Meet the breed: Schipperke

Mar 18, 2014 at 2:54 p.m. ET

Choosing to add a furry friend to your growing household is a long-term commitment, and picking a breed that fits your lifestyle presents the key to a happy home. With over 160 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds, that decision can seem overwhelming. We're here to help you meet the breed that's right for you. If you're looking for a loyal and devoted companion to bring into your family, learn everything you need to know about the Shipperke.


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Bred to guard canal bridges in Belgium, the Schipperke is lovingly nicknamed "little captain" or "little skipper." Known for being the captain's dog, the breed played a very important role on the ships. Popular in Belgium homes, it became a worldwide-known breed after being seen with Queen Marie Henriette. Coming to the U.S. in the 1900s, the breed has become increasingly popular in American households. Still a great companion on ships and boats, the active breed is a very kind and loving family dog.

Breed standards

  • AKC group: Non-sporting
  • UKC group: Companion
  • Average lifespan: 13 - 15 years
  • Average size: 10 - 16 pounds
  • Coat appearance: Thick and soft
  • Coloration: Black
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Other identifiers: Fox-like look to medium-sized body; wide chest and large, erect ears; small black nose and oval eyes; typically born tailless
  • Possible alterations: Can be tan or fawn in color, although not accepted by the UKC

Is this breed right for you?

Extremely devoted to his master, the Schipperke is an intelligent and active breed. Very loving with children and getting along well with other animals if exposed to them early on, it's likely that the Schipperke will attach himself to his master. Easy to train and a good guard dog, the breed will need proper leadership to avoid behavioral issues. If he believes he's the pack leader, he will act unlike himself with an erratic personality. Likely to bark, he will need to be socialized well. Doing OK with apartment life if properly exercised, the Schipperke does best with a small yard that he can play in. Requiring little grooming, he is an average shedder.

Breed characteristics

A dream day in the life of a Schipperke

Waking up in the bed of his master, the Schipperke will go downstairs to greet the other members of the family with a few licks. Going outside for a quick run around the yard, he'll come back inside for playtime with the kiddos. A great guard dog, he'll bark at any strangers that approach the home. Enjoying a walk in the afternoon, he'll come in and out of the house, taking a small nap and hanging out with the family. After practicing a few tricks, the Schipperke will tuck himself in next to his master for a good snooze.

Other breeds you might like

Tibetan Spaniel
Norwegian Elkhound