The Schipperke, Belgium’s “little captain,” is the traditional barge dog of the Low Countries. Curious, lively, and intense but mischievous, this little black dog is a robust, long-lived companion for whom there is never a dull moment.
Standing no higher than 13 inches, Schipperkes are small dogs built for hard work. Schips were created as ratters and watchdogs. Their powerful jaws, necks, and forequarters coupled with stealthy, catlike hunting style make them ideal rat-catching machines. The black coat is profuse around the neck, shoulders, and legs, giving the breed a silhouette that accentuates a thick, substantial body. The foxy face completes the unique look of a unique breed. If you can’t tell a Schipperke from an ordinary dog, you simply haven’t been paying attention.
Late medieval Belgium was the birthplace of the Schipperke (correctly pronounced “SHEEP-er-ker,” though many American owners say “SKIP-er-kee”). The breed earned its fame as shipboard exterminators on the canals that crisscrossed the Low Countries. The little black avenger of the Belgian dockyards was also a fearless watchdog on barges and in city shops. It was among the sailors and shopkeepers of Brussels and Antwerp that these quick, agile dogs earned the nickname “schipperke,” Flemish for “little captain.”
Temperament: Alert / Curious / Confident
Height: 10-13 inches
Weight: 10-16 pounds
Life expectancy: 12-14 years
Schipperkes are generally healthy dogs, and reputable breeders screen their breeding stock for health concerns such as luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (hip problems), eye problems, and thyroid problems. Breeders can also test for MPS IIIB, a newly recognized and fatal disease that usually shows up by 2-4 years of age as balance problems, and avoid producing the disease by identifying carriers and breeding them appropriately. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog has a long, healthy life.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Patella Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Thyroid Evaluation
The Schipperke’s coat needs only weekly brushing, though they do go through a shedding season once or twice a year. During these periods, more frequent brushing will help to keep the amount of shed hair under control. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort.