Schipperke Guide

Non-Sporting Dog Breeds

The schipperke is a small, cobby dog, square-proportioned, appearing to slope from shoulders to croup. This appearance is helped by its double coat, which forms a stand-out ruff, cape and culottes. The foxlike face is questioning and mischievous, even impudent. The trot is smooth and graceful. This is an agile, active dog developed as a watchdog and vermin hunter.

The schipperke is a bold companion, even though it can be an independent and headstrong one. This little dynamo is happiest when busy, poking its nose into every cranny and ever on the lookout for adventure. It is reserved with strangers and an alert watchdog. It can make an amiable and pleasant house dog but needs daily exercise.


FAMILY sheepdog, spitz, Northern (companion)



ORIGINAL FUNCTION barge dog, watchdog, ratter


AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 11-13 Weight: 12-16

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 10-12 Weight: 10-14


Energy level High energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Somewhat affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Very protective

Grooming needs Low maintenance

Cold tolerance Medium tolerance

Heat tolerance Low tolerance

The active nature of this breed makes exercise — both mental and physical — imperative. Its small stature makes getting that exercise fairly easy, however. Either a vigorous game in the yard or a moderate walk on leash will usually suffice to meets its needs. The schipperke should not live outdoors, even though it enjoys spending the day in the yard. Its double coat needs weekly brushing, more when shedding.
• Major concerns: none
• Minor concerns: Legg – Perthes
• Occasionally seen: entropion, distichiasis, PRA
• Suggested tests: none
• Life span: 13 – 15 years
The origin of the schipperke is controversial. One plausible theory is that it originated as a dog of the boatmen who traveled between Brussels and Antwerp. The Flemish word for boat is schip, and schipperke is thus thought to mean "little boatman." The breed was less commonly called schipperke by Belgian townspeople, however, who more often referred to it as spitz. The other plausible theory of origin is that it was a dog of tradesmen guilds and middle-class households who wanted a small watchdog and ratter. The breed resembles a miniature Belgian sheepdog, and it is possible that schipperke derives from the word scheper, or "shepherd." In fact, a breed of dog intermediate in size was one known in the region. Although small, black tailless dogs are mentioned in Belgian writings of the 15th and 16th centuries, definite evidence of schipperkes is not found until 1690. A group of Brussels shoemakers organized regular schipperke competitions, taking special pride in adorning their companions with ornate brass collars. By the 19th century the breed was so popular in central Belgium that it was virtually the only house dog found there, and it was acknowledged as the national dog. In 1885 Queen Marie Henriette acquired a schipperke she saw at a dog show. After people saw the little dog with her, it sparked great interest in the breed from people of all classes, and the workman's companion thus became companion to the elite. At the same time, the breed's numbers were depleted by exports to England, where they had become extremely fashionable. Most people in Belgium considered the breed common and preferred more exotic breeds. In the late 1880s, a group of Belgian schipperke fanciers grouped to try to save the breed, setting forth the breed's desirable points. Soon after, the first schipperke came to America. It aroused little interest at first, but it has since amassed a modest but loyal following.