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 their mischievous antics.
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.
Schipperkes have fluffy, shiny, solid black coats, pointed, erect ears, and dark eyes. They're not big dogs: An adult's height is typically between 11–13 inches for males and 10–12 inches for females, and they can weigh between 10–18 pounds. 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 U.S. choose to "dock" or snip the tail off shortly after birth. While it may have been customary in the past, many vets no longer recommend the procedure, as it's one that's purely for appearances (and is quite painful for the animal!). The schipperke's face is unique and instantly recognizable: Highly intelligent and lively, with fox-like features and a sweet smile.
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 were originally bred to watch over boats in Belgian canals, so they might not enjoy unfamiliar people or other dogs surprising them. As with all 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. Because they were originally bred to work on boats, 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 himself.
These dogs can be strong-willed, 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.
Because they're always looking for playmates, households with multiple people or pets are good fits for schipperkes. 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 with lots of quality playtime.
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 of open doors or fence gates. So make sure to keep fences closed and leashes on for their own safety.
Schipperkes are vocal watchdogs who will do their best to rescue 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, this boisterous breed might not be for you.
But 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.
This furry friend can be sensitive to hot temperatures, so provide them with ample shade and a cool indoor environment during warm weather.
This breed is very energetic and requires 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.
Because they're so vocal, these dogs will need training on barking, which can be extreme thanks to their watchdog personality. 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.
Schipperkes can be wary around strangers or unfamiliar dogs. They need to be socialized early, but even with socialization they can be standoffish 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."
The schipperke has a lifespan of 13–15 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 dog by keeping regularly scheduled vet appointments and taking the advice of your pup's healthcare professional.
According to the Schipperke Club of America, the breed 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 Leauvenaar. The Leauvenaar was a larger dog that was bred down in size to meet implemented restrictions on 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 breed in as a personal pet.
- Popular schipperke mixes include Australian shepherd-schipperke mix (Aussieschip), Maltese-schipperke mix (schippese), and poodle-schipperke mix (schipperpoo).
- Famous fans of the schipperke include comedian Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz.
- During World War II, the Belgian Resistance used schipperkes to run secret messages without alerting the occupying Nazis.