Schipperke Breed Information
Alternative names - Spitzke (until 1888), Spits(until 1888), Spitske(until 1888)
Country of origin - Belgium
Classification and breed standards
FCI:|Group 1 Section 1 #083|Stds
ANKC:|Group 7 (Non-sporting)|Stds
CKC:|Group 6 (Non-sporting)|Stds
A Schipperke (pronounced skipper-kee) is a small Belgian breed of dog that originated in the early 16th century. There has been a long debate over whether this type of dog is a terrier, spitz or miniature sheepdog.
Schipperkes are most commonly all black, which is the only accepted color for show dogs in the United States and members of the Federation Cynologique Internationale. However, other colors are accepted in some countries. They have small and pointed ears that sit atop the head. Schipperkes are also double coated with a soft, fluffy undercoat that is covered by a harsher-feeling outer coat. One of the breed characteristics is a long ruff that surrounds the neck and then trails down towards the rear of the dog. They usually do not weigh more than 18 lbs. Schipperkes are NOT born without tails. In Canada and the United States they are docked shortly after birth. Other countries that have docking bans are finding their undocked Schipperkes have tails that curve over the back of the dog in a spitz-like fashion.
Schipperkes were first formed as a breed in the 1880s, their standard being written in 1889. Much of what is known of their origins and early history comes from Chasse et PÍche (French for "Hunting and Fishing") magazine, articles of which were translated into English and published by the English magazine The Stockkeeper.
The breed name of "Schipperke," officially taken in 1888, is traditionally thought to mean "little captain". Beginning in the 1920s, however, it became popular in Belgium to believe that the name was actually a corruption of the Flemish word "Shapocke" or "Scheperke", meaning "little shepherd". It has been suggested that the idea of "little captain" was an invention of the English, who mistook the Schipperke for a Dutch barge dog.
Before the name "Schipperke" was officially taken, the breed was also known colloquially as "Spitzke". It is thought that the name change was to distinguish it from the German Spitz.
Correctly or not, Schipperkes are widely known as "Belgian barge dogs." Some reports say they were found frequently as working dogs aboard barges in the canals of Belgium, with three jobs onboard: security (barking vigorously when anyone approached the barge), keeping the barges free of vermin, and nipping at the towing horses' heels to get them moving to tow the barge. To this day, Schipperkes are known as excellent boat dogs and are often found cruising the world aboard sailing yachts and powerboats. They are not prone to seasickness.
"Schipperke" is actually Flemish for "little captain". The English term Skipper for Captain is derived from this Flemish word.
A Schipperke is an all-around dog: it has strong herding, hunting, and watching instincts. They are fearless and independent, smart and willful. They are a high-energy dog with an intense curiosity about everything and therefore require a great deal of attention and stimulation. Consistent, positive training is a must or life can become a contest of wills. Schipperkes, like many small breeds, seem not to realize that they are small dogs and behave as if they are much larger than they actually are. They are often quoted as being a "90-pound dog in a 9-pound body." They also have the nickname little nurse and can be quiet bedside companions to a sick family member. If socialized as a young dog, it also is very friendly to others. Another nickname for them is Townhouse German Shepherd. On dog intelligence the Schipperke ranks 80 out of 80. They love to please their owner and are good for obedience and agility training.
The Schipperke has no particular health problems, and individuals often reach the old age of 17 or 18 years. Nonetheless, inactivity, lack of exercise and over-feeding are very harmful, and can lead to joint and skeleton problems and heart, lung or digestive conditions.
The one minor caveat to the Schipperke's good health is MPS IIIB, a genetic mutation that occurs in at most 15% of the total breed population. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has developed a test for the disease and began accepting samples in April 2003. Their website at http://w3.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers/penngen/faq/mps3b.html has more specifics. If you seek to acquire a Schipperke be sure to ask the breeder if they have tested for the condition. A large effort is underway by many responsible breeders to eliminate this fatal and debilitating disease from the population.
The Schipperke does not need expensive or excessive grooming, however it should be known that this breed is a shedder. Regular weekly brushing is usually enough to keep the black coat in good condition. There is no need for cutting or trimming and the mane fluffs up naturally.
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