The Schipperke (pronounced Skipper-key) originated in Belgium but whether it is a small shepherd or of the Spitz family is a matter of continuing discussion, as is the name of the breed. Schipperke is believed by some to mean little captain, a reference to their popularity as companions, watchdogs and ratters on barges, others suggest that it is a corruption of the Flemish Scheperke meaning little shepherd. It has also been called Spitzke (little Spitz). While the Schipperke shares many of the features of the Spitz family the more popular theory is that it is descended from the Belgian shepherd dogs. It may not be possible to precisely define the development of the Schipperke but small black dogs of the type have been known in Belgium for at least 500 years. They were particularly favoured by the guildsmen in towns and by barge owners. The breed was first shown and recognized in 1882. In addition to their primary role as companions they have been used as search and rescue dogs, assistance dogs for the hearing impaired, and drug and bomb detection dogs.
The Schipperke, despite his small stature, is by no means a toy breed. He is robust, energetic and brave and is an ideal choice for those who desire the characteristics of a big dog in a compact package. Busy and extremely inquisitive he always wants to know what is going on around him and it is therefore wise to have secure fencing lest his curiosity leads him to stray into trouble. It is also advisable not to walk him off-lead unless in a secure area as his hunting instinct or his natural urge to investigate everything may inspire him to roam for miles and, in all probability, get lost and unable to find his way home. His alertness and awareness of his surroundings make him an excellent watchdog and he will alert with furious barking the approach of any stranger, human or animal, to his territory. His family will be given his complete devotion and his happiness depends on being involved as much as possible in their activities. If relegated to an outside life with little human interaction he will become depressed and bored and will seek to make his own entertainment which will inevitably be expressed in destructiveness. He is reputed to be very patient and tolerant of children and will usually get along well with other dogs but may exhibit some same-sex aggressiveness in the case of intact dogs. His intelligence, combined with a strong will, necessitates an owner who can kindly but firmly set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
For his size the Schipperke needs a considerable amount of exercise. Much of this he will provide for himself as he busies himself around the house and garden but it is important that regular daily walks are undertaken for both physical and mental fitness. He is also a very playful dog and will enjoy fetching games and the type of games for which he has to use his brain - such as finding hidden objects. Obedience work, agility, frisbee, flyball, etc., all will help keep him mentally stimulated and in good physical condition.
Basic obedience training is necessary for all dogs if they are to be pleasant to live with and acceptable to the community. Quick to learn and happy to please the Schipperke is not difficult to train, but only positive methods based on firmness, kindness and rewards should be used. Any harshness, verbal or physical, will erode trust and undermine his willingness to work. Many Schipperke compete very successfully in advanced obedience. Socialization is important and should be extensive and on-going from an early age. This involves accustoming the dog to as many different people, places, animals, situations, as possible. Adequate socialization will help to ensure that the pup grows to be a level-headed, well-mannered, confident adult.
- Mucopolysaccaridosis type IIIB (MPS IIIB)
- eye problems
- patella luxation
- thyroid abnormalities
Some photographs of the Schipperke...