Let's talk Schipperkes

A bundle of rough-and-tumble energy wrapped in a glamorous black fur package best sums up the Schipperke dog. This animated breed hails from Belgium, and is known for their nonstop nature as well as their fierce loyalty. A guard dog by breeding, the Schipperke now functions more as captain of their home turf, celebrated for their adoration of children and a funny, affable nature that’s written all over their pert, fox-like face.

Official name: Schipperke 

Origins: Belgium

Close-up of Schipperke in black and white
 Drooling tendencies:  Very low  Warm weather?
 Shedding level:  Medium   Suited to apartment living ? High
 Energy level (high, low, medium) *:  High  Family pet? * Very high
 Compatibility with other pets:     Can stay alone? * Medium

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed’s specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy, healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare, social and behavioural needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of Schipperke
28 - 33 cm translations.feature.breeds.height
3 - 9 kg translations.feature.breeds.weight
25 - 30 cm translations.feature.breeds.height
3 - 9 kg translations.feature.breeds.weight

 Baby age:  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age:  2 to 10 months
 Adult age:  10 months to 8 years
 Mature age:  8 to 12 years
 Senior age:  From 12 years

Schipperke lying down looking at camera


Get to know the Schipperke

All you need to know about the breed

Why walk when you can run? Words to live by for the incredibly jubilant Schipperke, a chaser of vermin from way back and of balls or frisbees today. This inquisitive and entertaining dog embodies all there is to love in a canine: Intelligence, energy, bravery (they may be small but they’re mighty!), and affection. The Schipperke also has a long lifespan so be prepared for many great years with this fun little dog.

Pint-sized at an average of 13 inches (33cm), but what they might lack in size they make up for in their on-the-go demeanour. As long as there’s a job to do, the Schipperke will be fine. Extremely protective of their family and the children in it, the Schipperke can be aloof with those they don’t know but warms up soon enough.

At times the Schipperke breed can be obstinate, and will need to be trained with a very firm hand and a good amount of repetition. This is a highly curious dog who seeks adventure at every turn. Keep them on leash when out as their prey drive will cause the Schipperke to chase new furry friends in a heartbeat. Ditto for an enclosed space: The Schipperke needs exercise and will dig their way out or hop a fence if left to their own devices to get it.

Their history started in Belgium where they were fierce ratters on barges traversing the low country. They are often called “little shepherd” but the Schipperke‘s name (pronounced “SHEEP-er-ker”) translates from the Flemish as “Little Captain” or “Little Skipper.” Whatever you call them, this is a dog who will be adored by all who cross their path.

Two Schipperkes sitting on a wooden bench


2 facts about Schipperkes

1. Diggers and jumpers

The non-stop energy of the Schipperke dog is fun to witness and great for runners, but the one disadvantage is that they can be escape artists if they want. Boredom or the pursuit of small animals as a result of a high prey drive can cause digging – underneath fences – or jumping over them. Make sure to have a well-enclosed fence guarding your yard.

2. Barking up a storm 

Owners of the lively Schipperke breed will appreciate all they bring to the table, especially their watchdog instincts, but one facet that’s not so super is their high-pitched bark. The at-times sharp sound is their way of letting you know that they’re on guard but can be over the top if this canine alarm is sounded too often. Training them in the ways and means of the neighbourhood from a young age will keep them in check.


History of the breed

The rise to fame for the Schipperke started in late medieval Belgium, where in 1690, in the Grand Palace of Brussels, a specialty show was held just for the dog. Prized for guarding the barges that made their way along canals between Antwerp and Brussels, this breed was used for their ability as a determined ratter, passionate about their prey and barking otherwise at any strange noises in their midst. Shopkeepers, shoemakers, and other tradesmen soon took notice of their fearless, independent nature and used the breed in their shops and ateliers, valuing the dog’s skill at keeping unwanted smaller furry friends like mice at bay.

So popular was the Schipperke breed that they competed in beauty shows in 17th century Flanders. Queen Henrietta took a Schipperke as a royal pet and their star fate was sealed. The first breed club formed in England in 1890. The Schipperke was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1904 as its 55th breed.

Side view of Schipperke standing in black and white


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Schipperkes

1. Ears

Pricked ears, triangular in shape, set high on head.

2. Head

Small, very triangular head, fox-like in appearance.

3. Body

Compact yet vibrant body, sloped in nature.

4. Tail

Tail well-covered in fur, slightly curved, carried high.

5. Coat

Very thick, fluffy coat, profuse around face and on body.

Close-up of Schipperke looking past camera


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Schipperke
Two Schipperkes running across grass


Caring for your Schipperke

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Grooming the Schipperke may look like a chore but in reality their lustrous coat is quite easy to care for. This dog is not a shedder, but will moult twice a year – in the spring and the autumn – as they shed their old coat for the new. Weekly brushing will keep their splendid locks in tip-top condition. Make sure to clean those perky ears to maintain their health as well. Daily teeth brushing is also recommended.
The Schipperke dog needs lots of exercise. This is a highly energetic dog—some say a little dog in a big dog’s body. The breed is super playful and always up for a romp in the yard or jaunt around the block – or two, or five! – or lots of running in a wide-open space or in the neighbourhood.
The Schipperke is known for their extraordinary senses and stubborn streak – and for their vocal agility (read: at-times excessive barking) – so training may be difficult without a firm person at the helm. Obedience classes are a good idea for a breed that likes to explore, and needs to learn to come when called. They’ve been known to jump the fence if interested in what’s on the other side! Competing in agility and obedience competitions is enjoyable for the Schipperke, and will help this breed work off their natural energy.


All about Schipperkes

Sprightly and tireless, the Schipperke dog has as their first priority keeping their family and surroundings safe, then, maybe then, taking it easy. The breed is a top-notch watchdog and known to be a light sleeper. That said, they need their downtime as well, and being so protective of the family, they’re all too glad to cuddle up by anyone’s side.

The Schipperke is officially part of the American Kennel Club’s Non-Sporting Group. A Belgian breed, they derive their name from the Flemish word “schip” meaning ship, or more precisely, boat, the name given since earning their keep as ratting dogs on canal barges. The Schipperke is known as a superb and faithful watchdog, especially on vessels, but also for shops and on the homefront.



1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/