Schipperke

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Introduction


The Schipperke is among the smallest of the Spitz-type breeds being native to both Belgium and the Netherlands where they have always been highly prized "canal dogs" because they were so skilled at guarding barges. They are not so well known in other parts of the world even though they are known to be affectionate and loyal companions and family pets. With this said, their breed numbers are slowly rising with more people becoming aware of these charming and devoted little dogs. With this said, anyone wishing to share their home with a Schipperke would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list for the pleasure of doing so.


History


The Schipperke is an old breed and one that was developed in Belgium and the Netherlands where they have always been used to guard barges and canal boats, a job these little dogs proved to be excellent at. They were also very popular with Flemish cobblers who would parade their dogs on Sundays and they were exhibited at a “one-breed” speciality show in 1690 when the shoe-makers guild organised an event that was held in Brussels’ Grand Place.



The breed is thought to be a descendant of a Leauvenaar, a black sheepdog which is the same foundation breed for the Belgian Sheepdog. However, the Schipperke was bred to be a small guard dog unlike their Belgian Sheepdog cousins.  They were originally called Spitske or Spits, but were given their new name Schipperke when a breed club was established back in 1888. Translated, Schipperke means "little captain" or "little shepherd".



The breed first gained popularity when Queen Marie Henriette took a fancy to one of these charming dogs when they were being exhibited at a dog show held in Brussels in 1885. Three years later, the breed was imported to the United States and in 1929 a breed club was founded over there. The first breed standard was drawn up in 1859 and thirty years or so later, the Schipperke was officially recognised as a breed in its own right. During the Second World War, these charming and unusual dogs were often used by the resistance to carry messages between underground bases and hideouts without the Nazis knowing about it. Later, a Schipperke was featured in one of Beatrix Potter's stories "The Pie and the Patty Pan".



Today, although not as widely popular as other breeds, the Schipperke has earned the reputation of being a highly intelligent, affectionate and loyal companion. However, anyone wishing to share their homes with one of these fascinating little dogs would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list for the pleasure of doing so.


Appearance


Height at the withers: Males 28 - 33 cm, Females 25 - 30 cm



Average weight: Males 3 - 9 kg, Females 3 - 9 kg



The Schipperke is a small, energetic and cobby looking dog and one that boasts having a bit of a foxy look about them. They are always alert and ready to let people know when there are strangers about which is why they have always been so highly prized as watchdogs. They have quite broad, flat skulls without a prominent stop. Their muzzles are moderately long and fine being nicely filled under a dog's eyes. Noses are small and black in colour and their eyes are a dark brown being more oval in shape than round. The Schipperke always has a bright and very expressive look about their eyes.



They have moderately long ears which are not that broad at the base, but they taper to a point at the tips. Dogs carry their ears very erect. The Schipperke has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are full, strong and slightly arched being a bit on the short side and set well into a dog's shoulders. Front legs are straight being well under a dog's body and showing a good amount of bone in proportion to the rest of their bodies.



Their chests are deep and broad with dogs having straight, strong, short backs and powerful loins. Their hindquarters are lighter than their forequarters and their back legs are muscular boasting well developed thighs. Rumps are nicely rounded and their feet are very cat-like being small with dogs standing well up on their toes. Tails are held tightly curled over the back and are well covered in hair. Some dogs are born without tails which is natural.



When it comes to their coat, the Schipperke boasts having a profuse, harsh, dense coat with the hair on their heads, ears and legs being smoother than on the rest of their bodies. Their coats are close lying on their backs and sides of their bodies, but thicker and standing more erect around a dog's neck which forms a distinct frill and mane. Schipperkes have "culottes" on the back of their thighs on their back legs. The accepted breed colours are as follows:




  • Black

  • Other solid colours are allowed under the KC breed standard


Temperament


The Schipperke is a smart little dog and one that forms very strong ties with their owners. They thrive on being in a family environment and will protect their owners with vigour if they ever feel they are being threatened. They are courageous, devoted little dogs that love to know what is going on around them which is just one of the reasons they have always been such popular watch dogs.



They are energetic characters by nature and need to be kept busy, but once tired a Schipperke is just as happy to relax and chill out on a sofa with their owner. They do not like being left on their own for long periods of time and are best suited to families where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out. They are not the best choice for first time owners, but are a great choice for people who are familiar with the specific needs of this type of high energy, intelligent dog.



They never really grow up until they are around 4 or 5 years old, remaining very "puppy-like" right up until then. They are very outgoing and confident as well as being extremely inquisitive by nature which often sees them finding ways to open doors. They can be a little strong willed at times which can make training them a bit of a challenge. They are also very suspicious and wary of people they don't know, but rarely would a Schipperke show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance and letting their owners know there are people about. However, if they ever feel threatened in any way, a Schipperke would not think twice about taking someone on, regardless of their size.



It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Schipperke is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.


Intelligence / Trainability


The Schipperke is a smart dog and a fast learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. Their training has to begin early bearing in mind that these clever little dogs can be a little stubborn and mischievous at times. Their training also has to be consistent and always fair throughout a dog’s life so they understand what their owner expects of them.



The key to successfully training a Schipperke is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions short which helps dogs stay more focussed on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored and these little black dogs are extremely smart.



They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved.


Children and Other Pets


Schipperkes are known to be good around children thanks to their kind albeit lively natures. However, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over and hurt, albeit by accident. They can be a little wary of children they don't already know which means care has to be taken when the kids have any friends over to play.



When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet, but care has to be taken if any dogs come into their environment because Schipperkes tend to be extremely territorial.  If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Schipperke would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets as such any contact is best avoided.


Health


The average life expectancy of a Schipperke is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.



The Schipperke is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:




Caring for a Schipperke


As with any other breed, Schipperkes need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Grooming


The Schipperke boasts having a profuse double coat that consists of straight, slightly coarse hair and a much softer, denser undercoat. However, they are low maintenance on the grooming front because all it takes is a weekly brush to keep their coats in good condition.



They shed throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and loose hair from a dog's coat. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.


Exercise


The Schipperke is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need to be given anything from 40 to 60-minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Schipperke would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.



A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble, bearing in mind that these energetic little dogs are known to be extremely good escape artists loving nothing more than to dig.



With this said, Schipperke puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.


Feeding


If you get a Schipperke puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.



Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.


Average Cost to keep/care for a Schipperke


If you are looking to buy a Schipperke, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £400 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.



The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Schipperke in northern England would be £19.02 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of August 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.



When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Schipperke and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.



As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Schipperke would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred puppy.


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