What to Know About Schipperkes

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on May 26, 2022
6 min read

Schipperke, pronounced “SKIP-er-kee” in the U.S., is a small dog with an iconic look. With the face of a fox, the body of a sheepdog, and a jet-black coat, Schipperkes stand out from the ranks.

Once you teach them how to harness their energy, they can be a great member of your family. 

Schipperke size and shape. Schipperkes typically weigh between 10 and 16 pounds. Males tend to be 11 to 13 inches tall, while females are 10 to 12 inches tall. 

Schipperkes have a dense body accentuated by thick fur around the neck and shoulders. They may be small, but Schipperkes are powerful watchdogs.

Coat length and quality. One of the traits that Schipperkes are famous for is their coat. It’s a medium-length double coat of beautiful black fur. 

Fox face. The other notable trait of Schipperkes is their face. The face resembles a fox, differentiating them from many other breeds.

How long do schipperkes live? Some people think Schipperkes are long-lived, but their lifespan is average compared to similar-sized breeds. The Schipperke lifespan is around 12 to 14 years

Schipperke temperament. Schipperkes are incredibly vigilant and protective after generations of being watchdogs and rat-catchers. That also means they’re a bit mindful of strangers and other animals.

Schipperkes are adaptable and can adjust well to various environments and lifestyles. Most Schipperkes still enjoy frequent play, work, or training.

Schipperkes personality. They’re tentative toward strangers, but they couldn’t be more affectionate to their family. Schipperkes will stick by your side, ready to play, cuddle, or make you smile at a moment’s notice.

Coat care. Caring for the Schipperke's signature black coat is easy. You only need to brush their coat once a week.

Schipperkes go through shedding seasons one or two times a year. You’ll need to brush them more often during these periods to reduce the amount of shedding.

Schipperkes need a bath once a month or as needed if they splash through a mud puddle. Bathing them too frequently can remove protective oil from the skin.

Feeding and nutrition. Your Schipperke needs to eat twice a day. Your dog's age, health, and size determine how much to feed them at mealtime.

 You have options when deciding what to feed them. Many dogs do well with commercially available wet and dry foods.

As your Schipperke ages, you may need to change their diet. Talk with your vet before making significant changes to your dog’s eating habits.

Exercise and activity. Schipperkes have energy and need something to do with it. They love to play, but here are some other activities you can do with your pup:

  • Quick daily walk
  • Free play in a fenced area
  • Exploring
  • Training
  • Racing

Training. Schipperkes benefit from various types of training to hone their energy and watchdog nature. Obedience classes will teach them the skills they need to continue their training.

It’s important to teach your Schipperke when to stop barking, to come back when they go exploring, and how to socialize with new people.

These dogs can be challenging to train. Patience, positivity, and persistence will help your Schipperke learn almost anything.

Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Your Schipperke needs parasite prevention their whole life. They’ll likely receive flea and tick prevention starting when they’re 2 months old. 

They’ll need prevention for the rest of their life, but the frequency of doses depends on the medications. You and your vet can determine which prevention medication is best for your dog. 

Your Schipperke will also need protection from heartworms. Mosquito bites transmit worms, but your pup needs protection even if you live in an area with a small mosquito population.

Most heartworm preventatives are monthly, affordable, and easy to give. You and your vet can figure out which treatment option is best. 

Your vet should also test your dog for heartworms at their annual vet visit. A case of heartworms can be deadly, so always take the extra preventative steps.

Tooth and nail care. Your Schipperke needs its nails trimmed monthly. Long nails cause discomfort and can injure you.

You can trim your pup’s nails yourself. Your vet and groomer can also trim their nails.

Forget the idea that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. They still need their teeth taken care of.

You can clean your Schipperke's teeth by:

  • Brushing their teeth
  • Giving them dental treats and chews
  • Having your vet or groomer professionally clean their teeth

Vet visits. Puppies younger than 6 months old should visit the vet monthly. Your vet will monitor their development during those early months. They'll also give vaccines once they’re old enough.

Schipperkes older than 6 months and younger than 10 years are adults. They should visit the vet once a year for an annual checkup. 

An annual checkup consists of checking your dog's weight, updating vaccines, and examining changes in health. Keeping their health records updated will help catch health conditions as they age.

Schipperkes aged 10 years or older are seniors. They need a checkup every 6 months to monitor symptoms of age and check for health conditions.

Schipperkes are healthy dogs. They’re prone to some health conditions, but breeders will make sure to screen for them. 

It’s not guaranteed that your Schipperke will develop any of these conditions. They’re just genetically predisposed to be at risk for them.

Luxating patella. A luxating patella is when your pup’s kneecap slips out of place. This condition makes it difficult for them to run, jump, or get up from lying down. 

You may notice them lifting their leg or skipping as if putting weight on the leg is uncomfortable. They may do this but then go back to normal when their kneecap goes back into place.

Luxating patella can lead to arthritis in the knee joints. Surgical correction can work well before arthritis develops, but the arthritis will still need treatment.

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Your dog’s femur fits into a socket that forms their hip. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease causes their femur to spontaneously degenerate, collapsing their hip and causing arthritis.

The cause is unknown, so prevention is difficult. Your dog will limp when they start to feel pain and discomfort in the affected hip. 

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is treated with medications. If your Schipperke doesn’t respond to medicine, they may need surgery and physical therapy. 

Eye problems. Schipperkes are at risk for developing eye problems like:

  • Cataracts
  • Dry eyes
  • Glaucoma

Eye conditions can be caused by genetics, environment, or age. They can also result from conditions like cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Symptoms of eye conditions are typically noticeable. They include:

  • Eye redness
  • Cloudiness
  • Discharge
  • Excessive blinking
  • Squinting
  • Excessively rubbing their eyes or face

Treating eye problems early has a better prognosis. Intervening too late can do irreparable damage.

Thyroid problems. Your Schipperke’s thyroid produces thyroxine and other essential hormones. Thyroid diseases are common and cause problems like affecting your dog’s metabolism.

There are a few types of thyroid problems, including:

Thyroid problems are difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often mimic other conditions. Your vet can test your Schipperke’s thyroid hormone levels to determine if they have thyroid problems.

Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) Type IIIB. MPS IIIB is a genetic disease that leads to cell death. Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Difficulty balancing
  • Difficulty walking
  • Clumsiness

Symptoms usually show up between 2 and 4 years of age and progress. Sadly, there aren’t any treatment options available.

Are they good with other pets? Schipperkes can get along well with other dogs and pets. They may chase after smaller animals like they chased rats on the decks of ships, but they can be trained not to chase.

Are they good with kids? These dogs are fine with children. Schipperkes are small and aren’t likely to overpower a child. With proper socialization and training, your Schipperke will get along well with children.

Are they allergenic? Schipperkes shed frequently enough to cause problems for people with allergies. Even with proper grooming, their fur and dander can still be an irritant.

Do they bark? They tend to be vocal dogs. Unless you train them not to bark, they’ll be pretty vocal.

Do they drool? Schipperkes aren’t heavy droolers.  

Many small dogs like Schipperkes were once rat-catchers. Schipperkes are the descendants of the Black Sheepdog of Belgium.

The name. Schipperke is traditionally pronounced “SHEEP-er-ker” in Belgium. The Americanized pronunciation is “SKIP-er-kee”.

The “schip” in their name translates to "boat" in Flemish. Schipperkes were commonly the captain’s dog aboard boats. This led to the name Schipperke, which roughly means “little captain”.

Schipperkes became popular watchdogs for businesses, families, and boats. They were good at their jobs because of their vigilant personalities and powerful bark.

The U.S. didn’t see Schipperkes until 1888. The American Kennel Club recognized Schipperkes in 1904, but their popularity faded during World War I, as with many breeds. 

Schipperkes haven’t been deterred and still shine in obedience, agility, and sporting competitions.