Schipperke Dog Breed information and care

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Happy Schipperke Dog Looking Up with Mouth Open
Happy Schipperke Dog Looking Up With Mouth Open

The Schipperke is simply adorable with its bright eyes, foxy-looking face and curious personality. These mischievous little rascals are extra busy, always wanting to be part of the action. Schipperkes are full of energy and lots of fun to be around. The curious, adventurous Schipperke is a known escape artist, and should never be trusted off leash. A fenced yard is a must, and fences should be well kept with no small holes to escape through.

Schipperkes might get along with other family pets if raised with them, but some might not want to be friends with strange pets. Schipperkes are born to chase, so they are not safe around small pets like hamsters, rabbits and birds, and some might bother the family cat. Excellent watchdogs, Schipperkes are naturally suspicious of strangers and protective of their home territory. Unfortunately, they tend to bark at every little sound, so excessive barking can be an issue.

Breed Overview




10 to 16 pounds


10 to 13 inches tall at the shoulder

Coat and Color:

Abundant, straight and slightly harsh to the touch. Shorter on the face and fronts of the legs, medium length on the body, and longer around the neck and backs of the legs. Solid black coat

Life Expectancy:

12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Schipperke

Affection LevelMedium
Exercise NeedsMedium
Energy LevelHigh
Tendency to BarkHigh
Amount of SheddingMedium
Happy Schipperke Dog Looking Up With Mouth Open

History of the Schipperke

The feisty and fun Schipperke has been known in Belgium since Medieval times. The quintessential boat dog, Schipperkes worked on and around ships and barges, keeping the rat populations down and acting as watchdogs. In fact, their name, “Schipperke,” means “little captain” in Flemish. Today, Schipperkes are still known for their love of boats and water. Although the proper pronunciation of the breed’s name is “SHEEP-er-ker,” you might more commonly hear it pronounced “SKIP-er-kee,” especially in the United States.

The Schipperke is one of the smallest members of the American Kennel Club Non-Sporting Group, a catchall group for many diverse breeds that don’t quite fit into the other six groups (Herding, Hound, Sporting, Terrier, Toy and Working). Schipperkes first came to the United States in the late 1800s. The national club representing the breed in the United States, the Schipperke Club of America, was founded in 1929.

Schipperke Care

The Schipperke’s glossy black coat is easy to care for, requiring only weekly brushing to remove loose hair. The coat does not matt, but the Schipperke does shed a fair amount. You might notice heavier shedding seasonally. During these times, brushing more frequently will help cut down on the amount of hair you find in the house and on your clothes. The Schipperke coat requires no trimming; just bathe him with a gentle moisturizing pet shampoo, then towel dry or blow dry the coat and your Schipperke will shine. Brush your Schipperke’s teeth daily with soft toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste for a dog—pet toothpaste is designed to be swallowed and comes in dog-approved flavors like poultry and beef. Trim your Schipperke’snails weekly and look inside the ears, cleaning them as needed with a pet-safe ear cleaner and cotton balls or gauze squares.

Schipperkes have a lot of energy and are very playful. Luckily, the breed is small, so it’s not difficult to provide enough exercise to keep a Schipperke happy. Two brisk walks a day typically suffice, although your Schipperke might be up for more adventure. Schipperkes love to play with toys: small stuffed toys will likely lose their squeakers quickly, but the Schipperke will have so much fun dispatching the “vermin.” Games of fetch in the yard or even in the house are also a great way to entertain and exercise the fun-loving Schipperke.

Schipperkes smart, but they are also independent, so they can be challenging to train. Keep training fun and positive, using lots of tasty treats. With the right motivation, Schipperkes can learn not only basic obedience commands, but fun tricks, too. Like all puppies, Schipperkes benefit from early and frequent training and socialization. Puppy kindergarten and basic obedience group classes will provide your Schipperke with socialization opportunities while teaching you the basics of dog training.

Common Health Problems

Schipperkes are generally quite healthy and long-lived. Of course, like most purebred dogs, the Schipperke certain hereditary health conditions are known to occur in the breed, including eye diseases (specifically, canine multifocal retinopathy and progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA) and von Willebrand’s disease (a bleeding disorder). Two unusual disorders sometimes seen in Schipperkes include juvenile laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy, which causes the dog to experience difficulty breathing, barking and swallowing when exercised or excited, and malignant hyperthermia, which the dog to have extreme muscle contractions, increased metabolism, rapid heartbeat, elevated body temperature and seizures when the dog is exposed to certain triggers. These triggers can be certain types of inhaled anesthesia, excessive exercise or ingesting certain substances like caffeine (found in coffee, chocolate and other foods) and hops (which are used to make beer). Malignant hyperthermia is also called canine stress syndrome.

Responsible breeders test their adult Schipperkes for genetic conditions before breeding them to avoid passing on these problems. When buying a Schipperke puppy from a breeder, ask to see proof that the appropriate tests were performed on the puppy’s parents.

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your adult Schipperke measured meals twice a day (puppies should eat three or four small meals per day). Always use a measuring cup or scale to ensure you are feeding the correct amounts. Not measuring meals or leaving food out all day (free feeding) can cause weight gain, which can contribute to health problems like diabetes. Because Schipperkes are small, they might benefit from eating a small breed diet, which is formulated to meet the unique caloric needs of smaller breeds. If you’re not sure what kind of food to feed or how much to feed your Schipperke, talk to your veterinarian or breeder.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The Schipperke is an engaging and loyal companion. Due to their small size, Schipperkes do great in small spaces like apartments or condos, and they also travel well. Most Schipperkes can fly in the cabin with you in an approved carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. If you like the Schipperke, you might also like these breeds:

Finnish Spitz



Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.