpful.
  • Adaptability: very high. You can live in a small apartment as well as in a large house or on a farm.
  • Sociability: high. Properly socialized it can make a good companion dog. It especially loves children, but is somewhat suspicious of strangers.
  • Health: good. It usually suffers from few hereditary diseases.
  • Longevity: between high and very high. Many individuals are known to have lived 15 years or more in perfect conditions of health and performance.
  • Utility: very versatile. Due to its good character, it is a useful animal in many activities: shepherd dog, farm dog, companion dog, disaster rescue, obedience with music or mini agility.
  • Use: grazing, guarding, hunting and company.

Schipperke Features

The general appearance of the schipperke is characterized by its small size, but solid constitution.

Its morphology, as well as its characteristics and its character of a shepherd dog, all in a small size, explain its great popularity, which extends far beyond the Belgian borders.

The height at the withers is equal to the length of the body; so, consequently, it is a dog with a square structure. Its body is harmonious, short, quite broad and stocky, but the limbs (front and back legs) have fine bones.

Always chestnut black, the coat is abundant. The outer coat of hair is abundant, dense, smooth, firm in texture, dry and resistant to the touch, and together with the inner coat it is an excellent protection.

Schipperke breed standard

Next we will see in more detail what the schipperke dog is like and what is the breed standard :

  • General appearance: it is a lupoid type dog , of solid constitution and with a harmonious and sturdy body.
  • Size: small dog breed.
  • Height at the withers: between 28 and 32 cm for males and between 25 and 30 cm for females.
  • Weight: between 4 and 10 kg for males and between 3 and 9 kg for females.
  • Origin: Belgium.
  • Body: short and wide, it is therefore stocky, but not excessively bulky or heavy. The body structure is usually square.
  • Head: similar to that of the wolf, it is refined and wedge-shaped, although not too elongated. It is quite wide and is in harmony with the rest of the body.
  • Skull: the forehead, quite broad, tapers towards the eye region, and, seen in profile, it is slightly rounded. The upper lines of the skull and the muzzle are parallel.
  • Muzzle: it becomes more pointed towards the truffle region and is well chiselled. It is not too long and has a rounded tip.
  • Nose: it is small and black in color.
  • Eyes: dark brown in color, small, almond-shaped, and not sunken or prominent. It has a mischievous, intense and penetrating gaze, and the eyelids are rimmed with black.
  • Ears: the dog wears them very straight and they are small, pointed, in the shape of a triangle and set high, but not too close together. They are firm and highly mobile.
  • Nose-frontal depression (stop): marked, although without exaggeration.
  • Jaws: Jaws are strong with healthy, well-implanted teeth. The bite is perfect and complete in scissors, although some specimens bite in pincers.
  • Neck: It is strong, with powerful musculature, and appears more voluminous because of the abundant fur on the collar. It is of medium length, well loose, of good bearing, and when the dog is attentive, it is more upright and with a slightly arched upper margin.
  • Chest: well sloped up to the elbows, broad in front and behind the shoulders, with well sprung ribs. Seen in profile, the front of the chest appears very prominent.
  • Back: short, straight and strong, the back is also short, broad and stocky, and the rump is broad and horizontal. The harmoniously rounded rear part of the rump is known as the “guinea pig butt”.
  • Forelimbs: well plumb seen from all angles, and perfectly parallel; its length, from the ground to the elbows, is almost equal to half the height at the withers. Its shoulders are long and oblique, with normal back angulation. The forearms are straight and, seen from the front, are quite far apart; the arms are long and oblique.
  • Hind limbs: They are under the body and, seen from behind, are perfectly parallel. Legs: They are almost the same length as the thighs, which are long and muscular. The knee is well angulated and in aplomb with the haunch. Their hocks have normal angulation.
  • Feet: the schipperke has “cat’s feet”, that is, small, round and close together. The fingers are arched, and the nails short, strong and always black. Some specimens have slightly longer hind feet.
  • Tail: usually does not have a tail or it is docked. If not, the tail is usually long, strong at the base, tapering towards the tip, and reaches at least to the hock. At rest, the dog wears it down, with the limb slightly bent at the hock, but raises it slightly when in action. Some specimens have a curled tail.
  • Skin: it is well stretched over the whole body.
  • Hair: the outer layer coat is abundant, dense, smooth, hard enough and strong enough texture. Dry and resistant to the touch, it forms with the inner layer of hair, which is soft and tight, an excellent protection for the dog. On the body it is of medium length and smooth. Around the neck it is much longer and separated, forming a very typical wide collar, a mane and a dewlap. On the back of the thighs, long and abundant hairs form the characteristic “pants”. The tail is adorned with hair of the same length as that of the body.
  • Color: always chestnut black.
  • Movement: when trotting, the movements of the dog are elastic, firm, with a medium amplitude and a good impulse of the hind limbs. The back is kept horizontal and the legs move in parallel; the movement of the forelimbs is in harmony with that of the hindquarters, and the elbows do not separate. At a higher speed, the limbs converge.
  • FCI Classification: FCI No. 83 – GROUP 1 – Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs). Section 1 – Sheepdogs.

Schipperke breed puppy

There are certain aspects and considerations that you should know if you are considering adoption or buying a schipperke puppy.

When they are small, they are a reduced version of the adult dog, which gives them a very special charm. At this stage it is happy and playful, and loves to learn and participate in the jobs of adults.

But it is very important to start your education and socialization from the moment you arrive home. It is good to get used to brushing, meeting and enjoying the company of all family members, including other pets.

In order to achieve an adult specimen that is balanced, it is essential that the dog, from a young age, knows other environments, experiences and feels other noises than the usual ones and that it knows other dogs.


Schipperke education and training

To know how to train a dog of the Schipperke breed, you should know that it is difficult to explain the amount of energy that such a small dog can develop, suffice it to say that in some places it is known as the “little black Tasmanian devil”.

The schipperke needs a high dose of activity to be a happy, physically healthy and mentally balanced animal. In addition to regular walks, it also needs a daily ration of freedom, at which point it expresses all its vitality.

It is ideal as a farm dog, where it acts as the most perfect guardian, watching over the farm animals and keeping rodents and other small intruders at bay; in fact, it earned its great fame as a watchman on the canals in Flanders and also as a stable dog.

Thanks to the enormous intelligence of the schipperke, its training does not present great problems. Among the disadvantages, it is important to emphasize the special nature of its barking, since it can become a noisy animal, so extreme care must be taken in this regard, especially if you live in the city or in a highly populated neighbourhood.

There are those who see in the schipperke a miniaturized version of the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael with some influences from the Spitz dogs, and, indeed, both relationships are reflected in its character and abilities.

In any case, the most studious of the breed make it clear that it has an independent origin and that, despite the physical similarities, there are more characteristics that distinguish the schipperke as a unique breed.

Today, the breed excels at different endeavours. Its use as a farm dog does not go beyond its traditional geographic scope, but it can be seen frequently in beauty rings. Also, wasting its energy and vitality in tasks such as sports obedience and agility in its mini version.

Due to its size and joviality, it has also been used successfully as a therapy dog ​​and in other more spectacular disciplines, such as dance with dogs.

Likewise, the Belgian army has known how to see the qualities of this dog, endowed with a great sense of smell, curiosity and search instinct. It is a natural sniffer capable of tracking moles, rabbits and all kinds of rodents and chasing them into their burrows.

Developing perfectly in the harshest conditions and being able to go where other larger dogs cannot access, thus, they have taken advantage of these qualities to integrate it into disaster rescue teams.


Schipperke feeding

You need to pay special attention to how to feed a schipperke. Obesity is one of the great problems that affect all dog breeds. With special incidence in which, like the schipperke, they have moved away from the original functions to occupy a place almost exclusively as a companion dog.

It is essential to watch what a schipperke dog eats. The best prevention to avoid obesity is to provide adequate exercise. And, combine it with a balanced, quality diet with an energy content. Able to satisfy your needs with a portion appropriate to your size.

Nowadays, and fortunately, both in specialized pet stores and on the Internet, it is easy to buy food for dogs of these characteristics. Which makes this task much easier.


Schipperke health and diseases

In general, it is a long-lived dog, with a very high life expectancy. It is common to see specimens over 15 years old fulfilling their mission in the best physical conditions, and basically healthy.

But even so, it presents the incidence of some hereditary diseases that can be considered typical of the breed, such as:

  • Eye conditions
  • Thyroid problems
  • Knee dysplasia.

All of them are pathologies that are related to the small size of this animal.

It should be remembered that it is a small breed, but not a miniature dog, so avoid any sign of dwarfism and always try to look for balanced dogs, without obsessing over smaller and smaller dogs.

Apart from these typical conditions of the Schipperke dog breed, to ensure good health it is advisable to have a trusted veterinarian who is the one who directs your preventive health programming.

In the first place, it is very convenient for them to identify the puppy by implanting a subcutaneous microchip, a very useful element in cases of theft or loss. Then, you have to establish a schedule of vaccines and deworming, both internal and external, whose design varies depending on the place and the lifestyle that the dog is going to lead.

Dog owners are often very aware that they must adhere to their pet’s vaccination schedules, but deworming schedules are sometimes taken more lightly.

However, they should be aware that this is a fundamental preventive method, as well as vaccines, since many external parasites act as the main vector in the transmission of many diseases that depress the immune system, making, for example, vaccinations absolutely ineffective.

The veterinarian is also in charge of controlling the weakest and most susceptible parts of a problem in the dog, such as the eyes, ears, joint system , weight, hair, skin and mouth.


Specific care of the Schipperke breed

Despite its showy and shiny black coat, the schipperke is a type of dog that does not need very special care.

In general, regular grooming, once or twice a week, is sufficient to remove dead hair, as it has a dense and abundant coat, and shedding is therefore important.

In addition, the breed has an undercoat that protects it from cold and heat. Therefore, for brushing the inside of the coat it is necessary to use a specific tool such as a rake or King coast.

The cover hair can be worked very well with a metallic card or with a double brush, with metallic bristles on one side for a deep brushing, and natural bristles on the other to bring out all the natural shine of the black mantle.

If this task is carried out repeatedly from an early age, the dog will end up assuming it within its usual routine and will tolerate it perfectly. However, care should not be limited to brushing.

It is also necessary to pay attention to the eyes, teeth,  ears of the dog, feet and nails of the schipperke to keep it in perfect magazine condition.

In addition, subjecting the dog to a weekly examination of each of its parts during brushing can become the best way to detect any health problem. In this way, we can act quickly and with foresight.

This is especially important when it comes to puppies, who are much more vulnerable to certain conditions.

With these few basic cares and, above all, giving them a lot of love and sharing the maximum of moments with them, it is possible to have a healthy and happy dog. Willing to show everyone why in its home country it is known as “the little big dog.”


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