AKC Non-Sporting Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Schipperke (pronounced skipper-key) originated in Belgium, and became a favorite choice to guard canal barges there, hence the name, which in Flemish means “little captain.” This breed was also used as a ratter and watchdog in homes and shops in town, and around the barn on farms. The Schipperke became very popular in Belgian households and among shopkeepers—in fact, in 1690, tradesmen organized a Schipperke show, which might have been the first specialty show for any breed. The Schipperke was elevated to royal status when Queen Marie Henriette purchased one in 1885. Today the Schipperke serves primarily as a companion dog.


The Schipperke is a small, thickset, tailless black dog with a thick, medium-short double coat and a standout ruff around his neck. The body is short and compact, looking square when viewed from the side. In silhouette, the topline appears to slope gently down from the withers. The chest is wide and should reach to the elbows. The head is fox-like: a wedge with a pointed muzzle and full underjaw. The small oval eyes are dark brown with a mischievous, questioning, and alert expression. The small, erect ears are triangular in shape. The tail is docked. The nose is always black. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite. Dewclaws may be removed from the front legs and must be removed from the hind legs if you wish to show the dog.

Key Facts

  • Height:  11 to 13 in. (male); 10 to 12 in. (female)
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  Up to 18 lbs.
  • Availability:  Might take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Watchdog, guarding, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks


Schipperkes are low-maintenance dogs, shedding once or twice a year, and otherwise requiring only occasional brushing. They do not have a doggy odor. Can be difficult to housebreak. This breed must be kept leashed outside or in a secure fenced yard, as the Schipperke is very curious and will wander. Many Schipperkes are escape artists, even to the point of digging under fences. Though they generally bark only when notifying their owners of a disturbance, some Schipperkes’ bark is high pitched and can be annoying. The genetic disease Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB, a fatal disease, has been discovered in Schipperkes. It is inherited recessively, so signs—which appear in early adulthood and initially include tremors and balance problems—only occur in dogs that inherit the gene from both carrier parents. Carriers can be identified with a DNA test and should not be bred to one another. As many as 15% of Schipperkes may be carriers. Puppies from parents that have not been DNA tested should be tested before purchase. For more information, visit


Loyal with the family and good with children, but wary of strangers. Protective and an excellent watchdog. Very energetic, curious, and agile. A big dog in a little dog’s body. Highly intelligent, but might be quite willful. Easy to train with positive methods, but becomes bored with too much repetition. Be careful to keep small pets such as rodents and birds safely out of reach. Friendly with other dogs if properly socialized.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Moderately protective
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Very independent
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Very active indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Docking/Cropping:  The tail is customarily docked
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  Small, but a pretty good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Good for apartment living
  • Outdoor Space:  OK without a yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Schipperke Breed Standard

Schipperke Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Schipperke

Schipperke Gifts