Schipperkes have small, cobby, square-built bodies covered in long, harsh coats that usually come in black, but can also be found in brown, tan and red. These thick coats grow in several different lengths around the body, including a thick ruff around the neck. Their wedge-shaped heads have pointed ears and fox-like faces, and they have small, dark eyes that give off an inquisitive expression. Schipperkes are usually tailless. They move along with a smooth, nimble gait.
Schipperkes combine a solid work ethic with a sense of fun. Loving and warm, they are eager to please, easy to train and somewhat feisty. They get along famously with children and other pets, including cats, and they form strong bonds with their families.
Schipperkes are ideal for apartment living. Small and friendly and polite, they make good use of small spaces, running in and out of rooms to satisfy their curiosity. They love playing games on the carpet, but they really love to run and play outside. Tirelessly active, they will happily keep pace with the most intense joggers.
Used for hundreds of years to guard barges from thieves and rats, Schipperkes have a built-in protectiveness. In spite of their size, they make excellent watchdogs. And if you happen to own a boat, this could be your ideal second mate.
Schipperkes are naturally watchful. Because of this, they can seem a little reserved with new people. Once they realize everything is A-okay, they will loosen up and join the party. They are naturally curious and independent, so always keep them on a leash in public. If you can allow them to run free in a controlled space, they will definitely have a blast.
A healthy Schipperke can live as long as 15 years. Common health issues include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts and other eye problems. Their long, thick coats need regular brushing, but Schipperkes keep themselves fairly clean. During spring and fall shedding seasons, Schipperkes do shed, so have plenty of lint brushes handy.
Named after the Flemish word for “little skipper,” Schipperkes were bred by Belgian boat captains to guard unattended boats, keep rats away and provide companionship. Not just popular on boats, Schipperkes also worked with shoemakers and other shopkeepers across Belgium as guard dogs and ratters. The first Schipperke came to America in the late 1800s, but the breed didn’t really catch on until the Schipperke Club of America was founded in 1929.