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Spitske Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Schipperke Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Schipperke, Schip, Spits, Spitzke

Life Expectancy
Approximately 13-15+ Years

Litter Size
Average 3-6 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC Non-Sporting

General Description

The Schipperke is a small, sturdy, usually black dog in the Spitz family. Their pointed ears are erect atop the head. Schipperkes are double coated with a soft, fluffy undercoat that is covered by a somewhat harsher-feeling and longer outer coat. One of the breed characteristics is a long ruff that surrounds the neck and then a strip trails down towards the rear of the dog. They also have longer fur on their hind legs called culottes. The breed is usually black, but sometimes blonde or cream colored (some blondes have a silkier coat), very rarely they can have a liver-red coloration. And the coat is shiny. Dogs of this breed usually weigh 3–9 kg (6.6–19.8 lb).

In Canada and the United States, the tail is usually docked (cut off) the day after birth. In countries that have bans on docking, adult Schipperkes often have Spitz-like and often up-curled, spiraled, long-haired tails can which occasionally vary in type.

Breed Standard

Head: Resembles that of a fox. Moderately broad forehead, slightly rounded skull. Distinct, but not pronounced stop. Tapered muzzle. Small nose.
Ears: Placed high on the head. Small, triangular. Held erect, very mobile.
Eyes: Ideally oval. Dark brown color.
Body: Short and thickset. Deep, broad chest. Belly moderately tucked up. Broad loin. Straight, horizontal back.
Tail: Tailless or docked.
Hair: Abundant and dense. Short on the head, body and front of legs. Longer on the neck (ruff), shoulders, chest (apron) and back of legs (culottes).
Coat: Solid black.
Size: 32 to 36 cm (12,5-14 in).
Weight: 3 to 8 kg (6,5-18 lb), depending on size.


The Schipperke, which looks rather like spitz dogs and Belgian sheepdogs, is thought by some to be descended from the Leauvenaar, a small sheepdog from Louvain in the Flemish provinces of Belgium. Others think that he is descended from northern spitz dogs. This tailless dog, the most popular guard dog in Belgium, guarded the canals. He was also a much loved companion. Shown for the first time in 1880, the breed was officially recognized by the Royal Schipperkes Club of Brussels in 1888. An official standard was written in 1904. Today, the Schipperke is a popular breed in England and South Africa.


Schipperkes are naturally curious and high-energy dogs and require much exercise. They are sometimes very active, running very fast and then breaking into quick, agile criss-cross patterns. However the same Schipperke can also rest for hours on end. So they are not constantly active, in contrast to the Jack Russell terrier. The Schipperke is Known for a stubborn, mischievous, and headstrong temperament, it also chases small animals. The Schipperke is sometimes referred to as the "little black fox", or the "little black devil". In Australia they are sometimes called the "Tasmanian black devil." Schipperkes are very smart and independent; and sometimes debate listening to owners, instead choosing to do whatever benefits them the most, and are not necessarily the proper dog for a first-time dog owner. Schipperkes require training and a secure, fenced-in space in which to run. They must be leash-trained or they will often pull the leash as if they were a sled dog with no regard for the owner. This is easily correctable using training methods from a reliable source. Schipperkes are also escape prone and very fast so they require a leash or a fence at all times.

Schipperkes are notorious around horses and should only be kept leashed when near them. Even if a horse is in full trot, a Schipperke may run at it and then dart back and forth between its hoofs, narrowly avoiding being crushed and barking furiously all the while. The dogs are so agile and fast that they rarely get hurt, but the horse and rider, not to mention the owner can be surprised by this. Not all Schipperkes do this. Some are calm around large hoofed animals and may only give a couple of curious sniffs before turning away. Good training can also help.

Schipperkes are formidable barkers and can be aggressive with other dogs if they are strangers. Yet they get along well with dogs whom they already know, especially dogs from their own household. They are known for challenging dogs they are unfamiliar with and can sometimes get into fights. Schipperkes are fearless and will, without reservation, go after a dog that is much larger than themselves. Sometimes this results in the Schipperke getting bitten, even badly so. Wounds and bites can be hidden by fur and can so go undetected until a dangerous infection sets in. A trip to the vet after a dogfight is therefore always required in order to find and stitch up any wounds and especially to provide antibiotics. The vet will often shave the fur off of a suspected area in order to find the real extent of bite holes or gashes that might need treatment. This is a good reason why keeping a Schipperke leased and fenced at all times is advisable. Schipperkes are very good with children and were once guard dogs so they make good family protectors. They have no fear of intruders, despite their small size and will bark aggressively, sounding an alarm. They can also harass an intruder by dancing in fast circles around their legs while barking. But they almost never bite humans. When strangers are outside Schipperkes will bark to alert their owners, consequently they make good guard dogs.

Schipperkes are somewhat aloof but will readily accept affection from others. Despite being less affectionate themselves, they will sleep with their head in an owners lap, if there is a close relationship. They have also been known to rest their head in an owner's hand. This is more likely to happen when someone spends a lot of time with the dog. Schipperkes will also sleep in an owners bed although they rarely spend a whole night in one location.

Schipperkes are very aware of who is the dominant human in the home and they will display exclusive submissive affection towards them. Typically they will lie on their backs with their bellies exposed, their ears folded back, and if petted or stroked, will lick the dominant humans hand slowly. They will only do this for one person in the house and are keen observers of who is the strongest sounding human in the "pack". Schipperkes will however, become very excited and demonstrative towards anyone who grabs a leash as they know this means they will be going outside. They can sometimes have similar responses when someone is preparing food for them in their bowl. As aloof as they can be, they can become very excited and expressive in these situations.

Schipperkes who live alone in a back yard can become problem barkers. One way to solve this is to get another Schipperke, so the first one will have a companion. This will tend to quiet them down. They do well in groups up to four and since they know each other, they will get along and even rest close to each other. If encouraged by the owner making a howling sound, they will howl together, but not very often on their own initiative and not for very long.

The Schipperke has been described as a large dog in a small body. It has the instincts of a guard dog, protective, devoted, and courageous. At the time the breed was developed, dogs had to be useful to justify their existence. Just as a sheepdog was the guardian of herds and farm property, the Schipperke was the guardian of the household. In common with all guarding breeds, Schipperkes possess an inordinate sense of responsibility towards the home and everything in it and have a loyalty for those to whom they are devoted. Although the Schipperke is a small dog, its sharp bark will make enough noise to scare away any burglars or unwelcome strangers. The Schipperke is an inquisitive breed, a trait which creates the perfect watchdog. Nothing in the home escapes close inspection. The breed is interested, alert and active with a capacity for fun and mischief. Many have also performed well in agility and obedience.

The Schipperke does not need expensive or excessive grooming. This breed is a moderate shedder, however; a brush that can reach the undercoat is best. Regular weekly brushing is usually enough to keep the coat in good condition. There is no need for cutting or trimming and the ruff (hair around the neck) fluffs up naturally.

Schipperkes can "blow" their coats up to several times a year, and usually females more frequently than males. When this happens, they lose their undercoat. Owners typically find warm baths helpful during this time to remove the undercoat, rather than getting fur all over the home. A blown undercoat can last several days or weeks, and can take up to 2–3 months to grow back.


Ratter and Vermin Hunter, Guard Dog, Pet.


The Schipperke has no particular health problems. The UK Kennel Club survey puts the median lifespan of the breed at 13 years old, with about 20% living to 15 years or more. Of the 36 deceased dogs in the survey, the oldest dog was 17+1⁄2 years old. There is a known case where a Schipperke lived to be 18 to 19 years old. Nonetheless, inactivity, lack of exercise and over-feeding are very harmful, and can lead to joint and skeletal problems and tooth, heart, lung or digestive conditions. Schipperke's primary orthopedic problem tends to be luxating patella and Legg-Perthes syndrome. Some Schipperkes have demonstrated tendencies to epilepsy, although there are no tests, these seem to be related to genetic transmission.

The one caveat to the Schipperke's good health is MPS IIIB, a genetic mutation that occurs in at most 15% of the total breed population. It only occurs in Schipperkes. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has developed a test for the disease and began accepting samples in April 2003. Clinical signs appear between two and four years of age, and there are no known cures or treatments. The disease affects balance, negotiation of obstacles (such as stairs), and is similar to such lysosomal storage diseases in humans as Tay–Sachs disease and Gaucher disease. The Schipperke is also prone to some other physical problems as reported by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

DNA research has shown that Schipperkes have a rising rate of inbreeding in their population.

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