The Schipperke Dog Breed: Everything You Need to Know

The Schipperke is a small, spitz-type breed from Belgium. Despite the size, it is famous for its big personality and boundless energy. 

Whether you’re looking for a loyal small working dog or a fun-loving family pet, the Schipperke is sure to steal your heart.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the history, physical characteristics, temperament, and health issues of this unique breed.

History and Origin of the Schipperke Dog Breed

The Schipperke is a small, energetic dog breed with a rich history that dates back to the late 17th century. 

Originally bred in Belgium to work as boat dogs, the Schipperke’s duties included guarding the boat and its contents, as well as hunting rats and other vermin that would threaten the cargo. 

These little dogs were highly valued by boatmen and traders alike, and their popularity quickly spread throughout the region.

The Belgian Roots of the Schipperke

The Schipperke’s name comes from the Danish word “Schipper,” which means “boatman” or “skipper.” In Belgium, the breed is known as the “Spitzke,” which means “little spitz.” 

It is believed that the Schipperke was developed from a mix of larger spitz-type dogs and smaller local breeds. The breed’s unique appearance and temperament quickly made them a favorite among the working class.

Over time, the Schipperke’s popularity continued to grow, and they became a beloved symbol of Belgian culture. They were often featured in paintings and other works of art, and their reputation as loyal and hardworking dogs only continued to grow.

The Schipperke’s Role as a Working Dog

Due to their working origins, Schipperkes are highly intelligent and have a strong prey drive. They are also very agile and have a natural tendency to bark, making them excellent watchdogs. In addition to their duties as boat dogs, Schipperkes were also used as guard dogs and even as herders of small livestock.

Despite their miniature size, Schipperkes are known for their fearlessness and tenacity. They are fiercely loyal to their owners and will do whatever it takes to protect them. This makes them excellent family pets, as they are both affectionate and protective.

Today, the Schipperke continues to be a beloved breed around the world. They are known for their high energy levels and playful personalities, and they make excellent companions for active families. 

Physical Characteristics of the Schipperke

The Schipperke’s hallmark trait is the fox-like appearance with pointed ears, mischievous eyes, and a curly tail. Breed members are small and squarely built with a unique profile and silhouette. 

Size and Weight

The Schipperke is a small breed, weighing between 6.6 and 19.8 pounds and standing around 10-13 inches tall. 

The Schipperke is a sturdy and well-proportioned dog. It has a compact body with a square-shaped outline. Do not be fooled by the small size – Schipperkes are known for their high energy levels and athleticism.

Coat and Colors

The Schipperke has a thick, double coat with a harsh outer layer and a soft undercoat. The coat is usually black, but other colors (apricot, chocolate, blue, cream, fawn, grey, white, red, black & tan) can also occur. 

Schipperkes are a low-shedding breed, but their coats do require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangles.

Regular brushing is necessary to keep the coat healthy and shiny. Schipperkes also benefit from occasional baths to keep their coat clean and free of dirt and debris.

Unique Features

In addition to their overall distinctive appearance, Schipperkes also have unique physical features. 

They have a wedge-shaped head with a short, pointed muzzle and almond-shaped eyes. Their ears are erect and triangular in shape, and their tails are tightly curled over their backs.

Schipperke Temperament and Personality Traits

The Schipperke is an energetic, curious, and playful dog. It is alert and interested in everything going on in its immediate surrounding. This, combined with natural agility and alertness, make it an excellent watchdog. 

In addition to being overly protective, the Schipperke is extremely affectionate with its human family members. It enjoys spending quality time together and participating in fun outdoor activities. 

However, true to their hunting ancestry, members of this breed can also be stubborn and independent. With proper training, these features can be managed. 

Intelligence and Trainability

Schipperkes are highly intelligent and learn easily. They are quick to pick up new commands and enjoy the mental stimulation that comes with training. 

They also enjoy problem-solving, which makes them well-suited for activities such as puzzle toys and advanced training games. Schipperkes excel in obedience and agility training but can also have a stubborn streak if they are not engaged in the training process.

Positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training can be especially effective with this breed. They respond well to treats and praise and are eager to please their owners.

Energy Levels and Exercise Needs

Schipperkes are a high-energy breed and require regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. They enjoy games of fetch and other outdoor activities. They have a lot of stamina and can keep up with their owners on hikes and runs.

It is important to note that Schipperkes can become destructive if they do not get enough exercise and mental stimulation. Breed members may resort to chewing or digging if they are bored or understimulated. 

Schipperkes also excel in dog sports such as flyball and tracking. These activities provide mental and physical stimulation and allow the breed to showcase their intelligence and athleticism.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

Schipperkes can be wary of strangers and other dogs, so early socialization is key. They may bark or growl at unfamiliar people or animals.

They are also known for their high prey drive, so they should be supervised around smaller animals, such as cats and pet rodents. 

The good news is that with proper training, Schipperkes can learn to get along with other pets and people.

Health Issues and Lifespan of the Schipperke

Like all breeds, Schipperkes are susceptible to certain health issues. However, with proper care and regular checkups, they can live long and healthy lives. 

Common Health Problems

One of the most significant health problems in the Schipperke breed is the newly recognized and potentially fatal disease – MPS IIIB. 

This genetic mutation is present in 15% of the breed’s population. It manifests with balance issues and develops when the dogs are between 2 and 4 years old. 

Schipperkes are also prone to orthopedic conditions such as patellar luxation and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Eye and thyroid problems are also common.

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

To ensure that your Schipperke lives a long and healthy life, practice regular checkups at the vet. 

During exams, the veterinarian can catch issues and also provide preventative care – vaccination, deworming, anti-flea treatments, heartworm prevention, etc. 

Also, be diligent about your dog’s needs – give healthy food and provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Expected Lifespan

Schipperkes are a long-lived breed with a median lifespan of 13 years. However, some individuals may live longer with good nutrition, exercise, and preventative care. 

According to the  UK Kennel Club, Schipperkes often live to be 15 years old. Some of the oldest breed members even lived for over 17 years. 


The Schipperke is an energetic, curious, and playful breed with a rich history and distinctive appearance. They are highly intelligent and excel in obedience and agility training.

With proper care and regular checkups, Schipperkes can live long, healthy lives and provide their owners with years of loyal companionship.

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