Dog Breed 101: All about Schipperke Dogs AKA Little Black Devils

Last Updated on April 23, 2023

Schipperkes, pronounced as /SKI-pr-kees/, are energetic, black dogs built for hard hunting work.

This small dog breed that’s commonly known as Little Black Devils also goes by many names. Others call them the Schipps, Spitske, or Spits.

Three happy Schipperke standing outdoors
Adorable Schipperkes standing on a rocky dirt floor

Let’s get to know more about the dog who loves the boat and the water, from training to care tips and more in this article.

Origin: A dog breed from the Medieval Times

The exact breeding ancestry of Schipperke dogs is ambiguous. However, we do know they first originated in medieval Belgium around the 5th and 15th centuries.

Some stories theorize Schipperkes were bred as smaller versions of the black sheepdog, also known as the Leauvenaar, the ancestral breed of the Belgian sheepdog or Groenendal.

Unlike the Groenendal, which is a herding breed, the Schipps are developed to become small watchdogs and avid ratters (rat hunters).

These little black devils were common fixtures on Belgian dockyards and barges for hunting vermin.

The Schipps worked as exterminators for shoemakers and as ratters aboard ships on the canals in the Low Countries, which include Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

The breed’s name, in fact, comes from tradesmen, shopkeepers, and sailors in Brussels and Antwerp, who referred to the breed as Schipperke or “little captain” in Flemish.

In 1690, as part of the shoemakers’ guild, owners presented their Schipperkes and their hammered brass collars as part of Belgium’s local custom.

In 1885, Queen Marie-Henriette of Belgium discovered the breed at a dog show and adopted a Schipp for herself.

The breed then made its way to America by 1888. The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted the breed in 1904 as part of the non-sporting family of working dog breeds.

What does a Schipperke look like?

This small and stocky black dog with a fox-like face has a square profile, a little round head, a small black nose, and pointy ears. Meanwhile, its dark brown eyes are alert and curious but never wild.

The Schipperke’s neck is somewhat arched, while the topline and body are level and sloping at the shoulders.

The forequarters are laid back and well placed under the body, while the hindquarters are muscular with let-down hocks.

Most Schipperkes in pet stores are tailless, but these dogs are not natural bobtails.

However, their tails are docked at birth as part of a long-standing tradition of tail-docking to prevent hunting dogs from getting injured in the field.

Some breeders dock tails for cosmetic reasons. Others do this to curb the threat of rabies and to help strengthen dogs’ backs.

If you want to see a Schipperke show dog in action, check out the video below:

How big is a Schipperke?

Fully grown males stand 11-13 inches tall (28-33 cm), while females are a little smaller at 10-12 inches (25-30 cm). These dogs weigh 10-16 pounds (4-7 kg) and reach their full size between 6-8 months of age.

The breed’s average height and weight puts them in the Toy Breed category, with a few individuals exceeding the criteria, putting them amongst Small Breed dogs.

Their size alone makes Schipps excellent apartment pets if appropriately trained. But more on this later.

Coat & Color: Can Schipperkes be white?

Schipperke wearing adorable outfit while laying on the grass
Source: @naposhima / IG

The standard color for Schipps is natural black according to the breed standard.

However, they can also come in different coat colors like apricot, black and tan, blue, chocolate, cream, white, fawn, red, and gray.

Some Schipperkes also have white flecked markings.

Regardless of color, the Schipperkes have abundant medium-length, straight double coats that include a cape, stand-out ruff, and culottes.

The overcoat is slightly harsh to the touch, while the undercoat is soft.

The feisty Little Devil with a big heart

Sweet, devoted, and goofy to their humans, LBDs make great family dogs. These little rascals are eager to please and would thrive if you involved them in your activities.

Raising them with your children shouldn’t be a problem either, but adult supervision is still necessary. In general, this breed adores kids of all ages.

If you have other pets, you should know that LBDs have a high prey drive and will chase small animals like mice, squirrels, or other vermin that will dare invade their space.

So having them in a home with hamsters or guinea pigs isn’t a good idea.

Thankfully, Schipperkes can adapt to living with cats if they grow up together. They can live with other dogs, too, as long as they receive socialization from an early age.

Schipperke sitting with a tabby cat
Source: @sherlock_schipperke / IG

If not socialized and trained early and properly, these dogs can become aggressive when threatened.

Do Schipperke dogs bark a lot?

Alert and territorial, the Schipps are prone to barking, either to warn you of perceived threat or just for fun.

But match it with their protective nature that makes them suspicious of strangers, they make excellent watchdogs. Not as guard dogs, though, because they’re too small.

You may want to teach your fido to minimize the barks or become more friendly. But most intelligent canines like the Schipp aren’t easy to train because of their willful nature.

They’ll often do what they want if they can’t see any immediate reward around the corner. Training your dog requires loads of tasty treats and a firm hand.

The same goes for potty training Schipperke puppies — dedication and consistency are key.

Owners and breeders recommend crate training for Schipperkes to keep them safe when home alone.

It trains them not to relieve themselves in their crates when they can’t get outside. You can also stuff the crate with toys to keep your pet entertained in your absence.

With enough physical and mental stimulation, these canines can also tolerate being left alone for long periods or about 5-6 hours without worrying about them suffering from separation anxiety.

Are Schipps high-maintenance pets?

Depending on your circumstances, you can consider the Schipperke a moderate-to-high maintenance canine.

While Schipps require little in the way of grooming and exercise, they may need an experienced trainer and a lot of time investment when they’re puppies.

These dogs can handle hot and cold weather conditions, but nothing too extreme on either side.

How much exercise do Schipps need?

Schipperkes are busy little dogs, so a 30-minute of exercise per day should suffice. But this doesn’t mean that they will turn down a good amount of playtime.

They need to burn off their high levels of energy, though nothing too intense. A brisk walk around a fenced yard or a playful game of fetch is good enough.

a Schipperke jumping while doing a course training
An active Schipperke doing the agility training

Because of their playfulness and quick response, the Schipperkes will do well in plenty of competitions and dog sports like conformation, obedience, agility, rally, and tracking.

Grooming: Do Schipperke dogs shed?

This purebred may not be hypoallergenic, but it has a low-shedding coat that’s easy to care for with weekly brushing or combing.

During the shedding season, frequent grooming is required to control the amount of fur inside your home.

You can bathe Schipperkes once a month to keep their coats healthy. Some owners only wash their Schipps when necessary, like when they get extra muddy or wet from running around outdoors.

Schipperke puppies are pretty clean and don’t generally have a foul odor either. Another great pro of owning these dogs is their low tendency to drool. If you’re not a fan of sloppy kisses, this may be the breed for you.

Overall, Schipps are relatively easy to groom as you don’t have to trim them or send them to a professional groomer, allowing you to save on the long-term costs of ownership.

How to feed a Schipperke 

Schipperke dogs would usually need around 1 ⅛ to 1 ⅞ cups of high-quality dog food for small dogs.

You can split a Schipp puppy’s food into three or four meals per day. Meanwhile, adult Schipps can split their daily food into two meals.

What health problems do Schipperkes have?

The Schipperke is a generally healthy dog breed with an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, but some reach 15 years of age.

But as with all pets, especially purebreds, they can suffer from hereditary illnesses like MPS IIIB or Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IIIB.

a Schipperke biting a bunny toy while wearing a dog cone
Source: @laivakoiratkeelanomi / IG

Also known as Sanfilippo syndrome B, the MPS IIIB is a lysosomal storage disease (LSD). Lysosomes are membrane-bound cells filled with digestive enzymes, which help disassemble food molecules.

It disrupts the digestive process, making the body unable to break down large sugar molecules.

Symptoms include tremors, difficulty walking, trouble balancing, and trouble negotiating obstacles. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for MPS IIIB. 

LBDs can also suffer from the following health issues:

  • Patellar Luxation
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Thyroid problems
    • Hypothyroidism
  • Epilepsy
  • Eye problems
    • Cataracts 
    • Entropion
    • Distichiasis
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
    • Canine Multifocal Retinopathy
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis 
  • Polyneuropathy

It’s important to schedule regular health screenings and occasional tests for any pet, especially for purebred dogs, since they are more prone to hereditary conditions.

It’s best to know early on if your dog has hip problems or conditions like Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

Your breeder can also provide a DNA clearance of your Schipp’s parents, which will rule out MPS IIIB.

For patellar luxation and thyroid problems, ask your veterinarian about getting your Schipp a patella and thyroid evaluation.

Your vet can set up an appointment and run an Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test.

For an eye or ophthalmologist evaluation, ask your vet for a CERF test given by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

Of course, dog ownership also requires regular visits to the vet for routine checkups, parasite control, and neutering.

How much does a Schipperke puppy cost?

a Schipperke puppy laying down
A portrait of an adorable Schipperke puppy

Schipps are born in litters of 2-7 puppies, and each pup has an average price of $700.

Some can cost thousands of dollars depending on their pedigree, gender, the popularity and location of the kennel, as well as availability.

Pet stores and puppy mills sell them, but these businesses are often more focused on profit than ethical breeding standards.

If you want a Schipp who’s been well looked after, stick to reputable and registered breeders.

Before adopting a Schipperke, remember that this once-off cost isn’t the only financial obligation that comes with ownership. 

Feeding your little black devil high-quality dog food will cost upwards of $90 a month. That puts you at over $1000 per year. Then there is the cost of supplies and toys, which you also need to replace over time.

Health screenings and trips to the vet should be added to your budget. But, you can expect to pay a minimum of $500 for neutering and de-worming if the dog is a puppy.

Nonetheless, these expenses will depend on the individual dog, its lifestyle, and health.

Where to find Schipperke breeders

You can buy a Schipperke from registered breeders on the AKC marketplace. The Schipperke Club of America has a list of breeders within the U.S. that you can reach out to.

Download the Breeder Directory and contact individual breeders to find out about available puppies they have for sale.

For those in the United Kingdom, you can head to the Schipperke Club U.K. website.

When choosing a Schipperke breeder, be sure to ask a lot of questions and request the official breed certification papers.

Aside from this, you also want to know that your breeder is invested in their dogs’ health and well-being.

Remember to ask for the dog’s health screening results, as well. It’s best to prepare for any medical expenses you could incur down the line if your Schipp has a hereditary or chronic condition.

Schipperke rescue dogs for adoption

Many people choose to adopt than shop from shelters and rescue organizations.

These dogs deserve a loving home, too. If you’re looking to find your new best friend, you can check out the breed clubs and rescue organizations listed below. 

  1. (Lancaster, PA)
  2. Midwest Schipperke Rescue (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
  3. Recycled Pomeranians and Schipperkes (Dallas, TX)
  4. Schipperke Rescue (Watkinsville, GA)

Curious about Schipperke mixes?

These dogs bear some of the lovable characteristics of Schipps and can make great companions.

You’ll also be able to get the best of both breeds that you want in one pooch! Here are some adorable Schipperke crossbreeds that are totally adorable.

Schipperke Pomeranian mix (AKA Schip-A-Pom)

a brown Schip-A-Pom laying comfortably on a chair
Source: @adognamed.stormi / IG

Also called Pomerke, this designer dog is a cross between the Schipperke and the Pomeranian.

Schip-A-Poms are happy, affectionate canines who love to destroy their toys. They are also hard to train when not in the mood.

Other than being a mix of two mischievous and inquisitive breeds, they’ll also require more commitment in terms of grooming.

Schipperke Labrador mix (AKA Schipperke Retriever)

a Schipperke Retriever puppy looking up

With plenty of hair from its parents, the Lab-Schipperke mix sheds a lot.

With their temperament, combining the friendliness of the Labrador and the feistiness of the Schippe makes its guard dog abilities uncertain.

Schipperke Chihuahua mix (AKA Schiphuahua)

a Schiphuahua wearing a plaid dog harness while laying on a chair
Source: @terra_of_temescal / IG

The hybrid offspring of the Schipperke and Chihuahua is an affectionate housemate who loves to play.

With two tiny parents, it can be as tiny as 6 pounds (3 kg). Unfortunately, some of them inherit medical conditions like muzzle defects.

Schipperke Corgi mix (AKA Corgischip)

a Corgiship laying on a soft cushion
Source: @406_suzi_ifbb_pro / IG

Schipperke & Corgi mixes are playful, active dogs with adorable short legs of the Corgi. Other than being cute, they’re affectionate towards their human family, including children.

Who should get a Schipperke?

a Schipperke smiling on a flower field
A beautiful portrait of a Schipperke with pink flowers

Schipperkes are NOT ideal pets for first-time dog owners. While they have minimal grooming needs, they can be quite demanding and high maintenance in their early years.

They also need a dedicated training regime. Without it, they can grow up like a dog who barks constantly and doesn’t follow orders. They can be quite challenging.

These are cute little creatures perfect for an apartment setting or a small house. It’s also a bonus not having to worry about your Schipp being too sensitive to weather changes.

Another advantage of having such a small dog is that they are cheaper to feed than larger dogs. Schipps also require minimal exercise, so these dogs are a great choice if you have a busy lifestyle.

Minimal shedding with Schipps is also ideal if you don’t have a lot of time to clean up stray dog hairs.

Another con is the challenge of training and housebreaking Schipperkes. If you’re used to more obedient pets, you may have a hard time training the Schipp, which can be frustrating.

While they make good apartment dogs, Schipperkes’ high tendency to bark can also be a huge obstacle for some since there are neighbors to consider.

This little puppy may start barking in the early hours of the morning while he’s in his early months.

If you have a story about owning a Schipperke or some information you’d like to share about the breed, please leave a message for us in the comments below.

Similar breeds to the Schipperke


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