Schipperkes are best in both large homes and small apartments, as long as they get mental stimulation, consistent training and daily exercise. They love kids, get along well with cats and other dogs and thrive as part of a family unit they can protect with all their fierce and doting heart.
What makes the Schipperke a Schipperke? Let's find out how they stack up.
Schipperkes have oodles of personality that will keep you both busy and entertained. Schipperke dogs aren’t aggressive, nor do they have a tendency to bite, but they can be protective and territorial, so you’ll want to socialize them with other dogs, cats and people. They may be wary of strangers and need to warm up to new faces, but they love and dote on their family members. Their temperament makes Schipperkes an ideal roommate addition if you already have cats, other dogs and kiddos at home—this breed loves them all! The saying “their bark is worse than their bite” definitely applies to a Schipperke: They like to bark to alert their pet parents of noises or passersby, but their small size means they can’t really protect you as a guard dog!
Schipperkes were bred to root out and kill rats and other vermin, and they’re lightning fast, so always keep this curious and agile breed on a leash when you’re exploring the world. Make sure your yard has a secure fence as well because these dashing escape artists may decide to fly solo if given the chance. And this leads us to the next point: Schipperkes are highly independent and stubborn, so you’ll need to match or outdo their strong persona to raise and train your Schipperke to be obedient yet still full of verve.
How to Care for a Schipperke
Schipperke traits include excessive barking, high energy and behavioral characteristics that warrant the need for training, but caring for this breed on a physical level is a breeze. Their small stature makes them easy to bathe and brush, and they only need a bath once a month unless they get into some sort of mischief! Daily exercise, a healthy diet and obedience training will add up to a happy dog who’ll bring tons of zeal to your home and give your kids a loyal playmate who’s always ready to have fun.
Schipperkes have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years and are generally a healthy breed, but they do have some health issues that you should know about as a pet parent to help your pup live the longest life possible.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This is a genetic developmental orthopedic disorder of the hip joint that leads to lameness and pain. It’s caused by an interrupted supply of blood to the head and neck of the femur bone. Most cases are managed medically. This condition may be found on X-rays when the pet presents with rear leg limping. Hip surgery creates a false joint, and the dog usually does very well long term. In severe cases, surgical treatment for this condition is performed, usually a femoral head and neck osteotomy (FHO) where the head of the femur is surgically removed, and the area can heal with scar tissue.
- Luxating Patella: Luxating patella is a condition where the kneecap is not stable and is common in many small breeds. If advanced, surgery is recommended. It’s found on routine veterinary exams, and the dog can present a limp, but not always. Joint supplements such as glucosamine help slow the progression of arthritis that occurs secondarily to any unhealthy joint but does not correct the primary issue. Surgical correction early on is ideal.
- MPS IIIB (Mucopolysaccharidosis IIIB): This is a rare, fatal genetic disease, and the symptoms are related to the cerebellum part of the brain. The signs include tremors, difficulty balancing and walking and other issues related to balance. There is no cure and no successful treatment for this disease, but it can be screened for before breeding, so any reputable breeder would catch this early on.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is when the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression or other behavioral changes. Easily found at routine veterinary visits and annual blood screenings, hypothyroidism can be medically managed, monitored and treated with thyroid medication.
- Cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Eye problems that can affect Schipperkes are cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease that will eventually cause vision loss. Prevention includes screening the breeding pair before breeding by Board Certified Ophthalmologists. Also, routine annual veterinary visits can pick up changes, but confirmation is usually done with a specialist. Cataracts can be surgically managed in some cases. There is no treatment for PRA. However a dog with vision loss can still live a happy life.
Schipperkes’ ancient origin dates back to the 1600s and includes a storied history that’s full of seafaring escapades. First born in medieval Belgium, the word Schipperke is Flemish for “little captain.” A breakdown of the Schipperke name: Schip is Flemish for boat and schipper means skipper or boat captain, so schipperke translates to little captain of the boat. (Pretty cool, huh?) Schipperkes earned this nickname with their constant nautical presence, hunting vermin on ships and guarding boats in Belgian dockyards.
Considered a type of small shepherd, Schipperke history ties their origination to a black Belgian sheepdog called a Leauvenaar, from which they emerged as a littler version. These active dogs were bred to work, and they toiled on boats to root out and kill all the rats. Shopkeepers also relied on Schipperkes to watch over and protect their merchandise.
The first Schipperke arrived in America in 1888. Schipperkes were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904, and the AKC Parent Club for this breed, the Schipperke Club of America, was established in 1929. Schipperkes rank 105 out of 197 breeds according to the AKC’s breed popularity ranking system.
A fun Schipperke fact is that they were the companion dog of choice for beloved actress Lucille Ball, who owned many of these feisty little dogs. She named one of her pet Schipperkes Ginger.
Hoping to add a Schipperke to your pack? Find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What’s the average Schipperke price? You can expect to pay $700 to several thousand dollars for a purebred pup. You can also find a Schipperke rescue organization near you or keep a lookout for the breed to be up for adoption at your local animal shelter.
Do Schipperkes shed?
Schipperkes have a heavier shedding season once or twice annually (in the spring and fall), but throughout the year they shed minimally, which can be reduced by weekly brushing.
How long do Schipperkes live?
Schipperkes have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years.
Are Schipperkes good family dogs?
Yes, Schipperkes are good family dogs. They are great with children and are known to adore kids and play tirelessly with them. Schipperkes’ small size makes them less intimidating to young kids as well.
Do Schipperkes bark a lot?
Schipperkes are prone to excessive barking, especially given their nature as guard dogs and their territorial tendencies, which make them suspicious of strangers.
What are the most popular Schipperke names?
The most popular Schipperke names are Captain, Foxy, Tempest, Chaos, Cosmos and Ginger (as an homage to Lucille Ball, whose favorite breed was the Schipperke, of which she had many). Get more dog names here.
What are the most common Schipperke mixes?
The most common Schipperke mixes are:
- Schipperke-Chihuahua mix (Schipper-Chi)
- Schipperke-Pomeranian mix (Schip-A-Pom or Pomerke)
- Schipperke-Border Collie mix (Border Schipper)
- Schipperke-Corgi mix (Corgi Schip)
- Schipperke-Lab mix (Schipperke Retriever)
The most important Schipperke information you need to know is that you’re getting a supersized personality in the body of a small dog. Schipperkes are high-energy, alert guard dogs who are prone to mischief and barking, so they need obedience training from a confident pet parent as well as daily exercise. In return, they will protect your family with all their heart—they adore kids—and be a playful, loyal companion who adds lots of vibrance to your life. The irresistible sparkle in their eye betrays their spirit of unquenchable wonder.
Expert input provided by Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club; Dr. Elizabeth Grey, Veterinarian, President and Hospital Director of Carmel Mountain Ranch Veterinary Hospital, and owner of Dr. Grey’s Play & Stay; Graham Bloem, Certified Dog Trainer & Behavior Expert, Owner & Training Director of Specialty Dog Training; and Dr. Shirley Quillen, Health and Genetics Chair, Schipperke Club of America.