Besides where we got the dogs – Cricket & Black Magic, we have been asked, “What’s a Schipperke?” Schips, as they are affectionately known, are not directly related to any other living breed of dog, and much about them has a different look that draws attention. Contrary to some comparisons that are made, they are not related to spitz breeds or pomeranians, nor are they a smaller version of the Belgian shepherd.
Schipperke heritage goes back hundreds of years, to the 15th century, to a northern Belgian herding dog called the Leuvenaar. The Belgian shepherd, Keeshond, and the Schipperke are said to be descendants of the Leuvenaar, but the division of the descendant breeds came early. The larger dogs, the Belgian shepherds & Keeshonds, where used primarily for herding flocks. The smaller, highly alert dog that became the Schipperke, was used for ratting, guarding the family, and anything else this bright little dog could be taught. The Schipperke still has herding instincts, and in spite of their diminutive size, can herd sheep or horses.
Schipperkes are constantly alert, active, inquisitive, and on the go. They are currently known for being guardians of Dutch industrial barges, and also for being companions and guardians aboard boats. Schipperke is often said to mean “little skipper”, although the name has Flemish/Dutch origins that could mean “little shepherd.”
Schipperkes are distinctive because they don’t look like any other dog. They aren’t, and don’t look like a miniature, in spite of their small size (11″- 14″ high). They are squarely built with exceptional strength and a broad, “cobby”, chest. They are distinguished from a shepherd dog, which has a long pointed head, and the “vulpine” (fox-like) head of the pomeranian. Schipperkes have a larger, square skull, pointed ears, and “lupine” (wolf-like) head proportions. The wolf-like appearance of these totally black little dogs is rumored to have so startled a monk when he met one on a forest road, that their nickname “the little devil” resulted. Their natural antics contribute to keeping this nickname.
It is said of the Schipperke that he is “the little Big Dog” rather than the “big little dog.” They think of themselves as big dogs and are extremely bold and fearless. “When comparing the appearance of the Schipperke with toy or companion-dog breeds, we see its anatomical features are completely normal and without the slightest physical anomalies or signs of “dwarfism.” Schipperkes are strong, especially agile and quick, and tireless. They can easily cover 12 miles a day of non-stop activity.
Schipperkes are awesome dogs, but not for everyone. Besides exercise, they need mental activity, and lots of both. They are devoted to their family, but need socialization and tasks to do. Otherwise, they can develop bad habits that are a sign of frustration for the dog, and a definite problem for owners that don’t understand and can provide for their needs.
Schipperkes are particularly intelligent dogs, and can be taught to do most anything. They are also long lived, and can live to be ~20 years old. So if are fortunate to acquire one or two, such as Cricket and Black Magic, be prepared to supply hours of your every day toward caring for them, and to have the best of devoted companions for a long time.