Canine Breed Spotlight: Schipperke

The Schipperke!

Dog breed group: Non-sporting/companion

Average life expectancy: 13 – 15 years



The Schipperke originated in Belgium in the early 16th century. There was a breed of black sheepdog called a Leauvenaar, which is believed to be the foundation dog for both the Belgian Sheepdog and the Schipperke. The Belgian was developed to be a herding dog, where as the Schipperke was developed into a small watch dog. These smaller dogs were often used guard boats in the Belgium canals.  Schipperkes made their way to North America in 1888.



The Schipperke is an active, fun loving, independent breed. They have the mindset of “big dog in a little dog’s body”, as they are very confident, fearless and curious. They need proper training and socialization, or else they may become headstrong and nippy to people and other animals around them. They do well in all kinds of housing- apartments, houses or acreages with fenced areas. They do need daily exercise, but because of their small size 30-60 minutes of exercise sufficient.

Is this breed right for you?

  • Schipperkes can be very stubborn and strong willed. They need an experienced owner that can be their pack-leader. Their stubbornness can lead to troubles with house training, so persistence and consistency is key when training a Schipperke.
  • The can be very suspicious of people that they don’t know. This makes them excellent watch dogs, but they may not be a good breed for you if you have people coming and going out of your place a lot. They also bark a lot because of this personality trait.
  • Be aware that Schipperkes have strong chasing instincts. If you have other pets, especially small ones in the house make sure to watch your Schipperke around them until a bond is formed.

Health concerns:

Both pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs have varying incidences of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Here are some health concerns that are more commonly seen in small breed dogs like the Schipperke.

Hypothyroidism is a common health concern in Schipperkes, it had been noted that up to 14% of Schipperkes have low thyroid levels.

Eye concerns such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) can be a concern in this breed. This is a genetic disease that causes the retina to degenerate in both eyes, leading to progressive vision loss and ultimately blindness.

Schipperkes, like other small dogs can be prone to luxating patelllas (loose knee caps). Patellar luxation is a condition in which the kneecap (patella) slides out of its normal place. If this occurs in your pet, depending on the severity, surgical correction may be needed.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease occurs when there is spontaneous degeneration of the head on the femur bone, leading to the disintegration of the hip joint. While this disease is not limited to the Schipperke, it does have a higher occurrence in small breed dogs.