Little Black Devil. This is the nickname given to these little balls of mischief. The Schipperke (pronounced skip-er-kee) is our featured breed this week, in part because the Schipperke is the favorite breed of my grandmother, although the one she has now (Nanu) is a mix of Schipperke and Pomeranian (and man is he a whirlwind of trouble!).
Before the Schipperke became officially known as the Schipperke, it was called Spits or Spitzke, names often used to describe a little dog with pointed ears. Interestingly enough, there is an informal debate among Schipperke officionados as to whether the Schipperke is a spitz or a miniature shepherd. In the country of their origin, Belgium, they are known as a miniature shepherd. In the USA they are also known as Belgian barge dogs or Belgian ship dogs. However, these names are misleading. Although Schipperkes have been used as ship dogs to hunt vermin, they are actually descendants of the black shepherd dog, also known as the Leuvenaar. This breed of dog was used to guard flocks of goats or sheep. The Leuvenaar is, many believe, the original ancestor of both the Schipperke and the Black Belgian Shepherd Dog, which is also known as the Groenendael (pronounced groo-nun-dahl).
Though the Schipperke’s fur is short, it is double coated. This means there is a softer undercoat and a tougher, often rougher outer coat. They require brushing at least once a week if one wants to prevent regular, moderate shedding around the house. They also tend to “blow” their undercoat 2 to several times a year, females typically more often than males. This is a time in which they completely lose their undercoat and it can take up to 3 months to grow back. A purebred Schipperke’s coat should be either black or blonde, though blonde tends to be more rare.
The Schipperke is a high-energy dog and needs a fair amount of exercise, which is why many are given jobs today as search and rescue dogs, drug and bomb dogs, and hearing service dogs. Many Schipperke owners will, therefore, teach their dogs to compete in agility, obedience, and other dog sports where they can excel.
Family Schipperkes will often occupy their time with hunting for squirrels, mice, voles, and other vermin while outdoors, but will still need fun and engaging playtime and walks to burn off their excess energy. Without these activities, these little devils can become obnoxious with excessive barking, and/or destructive in their self-decided playtime activities.
Given their naturally intelligent and curious nature, not to mention their penchant for mischief and chasing squirrels, the Schipperke will need to have a secure fence and be kept on a leash for their walks. Without these precautions, the Schipperke can very easily get himself into trouble as he/she searches for something new to explore as they are notoriously oblivious to cars and other dangers. Early socialization is highly recommended for this breed of dog as they can be territorial even with socialization and may or may not get along with dogs they don’t know. Even so, they are adorable, humorous, loyal, protective, and feisty dogs with enough personality for 2 (or more!) dogs.
If you are interested in adopting or purchasing this breed of dog, please do your research and know what you’re getting into. These dogs can be a handful and are not recommended for first-time dog owners!
Fun Fact: The Schipperke was used during WWII by the Belgian Resistance to run messages between various hideouts with the Nazis none the wiser!
Do you or have you owned a Schipperke? Tell us about him/her in the comments below! I would love to hear about your experiences with this breed of dog!
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