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The Schipperke, meaning 'little captain' in Flemish, is a breed of dog in the Non-Sporting Group. This breed is well known for their superior watch dog capabilities and for their loyal, yet independent, nature. The Schipperke was approved by the AKC in 1990.

The average Schipperke stands 10 to 13 inches high at the shoulders and weighs between 12 and 18 pounds. Their thick double coat requires regular brushing to keep it free of tangles, and this breed will blow their coat up to 3 times a year which can cause excessive shedding.

History & Health


The Schipperke was developed in Belgium in the late 1600's in order to create a small companion and watchdog. This breed is a smaller version of the sheepdog known as the Leauvenaar, and for many years they were a favorite watch and companion dog on canal boats which is where they received their 'little captain' name.


The average life expectancy of the Schipperke is 12 to 15 years. Increased health risks associated with this breed include epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy, Legg-Calves-Perthes disease, and

Temperament & Personality


According to the ACK Standard, the Schipperke is "questioning, mischievous, impudent... interested in everything around him." These dogs may be the most curious of all breeds, wanting to know what is going on around them every minute of the day. Their alertness makes them excellent watch dogs, as they will faithfully alert you that someone is approaching their home. In fact, their name means "Little Captiain" in Flemish, and they got that name by faithfully and reliably guarding boats in Belgium. Schipperkes want to be included in all manner of family activities, whether it be an outdoor adventure, lounging around in the evening to watch television, or going for rides in the car. These little dogs fancy themselves to be contributing members of the household and expect to be treated as such. Schipperkes love children and are happy to play with them as long as the kids' energy holds out. These little dogs make fine family companions for active people of all ages.

Activity Requirements

Don't let their size foll you – Schipperkes are active animals. They should be walked several times a day and allowed to get out into the yard and run whenever possible. Their size makes them fine apartment dwellers, as long as a commitment is made to keep the Schipperke well exercised.

Schipperkes enjoy the agility course. They are intelligent dogs who need to use their minds as well as their bodies in order to maintain even temperament. On the agility course, they get to use both at the same time, and as an added bonus, they get extra bonding time with someone they love.


Schipperkes can be a handful to train, but with a little patience, it can be done. They bore easily, so it is important to keep sessions short and to vary the routine in order to hold their interest. Positive reinforcement is all you need to get your Schipperke to learn new behavior, as they soak up praise and treats. These little dogs are smart, however, and they can often manipulate you into bending the rules, whether it be flaunting their sheer cuteness or blatantly breaking a rule so many times that you give up enforcing it. 100% consistency is key in raising an obedient Schipperke.

Housebreaking a Schipperke can also be a challenge as they will flaunt their independence by relieving themselves where and when they please. Crate training is the best recipe for success, and expect anywhere from six to eight months of training before your Schipperke finally follows the program.

Behavioral Traits

Schipperkes bark early and often. They feel it is their job as the "Little Captain" to alert you (and the neighborhood) to every new sight and sound. You can teach your dog to obey commands to quiet down, but you can't train the bark out of a Schipperke.

Schipperkes should not be trusted around non-canine pets. The family cat and hamster could be in grave danger when when your Schipperke matures and his prey instincts fully kick in. Socialization should be conducted early and often. The nature of a Schipperke is to be suspicious of strangers, but you want to raise a well-adjusted dog who understands the difference between a welcome guest and an unwelcome stranger.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Schipperke is an agile, active watchdog and hunter of vermin. In appearance he is a small, thickset, cobby, black, tailless dog, with a fox-like face. The dog is square in profile and possesses a distinctive coat, which includes a stand-out ruff, cape and culottes. All of these create a unique silhouette, appearing to slope from shoulders to croup. Males are decidedly masculine without coarseness. Bitches are decidedly feminine without overrefinement.

Any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Schipperke as in any other breed, even though such faults may not be specifically mentioned in the standard.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--The suggested height at the highest point of the withers is 11-13 inches for males and 10-12 inches for bitches. Quality should always take precedence over size. Proportion--Square in profile. Substance--Thickset.

Expression--The expression is questioning, mischievous, impudent and alert, but never mean or wild. The well proportioned head, accompanied by the correct eyes and ears, will give the dog proper Schipperke expression. Skull--The skull is of medium width, narrowing toward the muzzle. Seen in profile with the ears laid back, the skull is slightly rounded. The upper jaw is moderately filled in under the eyes, so that, when viewed from above, the head forms a wedge tapering smoothly from the back of the skull to the tip of the nose. The stop is definite but not prominent. The length of the muzzle is slightly less than the length of the skull. Eyes The ideal eyes are small, oval rather than round, dark brown, and placed forward on the head. Ears--The ears are small, triangular, placed high on the head, and, when at attention, very erect. A drop ear or ears is a disqualification. Nose--The nose is small and black. Bite--The bite must be scissors or level. Any deviation is to be severely penalized.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--The neck is of moderate length, slightly arched and in balance with the rest of the dog to give the correct silhouette. Topline--The topline is level or sloping slightly from the withers to the croup. The stand-out ruff adds to the slope, making the dog seem slightly higher at the shoulders than at the rump. Body--The chest is broad and deep, and reaches to the elbows. The well sprung ribs (modified oval) are wide behind the shoulders and taper to the sternum. The forechest extends in front of the shoulders between the front legs. The loin is short, muscular and moderately drawn up. The croup is broad and well-rounded with the tail docked. No tail is visually discernible.

The shoulders are well laid back, with the legs extending straight down from the body when viewed from the front. From the side, legs are placed well under the body. Pasterns are short, thick and strong, but still flexible, showing a slight angle when viewed from the side. Dewclaws are generally removed. Feet are small, round and tight. Nails are short, strong and black.

The hindquarters appear slightly lighter than the forequarters, but are well muscled, and in balance with the front. The hocks are well let down and the stifles are well bent. Extreme angulation is to be penalized. From the rear, the legs extend straight down from the hip through the hock to the feet. Dewclaws must be removed.

Pattern--The adult coat is highly characteristic and must include several distinct lengths growing naturally in a specific pattern. The coat is short on the face, ears, front of the forelegs and on the hocks; it is medium length on the body, and longer in the ruff, cape, jabot and culottes. The ruff begins in back of the ears and extends completely around the neck; the cape forms an additional distinct layer extending beyond the ruff; the jabot extends across the chest and down between the front legs. The hair down the middle of the back, starting just behind the cape and continuing over the rump, lies flat. It is slightly shorter than the cape but longer than the hair on the sides of the body and sides of the legs. The coat on the rear of the thighs forms culottes, which should be as long as the ruff. Lack of differentiation in coat lengths should be heavily penalized, as it is an essential breed characteristic.

Texture--The coat is abundant, straight and slightly harsh to the touch. The softer undercoat is dense and short on the body and is very dense around the neck, making the ruff stand out. Silky coats, body coats over three inches in length or very short harsh coats are equally incorrect.

Trimming--As the Schipperke is a natural breed, only trimming of the whiskers and the hair between the pads of the feet is optional. Any other trimming must not be done.

The outercoat must be black. Any color other than a natural black is a disqualification. The undercoat, however, may be slightly lighter. During the shedding period, the coat might take on a transitory reddish cast, which is to be penalized to the degree that it detracts from the overall black appearance of the dog. Graying due to age (seven years or older) or occasional white hairs should not be penalized.

Proper Schipperke movement is a smooth, well coordinated and graceful trot (basically double tracking at a moderate speed), with a tendency to gradually converge toward the center of balance beneath the dog as speed increases. Front and rear must be in perfect balance with good reach in front and drive in the rear. The topline remains level or slightly sloping downward from the shoulders to the rump. Viewed from the front, the elbows remain close to the body. The legs form a straight line from the shoulders through the elbows to the toes, with the feet pointing straight ahead. From the rear, the legs form a straight line from the hip through the hocks to the pads, with the feet pointing straight ahead.

The Schipperke is curious, interested in everything around him, and is an excellent and faithful little watchdog. He is reserved with strangers and ready to protect his family and property if necessary. He displays a confident and independent personality, reflecting the breed's original purpose as watchdog and hunter of vermin.

A drop ear or ears.
Any color other than a natural black.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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