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Schipperke Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Personality & Facts

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove


Height: 10-15 inches
Weight: 5-20 pounds
Lifespan: 13-15 years
Colors: Black, brown, cream, blue
Suitable for: Experienced owners, those looking for a small, spirited pet
Temperament: Independent, intelligent, energetic, clever, fearless, loud

Some dogs just have no idea how big they are. Great Danes are like this — they’re absolutely massive, but they think they’re lap dogs, and they’re just as likely to hide behind you when trouble strikes as they are to confront it head-on.

Schipperkes are at the opposite end of the spectrum. These dogs are tiny, but they’re absolutely convinced they’re the most fearsome animals on the planet. They won’t back down from anything — a trait that’s admirable but often gets them into trouble.

This breed isn’t terribly well-known, but they can make fantastic companions. If you’d like to know more about Schipperkes, the guide below will fill you in on all the important details.

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Schipperke Puppies

puppies of schipperke
Image Credit: Daria Bystritskaia, Shutterstock

These dogs are small when they’re fully grown, so you can imagine how tiny they are when they’re puppies. What they lack in size, they make up for in spunk, as they never stop running, playing, and yapping at everything they see. They need quite a bit of supervision, as they’ll get into anything that they can get their paws on. Many Schipperke owners remedy this by carrying the dogs with them wherever they go, at least as long as they’re puppies.

Their spirited nature is in full bloom even as puppies, so don’t be surprised if they challenge you periodically. While it’s important to establish yourself as the boss, you should also realize the dog will stand up to you every now and then, no matter what you do. We say this not to discourage you from bringing home a Schipperke, but rather to let you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Many owners buy one of these dogs because they’re adorable, but they don’t realize what a challenge raising them will be. That sets up a bad situation for dogs and owners alike. As long as you know what to expect, you can have a grand time with these pups, but if you’re expecting a dog that mindlessly does whatever you tell it to, you might be in for a rude awakening.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Schipperke

1. The Size and Shape of Their Tails Varies Widely

You’ll almost always see Schipperkes with short, stubby tails. This is partially due to the fact that many breeders dock their tails at birth, at least in the United States and Canada.

However, even in countries where docking is banned, you’ll see Schipperkes with naturally stumpy tails. This is because the breed has a genetic mutation that causes a bobtail.

That doesn’t mean that their tails are of uniform shape or length, though. Some have longer tails, others have tails that are curled, and many more are in the middle. You won’t know what kind of tail your Schipperke will have until you wait for it to grow up and show you.

2. Their Nickname Is “The Little Black Devil”

Schipperkes are many things but reserved is not one of them. These little dogs are capable of causing big-time trouble, and they’re constantly in motion.

Many people have compared them to Tasmanian Devils, a comparison that’s apt both for their appearance and personalities. They’re curious, confident, and absolutely fearless, and they’re often the cause of any commotion.

3. They Used to Be Quite Popular With Barge Owners

In the 19th century, you’d often see these dogs on barges that traveled the Belgian canals. Owners liked having them on board because they were fantastic at killing rats, not to mention wonderful companions.

They don’t travel on barges much anymore, but they’re still great at hunting vermin — and they’re still fun to be around.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Schipperke 🧠

Schipperkes aren’t demure, obedient little dogs. They can be trained to follow orders, to be sure, but they have a strong opinion on how things should be done, and they’re not afraid to share that opinion with you.

That’s not to say that they’re mean-spirited, far from it. These dogs love to play, and they can spend an entire afternoon horsing around with you.

They’re wary of strangers, although you can mitigate this by socializing them as pups. They’ll always prefer the company of their family, though.

Schipperkes are one of the smartest dog breeds on the planet, but more than that, they’re clever. They’re always figuring out ways to sidestep rules or start trouble. This makes them natural escape artists, so be careful about leaving them alone outside.

Their intelligence makes it easy for them to pick up on new commands, but their bullheadedness makes it unlikely they’ll go along with them just because you said so. As a result, training can sometimes be a pain.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Schipperkes can make excellent family pets. They especially adore children, as kids are often as fixated on playing 24/7 as they are.

Even better, their small stature makes them the perfect size for little ones. They aren’t huge and intimidating, nor will they accidentally knock your kids over while roughhousing.

You’ll need to get the whole family involved in raising them too, as they get bored easily and demand constant attention.

They can also do well with older owners and single people, but you have to be prepared to spend a big portion of your day exercising them. It’s probably for the best if they can accompany you wherever you go as well.

They’re small enough to do well in apartments, but again, you’ll need to get them outside where they can run around for at least an hour or so a day. Just don’t let them off-leash in an uncontained area, or you may never see them again.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Given the fact that they’re constantly in search of playmates that can keep up with them, Schipperkes usually view other dogs as friends rather than foes. They’ll play with dogs several times their size without backing down, seemingly on the assumption that they’re every bit as big as their counterpart.

However, Schipperkes can be prone to resource guarding, so be careful about leaving toys or food out. Also, they may consider you their most valuable resource and may challenge other dogs for your attention.

They do well with cats if they’re raised with them. However, they have strong prey drives and may chase any animals smaller than they are. They’re probably not a good mix with gerbils, ferrets, or the like.

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Things to Know When Owning a Schipperke

Schipperkes are great dogs, but they’re not always easy to own. If you’re considering adding one to the family, there are a few things you should know about them first.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

These are small dogs and they don’t need to eat much. Be very careful not to overfeed them, as obesity is terrible for them. It also doesn’t take much to fatten them up.

We recommend feeding them a high-protein food, as this will help fuel their energy all day long. Avoid foods with ingredients like wheat, corn, or soy, as these are filled with empty calories without adding much in the way of nutrition.

Only feed them as much as the kibble manufacturer recommends, and don’t let them free-feed. Be careful about going overboard with scraps and treats too.

Speaking of scraps and treats, you may need to hide them, as these dogs are excellent at ferreting out contraband. However, you can take advantage of their natural scrounging instincts by hiding food around the house and letting them find it.

Many small dog owners choose to feed their pets wet food in addition to dry kibble. You can do this, but only in moderation, as wet food is extremely calorie dense. There’s really no reason to give them wet food either, unless they’re not getting enough moisture or refusing to eat their dry food.

Exercise 🐕

These dogs are little dynamos, and as such, they’ll need quite a bit of exercise. At minimum, they’ll need an hour of moderate activity per day, but they’ll take as much as you can give them.

The good news is that because they’re so small, you may not have to work as hard to exercise them as you would a larger dog. A lengthy walk may be all you need to tucker them out, or you can throw a ball around a relatively small area.

It’s important to work their brains as much as their bodies. They love to play hide and seek, or you can give them a puzzle toy to keep them occupied. Regular obedience training should be a part of your routine as well.

If you don’t drain their energy levels every day, they’ll use the leftover fuel to get into trouble. This could mean being destructive, but it could also mean any number of other things; they can get quite creative with their mischief.

They can do well with agility training, as they have both the intelligence and the energy for it. They’re also small enough to absorb the impact without doing too much damage to their skeletal system.

Training 🦮

Training these dogs is essential; it can also be quite difficult. They’re headstrong and opinionated, and they may have different ideas of what their training should entail.

Successfully training them requires a firm and consistent hand, but you can’t be harsh or overbearing. They can be quite sensitive, so you need to opt for positive reinforcement over punishments.

If you have trouble training them, you can always consult a professional. Doing so is certainly preferable to letting them run amok.

Surprisingly enough, Schipperkes can make excellent guard dogs; however, they can also bark so much that they get you evicted. It’s important to teach them to only bark when appropriate.

Socialization is also key. If you socialize them as puppies, they’ll be much more likely to accept other people and pets. Otherwise, you could have a temperamental, standoffish dog on your hands.

Grooming ✂️

While they’re not quite hypoallergenic, Schipperkes don’t shed much (with one exception) and require little in the way of grooming. They’re not prone to stinking either, so you should only need to bathe them if they become visibly dirty.

You’ll still need to brush them occasionally, but that’s as much to prevent matting as it is to keep your house clean.

The exception to the shedding rule is when they “blow” their coats. This happens a few times a year, although it happens to females more than males. This involves losing their undercoat, at which time they’ll do an inordinate amount of shedding.

It’s important to brush their teeth regularly and clip their nails as needed. You may be able to skimp on the latter a bit if you let them play outdoors, as that will allow them to file their nails down naturally.

These dogs aren’t necessarily big fans of being groomed, so it’s important to start them off while they’re young. Otherwise, you could have a rodeo on your hands every time they need a little upkeep.

Health Conditions ❤️

Schipperkes are one of the healthiest breeds out there, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have health issues. There are few conditions you should be aware of.

Minor Conditions
  • None
Serious Conditions
  • Patellar luxation
  • Legg-Perthes syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Sanfilippo syndrome

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Male vs Female

Males tend to be a bit bigger than females, but that difference is barely worth noting. It’s usually an inch or two and a couple of pounds.

They’re similar in terms of temperament too. However, females tend to mature a bit more quickly, which may make them easier to train. Again, though, the difference is negligible.

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Final Thoughts

Schipperkes are little dogs with outsized personalities. They are fun-loving and affectionate, but they can also be quite a handful when they want to be.

They’re extremely energetic, and training them can be difficult, as they’re incredibly smart and equally opinionated. As such, they may not be ideal pets for first-time owners.

If you have the energy and patience to put up with them, though, you’ll have a tiny pup that can fill up your life in a big way. Just don’t let them get confused as to which one of you is in charge.

See also:

Featured Image: Al_Er, Shutterstock

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