The Schipperke is an old European breed thought to have been developed in the Flanders/Brussels area of Belgium. A multi purpose dog, this small black docked dog was a watch dog on barges, houses, farms and shops, a companion, ratter and drover of horses on the towpaths along the barge canals. His keen sense of smell and prey driven instincts made him a natural for the working class people who needed a watcher/guardian of goods as well as a natural rat killer for their humble environs. The Shoemakers’ guild of Brussels held shows as early as the 1690s to highlight the leather collars they made for their official mascot, the Schipperke, making it easy to surmise that the breed was equally at home in town and countryside.
Lively character, intense curiosity and an abundance of energy describe the Schipperke. This is not a breed for someone who doesn’t have experience in working with dogs they are extremely intelligent and can be strong willed. Woe betide the inexperienced owner of one who thinks the ‘cute behaviour’ seen in puppies is quite acceptable. Firm handling and channeling of energy and intelligence via obedience/agility/activity is important as is socialization from an early age. Although considered a watch dog, the Schipperke can quite easily think of itself as protector and guardian of its owner and family members, so care must be taken to curb this propensity from the outset. If properly introduced and trained, the Schipperke puppy can easily co-exist in a household with other animals, in particular enjoying large working or pastoral breeds.
Some people consider the breed to be a shepherd/pastoral type; others consider them to be a spitz type. With their sharp foxy face, high set pointed ears, ruff/mane around the neck and now with intact tails curled over the back, they do present the image of a spitz type. Their lack of doggy odour also makes them a definite candidate for that category.
Their life span is an average of around 15 to 16 years of age, but has gone as high as 20 years.
One disease, MPSIIIB, has been identified in the USA as affecting the breed. Fortunately, the vast majority of conscientious breeders in all countries do test their breeding stock for the disease. If an animal is tested as a ‘carrier’, there is absolutely no reason to worry, as it will never show physical signs or symptoms of the disease and can live to a ripe old age. Other than that, the breed has only had occasional cases of Legges-Perthes disease. Compared to the majority of other purebred dogs, the Schipperke is considered a hardy and healthy breed.