Schipperke, aka “The Little Captain,” is a small, vigilant, quick and energetic breed, most ideal for companionship and protection. Originally a ratter and watchdog, Schipperkes are excellent hunters that hardly miss any moving prey, with the exception of pet cats and dogs. However, caged pets may trigger killer instincts.
Schipperke is a Belgian breed with origins dating back to the 16th century. Native to the Flemish region, this breed is a descendant of the massive Leauvenaar, a local sheepdog. Progressively smaller versions of the Schipperke were bred for ratting and protecting barges and small boats on the Belgian waterways, gathering livestock and for hunting small animals. Fox-like in form and action, Schipperkes eventually became travel companions and pets, which also double up as vigilant watchdogs and vermin hunters.
Schipperkes are born hunters and quick to take off after moving prey when out in the open. They are alert, agile and full of energy, eager to be a part of all activities in the given settings. The breed is sociable and mingles well with humans, children and pets at home; is suspicious by nature, impulsive in action, nimble-footed and can scale fences effortlessly. They have a mind of their own, are clever, and can get quite indifferent and turn a deaf ear.
Lack of clear-cut rules and stringent training can promote negative traits – taking command, excessive barking and howling, being overprotective and territorial, leading to biting and aggressive behavior. Schipperkes are equally adept at being mischievous and playful.
Capable of growing about 13” tall, an adult Schipperke can weigh about 8 kg, with appearance and gait very similar to that of a fox. A squarish body with a slightly rounded head, pricked triangular ear, broad chest, small sharp eyes, sloping or level topline, soft undercoat and slightly harder top coat, and characteristic ruff about the neck are features unique to this breed. Black coat is predominant, while blondes are also prevalent.
Health and Care
This hardy breed has a long life span of about 15 or more years, making them quite prone to an array of health issues that are quite common with ageing. Eye problems, limb and hip stability, seizures, hypothyroidism, cardiac and lung complaints, and a pre-disposition to genetic mutation (MPS IIIB) are a few health threats that Schipperkes are likely to face during their lifetime.
Caring for Schipperkes is not effort-intensive; however, the double coat needs regular cleaning and combing (addressing the undercoat as well). Owners, however, will have a tough time when the coat regularly “blows” off as often as 3 times a year, leaving loads of loose fur to clean up. Hot baths are the tried and tested solution to address this issue.
Calm and stringent training is the key to keep this hyperactive breed happy, though it’ll be more than happy to cut loose and run free at the slightest chance. Regular walks, jogs, exercising, training for competitions, or a brisk run are ideal in an urban setting.
Training is needed for housebreaking and to curb aggressive barking, the impulse to chase prey, and innate hostility towards strangers.
Schipperkes cannot be trusted when off-leash; hence, even the best of trainers won’t be able to command obedience. High and strongly fenced yards are ideal for the pet to romp about. At home though, the Schipperke is always on its feet, curious and playful as ever; but again, the lack of company, activity or boredom can lead to restless barking and chewing.