But the dog then, has come a long way from attaching itself at the hips of a shoemaker. Escaping the ratter scene, the Schipperke is enjoying the high life of companionship worldwide.
Yet not without a little debate, at least in terms as to what kind of dog this breed is.
So would this breed make the right fit for your household? What makes them so unique?
Here is what you need to know about the Schipperke.
They call them the “Little Captain.” Actually, there are many names for this breed, that historians believe have been around for a thousand years. The story begins in Belgium, where the Schipperke was bred for ratting purposes. But not just anywhere, mainly the breed would kill rats and other vermin aboard ships. They could also serve as a reliable watchdogs. Growing close and forming a close bond with their master on the ship wasn’t hard to do especially in such long travels. The seafarers definitely fell head over heels for the breed.
Perhaps the place with the most adoration for the Schipperke was Brussels. It was Brussels, where the breed made its first public appearance in 1690 at a honorary show for the breed. It was Brussels, where men would go out on Sunday’s without wife and kids, but never without their Schipperke. The breed’s big fans probably was the working class and shoemakers.
Most concede that the breed probably found its way into America around the mid to late 19th century. However, there was no proof, or at least any records to prove this to be the case. But things would change rather quickly for the Schipperke as the 20th century came knocking. In 1905, there was much fanfare and buzz about this Little Shepherd from Brussels. Indeed, the formation of the Schipperke’s first club in 1905 would help solidify recognition with the American Kennel Club by 1906.
The Schipperke Club of America would form in 1929, as the breed lost their first club after World War 1.
There has been some debate as to what bloodstock comprises this breed. The chatter is that the Pomeranian was the progenitor or part of this breed’s stock. However, experts like Victor Fally disagree. Fally, who was the founder of the Belgium Schipperke Club says that it is impossible for the Schipperke to descend from the Pomeranian. That is because the Little Captain as been around longer than the Pomeranian. Moreover, the Schipperke isn’t a Spitz breed either. The breed’s progenitor was likely a sheepdog.
While the breed makes for a fully capable ratter, the Schipperke is more of a companion and performance dog these days. Although the breed hasn’t fully caught on in the United States, the breed is still a big draw in Europe and especially Belgium. The American Kennel lists the Schipperke as the 112th most popular breed in America.
The AKC consider this high energy breed from the Non Sporting Group to be a small breed. The standard states that males should stand between 11 to 13 inches in height. A female should stand between 10 to 12 inches.
With regards to weight, both male and females can weigh 10 to 16 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
To say that this breed is curious is an understatement. The Schipperke needs to know what is buzzing around them all the time. Perhaps, this is what made the breed and what makes them such a reliable and trustworthy watchdog. You shouldn’t find it surprising to see them running for the window at each leaf that blows by. Nor, shall it be surprising when someone comes to your home, that the Little Captain sniffs them out for approval.
With strangers, the breed is wary or aloof around them. This just means it’ll take them a bit longer to trust them but once they understand that the person is an ally, everything will be fine. Experts do say that the Schipperke has issues with other dogs as in jealousy issues. Aside from that, this breed may be fine with others that they know and grow up with.
Although the breed is incredibly intelligent and once they learn a command, it is a breeze for them to perform them, they can be slightly stubborn. Their independent streak may be agitating for some, but a little patience will pay off with this breed.
As watchdogs, one of the finest traits a dog can have is courage and being alert. These are two traits that the Schipperke can check off on their application. They can be very intense at times, but always energetic. The breed wants to be part of the story and will not back away until they insert themselves into your attention span.
They have to have a busy life and you’ll find that they love to play. This is why children love them and why the breed loves children. Naturally, as former sea ratters, this breed enjoys exploring new situations. And they do plan on telling you about it.
This is a vocal breed that will tell you exactly how they are feeling and if they aren’t happy with you. Yet, in the long run, the breed will be happy with an owner who keeps them busy mentally and physically. This is a great family dog that wants to be around their people and usually likes to be solo over a crowd of dogs.
A lot of enthusiasts gloat about this breed’s health. Generally, many regard them as a very healthy breed with a few downfalls like all other breed. That said, you can avoid many issues by buying a Schipperke from a reputable breeder. This breeder should be able to provide you with the proper documents and health clearances you’ll need to make the best decision. In addition, you’ll want to schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to maintain your dog’s good health. If you do these things, then there’s no reason to believe your Schipperke can’t live between 12 to 14 years.
While terriers are typically common to suffer from Legg Calves Perthes Disease, the Schipperke may experience this as well. This is a lack of blood flow around the ball point of the hip causing the region to wither or damage in time. Typically, dogs between the ages of 4 to 11 months of age suffer from Legg Calves.
The breed does have an issue with their hocks slipping. It is rather common. If your dog’s hock joint collapses, bends abnormally or hyper extends, then there is a good chance that their hocks are slipping.
Another common orthopedic disorder is Hip Dysplasia. Hip Dysplasia is when there’s a malformation of the hip joint that causes lameness, pain and at times osteoarthritis. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals had a survey with over 180 breeds and the Schipperke ranks 139th worst on the list. This puts them at 6.8% out of 511 evaluations, and puts them in the park with breeds like the Cocker Spaniel and Finnish Spitz.
Patella Luxation is when the knee caps slip out of place and can be very painful. This breed has seen instances of this disorder as well.
Cloudiness of the crystalline lens causing night time blindness at first then leading to complete blindness is Cataracts. The breed does have issues with Cataracts as well. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is another issue many breed face, including the Schipperke. This is the gradual deterioration of the photorod cells in the retina.
Other minor issues with the eyelids or lashes include Distichiasis and Entropion. Distichiasis is abnormal hair grwoth at the eyelids that cause irritation and Entropion is when the eyelid rolls inward causing agitation.
The breed may suffer from Atopic Dermatitis. This is typically by the result of dust mites or pollen. If your dog is losing their hair, biting or chewing at their body, rubbing or licking their face persistently, then they may be suffering from Atopic Dermatitis.
Other issues the breed may experience are; Epilepsy (genetic disposition for the breed), allergies , cancer, and a serious and fatal genetic lysosomal storage disease, MPS111B.
If you don’t have much experience in handling a dog with plenty of energy and has a high activity rate — the Schipperke may not be the right for your home. This breed needs to get out and exercise. Somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour or two short walks or one long walk per day should do it. The breed will require someone firm and consistent who will lead an active lifestyle.
They are vocal and if you live in an apartment then this may not be the best fit. Unless, of course, you can train them to minimize their barking. The breed is much better in colder climates than they are in hot climates. They do not do well being alone for long periods of time. Attention or a companion is the best idea for this breed.
The breed should have a role with the family and be a part of family endeavors. They do have a lot of prey drive in them naturally. You’ll want to watch them around the roads, around other dogs and smaller animals. They do have a bit of wanderlust in them.
Any breed should get a high quality diet with meat as the first ingredient. Active breeds burn more calories so replacing them with quality calories, protein, crude fat and carbs is essential. Avoid products with corn and soy, which can trigger certain allergic reactions and issues with the skin.
Most owners seem content with feeding their Schipperke 3/4 cups to 1.5 cups. Of course, not every dog will eat the same amount. How much your dog eats depends on their age, energy rate and metabolism, to name a few. You can break that up into two small meals per day.
For a dog with typical activity rate between 10 to 16 pounds, anywhere between 392 to 558 calories per day should suffice their needs. As your dog becomes more active, the more your dog will need in calorie replenishment.
As always, you should provide your Schipperke with fresh drinking water — the most essential nutrient they can have.
The Schipperke is a seasonal shedder that will shed heavier two times a year. Occasional grooming, such as 1 to 2 times of brushing per week should do the trick. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed has several distinct ways that the coat should grow.
The short portion should be at the face, ears, forelegs and hocks. The medium length should be the greater body and longer around the ruff region and back or ears and neck.
The standard calls for one acceptable coat color option; Black. There are no markings for the breed.
Fun Schipperke Facts
- Just how intelligent is this breed? The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, has the breed as the 15th most Intelligent breed in the world. This means, that the Schipperke will obey the first command 85 percent of the time.
- The breed’s first appearance in Canada was in 1898 and in 1909, the Canadian Kennel Club gave the breed recognition.
- Aside from the “Little Captain,” the breed has other nicknames; “Little Black Fox,” “Tasmanian Black Devil,” and “Little Black Devil.” Oh, and according to the United Kennel Club, the reed is also the Little Shepherd.
- The breed is sad to descend from the Leauvenaar, a black, that was from the Belgium region and is the progenitor of the Groenendael.
A fastidious and fierce worker, reliable and relentless watchdog, and an even better companion. It’s rather easy to see why some men ditch the wife and children in favor of their Schipperke.
But if you’re looking for the perfect little watchdog, that is capable of being the perfect “little captain” aboard a boat or on dry surface, then the highly energetic Schipperke is a great option for you to have.