Schipperke

Schipperkes are intelligent, playful dogs who love tons of attention and play well with children and other pets. Learn more about this lovable little dog breed.
By Hilary Braaksma
September 08, 2020
Schipperke
Breed Group
Dog Size
Other Traits
Temperament
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Schipperke

height
  • 10 to 13 inches
weight
  • 10 to 18 pounds
life span
  • 13 to 15 years
breed size
  • small (0-25 lbs.)
good with
  • children
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • friendly
  • willful
  • outgoing
  • playful
  • aloof
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • normal
exercise needs
  • high
energy level
  • hyper
barking level
  • howler
drool amount
  • low
breed group
  • non-sporting
coat length/texture
  • medium
colors
  • black
other traits
  • easy to train
  • easy to groom
  • good watch dog
  • tendency to chew
  • highly territorial
  • high potential for weight gain
  • apartment-friendly
  • cold weather tolerant
  • strong loyalty tendencies

Schipperke (pronunciation: “skip per kee”) dogs are alert, clever, and loyal pets. Incredibly kid-friendly, these small black pups also get along well with cats and other dogs, making them excellent family pets. They’re bred for companionship, but make for feisty friends, earning the nickname of “Little Black Devil” for mischievous antics and a protective nature. 

Schipperkes have tons of energy and are super intelligent, so they hate to be bored—which means they’ll keep you active as well. Whether you’re running circles after them in the backyard or taking them for a high-energy stroll, the schipperke is sure to keep you on your toes.

The average schipperke puppy costs around $700, but schipperkes from top-tier breeders can cost in the thousands.

Appearance

Schipperkes have fluffy, shiny, solid black coats, pointed, erect ears, and dark eyes. They’re not big dogs. An adult schipperke’s height is typically between 11–13 inches for males and 10–12 inches for females. A full-grown schipperke can weigh between 10–18 lbs. Small but sturdy, schipperkes were bred to be working dogs and they have the strong jaws and bodies to prove it.

Their gorgeous coats are relatively easy to care for, requiring brushing once or twice a week, which is a breeze compared to other small dog breeds that can have tedious and expensive grooming routines. The schipperke’s coat is thickest around the neck, shoulders, and legs, giving these little dogs a full and fluffy, sloped silhouette.

Schipperke tails naturally vary in length, from bobbed and practically invisible to long and fluffy, though some breeders in the United States choose to “dock” or snip the tail off shortly after birth. The schipperke’s face is unique and instantly recognizable. It’s intelligent and lively, with fox-like features and a sweet smile.

Temperament

Schipperkes are great family dogs who love to play with children, cats, and other dogs. While loving and affectionate with their owners and cohabitating pets, schipperkes can be territorial around unfamiliar people and dogs. It’s important to socialize your schipperke properly and early, since they can have a hard time getting along with any person or pet they haven’t thoroughly vetted.

These energetic dogs are confident, alert, and curious. Originally bred to work on boats in the canals of Belgium, schipperkes are highly intelligent dogs who love having a job to do and need to be mentally stimulated. A bored schipperke left to his own devices is likely to take matters into his own paws—or jaws—by digging, chewing, and barking just to entertain themselves.

Schipperkes can be stubborn, hence the nickname “Little Black Devil.” So be prepared to have plenty of patience during training. They’re also prone to wandering off and doing their own thing, so it’s important to keep tabs (and leashes) on them.

“Schipperkes are small, but mighty little dogs,” Erin Askeland, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, an animal health and behavior consultant at Camp Bow Wow, says. “Because they are so wily and need solid, consistent training and activity, they may not be the best dog for a first-time dog owner.” If you have the energy, though, schipperkes make for cheerful and adventurous travel companions.

Living Needs

Schipperkes are always looking for playmates, so households with multiple people or pets are good fits. They’re incredible family dogs, but don’t enjoy extended periods of time alone.  When left to their own devices, a bored schipperke might start digging an escape tunnel in the backyard. In fact, a schipperke who finds his environment dull is likely to dig, chew, and bark incessantly to keep himself entertained. Prevent destructive doggie instincts by spending lots of quality playtime with your schipperke.

Big yards aren’t necessary for schipperkes. They do well with a small fenced yard or even apartment living as long as you give them ample time to explore the outside world by leash. Speaking of leashes, schipperkes are expert escape artists who are prone to slipping out open doors or fence gates. So make sure to keep fences closed and leashes on for their own safety.

Schipperkes are naturally territorial and protective. They’re vocal watchdogs who will do their best to save the whole family from dangerous strangers—even if that means barking non-stop at delivery drivers and neighbors. If you live somewhere with noise restrictions, the boisterous schipperke might not be for you.

If you can handle the barking, you’ll be rewarded with tons of affection and entertainment. The lovable schipperke is also low-drool and low-shedding, which makes them a great fit for tidy owners who prefer to avoid sloppy kisses and tons of lint rolling. That said, schipperkes are not hypoallergenic.

The furry schipperke can be sensitive to hot temperatures, so provide them with ample shade and a cool indoor environment during warm weather.

Care

The schipperke’s coat is generally easy to care for, needing brushing once or twice weekly. You may need to brush your schipperke a little more frequently during their shedding season (once or twice a year) to help get rid of loose fur. Trim their nails frequently, as long nails can cause them discomfort.

Schipperkes are very energetic and require vigorous exercise. They can get a workout playing inside a house or apartment, but getting outside for active play or a stroll is important. Daily walks or playtime in a fenced yard can help burn off some of their abundant energy. Check with your vet to know your dog’s specific exercise needs.

Your vocal schipperke will need training on barking, which can be extreme thanks to their watchdog personality. Because of their stubborn tendencies, they may also need to be trained to come when called. That independent nature can be a challenge, but schipperkes are incredibly intelligent dogs who can pick up commands quickly. Time, patience, and repetition are the best courses of action when training a schipperke.

Schipperkes are not fans of strangers or unfamiliar dogs. They need to be socialized early, but even with socialization they can be cold with people and pets they don’t know well. Give them time to warm up to new faces.

“Schipperkes should be socialized to a variety of people, places, and things in order to minimize fear-based responses in the future,” Askeland says. “Enrolling in a good puppy socialization and training class is a great start, and continuing to introduce them to various stimuli throughout their life is encouraged.”

Feed your schipperke good dog food with high-quality ingredients. Check with your vet for information about how often and how much to feed your dog. Schipperkes tend to need their food measured out and their eating closely monitored, as they’re prone to unhealthy weight gain.

Health

The schipperke has a lifespan of 13 to 15 years and is typically a healthy dog. 

“Schipperkes are generally healthy dogs, but it’s always important for a pet owner to have them fully vetted before, if possible, and upon acquiring one and throughout their life to maintain optimal health,” Askeland says. “Ailments that could potentially affect a schipperke include hip arthritis, luxating patellas, thyroid disease, and eye issues.”

Reputable breeders will screen your puppy for health issues, and proactive pet ownership can help prevent serious complications. You can take the best possible care of your schipperke by keeping regularly scheduled vet appointments and taking the advice of your pup’s healthcare professional.

History

These furry little friends originated in Belgium and can be traced back to the 1600s. They are believed to be the descendents of a now-extinct breed known as the Louvenaar. The Louvenaar was a larger dog that was bred down in size to meet restrictions put in place on the dogs Belgian commoners could own.

Schipperkes were commonly used as working dogs who guarded the boats in canals, earning themselves a fun nickname: ”The Little Captain.” Tradesmen also kept early schipperkes as “ratters” who would keep pesky mice and other small animals away. In the late 19th century, Queen Marie Henriette of Belgium popularized the schipperke when she took the working dog breed on as a personal pet.

Fun Facts

  • Popular schipperke mixes include Australian shepherd-schipperke mix (Aussieschip), Maltese-schipperke mix (schippese), and poodle-schipperke mix (schipperpoo).
  • Famous fans of the schipperke include comedienne Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz.
  • During World War II, the Belgian Resistance used schipperkes to run secret messages without alerting the occupying Nazis.