What are the 7 crucial pros and cons of getting a Schipperke?
Schipperkes, or the “Little Captains” of Belgium, sport one of the most unique looks of all dog breeds. Small, 100% black, with a lion-like mane, and a fox-like face, the Schipperke hound is courageous, curious, very social, and full of energy. This should make it a fantastic family pet, right? Then why isn’t it more popular? Is it the weird name, the weird look, or something else? Let’s investigate!
What are the key characteristics that make Schipperkes special?
Schipperkes (pronounced “Sheep-er-ker” and not “Skip-er-kee”) are a unique dog breed both in their outer appearance and in character. Their little brown eyes seem full of wonder and that’s indeed how these dogs are on the inside. Untiring explorers, fierce protectors, cunning hunters, and loyal partners in crime – Schipperkes are fantastic family pets, especially for young children.
The reasons for their modest popularity (#114 out of 195 in AKC’s ranking) can be attributed to several factors:
- Their funny appearance. To us and to all Schipperke owners, these dogs are adorable. Some people find their foxy faces weird, however, which is silly but it is what it is.
- Their European descent and strange name. While many European breeds have become quite popular, most others are still niche and are mostly just popular In their own countries. The Schipperke fits this pattern.
- Their over-inquisitive character. Whichever way you slice it, Schipperkes are not normal dogs. Absolute escape artists, these dogs are difficult to keep at home so Schipperke owners need to be aware and prepared for the challenge.
Is this all there is to this breed, however? Not at all - we’ll go over the main points you need to know below.
The 7 things you should know before getting a Schipperke
1. This is an exceptionally curious and investigative breed
To say that Schipperkes are smart would be an understatement. To say that they are too smart for their own good would be closer to the truth. These cute, little hounds are so full of wonder that they just can’t sit still unless they are exhausted from the hours of exploration they’ve already done.
Bred as hounds in Belgium and the Netherlands, Schipperkes used to hunt rats on the barges, ships, dockyards, and streets of Antwerp and Brussels. That’s where their name comes from – “Little Captain” in the local Flemish language.
It’s that hound history, however, that gives Schipperkes their curiosity, investigative nature, and quite literal “street smarts.”
Like other highly intelligent dog breeds, Schipperkes love to play, interact with their humans, and learn new tricks and commands. Unlike other dog breeds, however, Schipperkes don’t just like such games – they need them. Schipperkes are so curious and interested in the world around them that they need lots of mental stimulation all the time.
What does this mean for you?
It means that if you work away from home you’ll have to make sure that your Schipperke pal has something to keep him busy this can be:
- A family member who’s at home when you’re away
- A dog sitter or a dog walker
- Lots and lots of new and interactive dog puzzle toys
- Another dog for your Schipperke to play with
Alternatively, you can just try exhausting your Schipperke with playtime before and after work – good luck with that.
2. Schipperkes are very energetic and playful – great for families with kids
Schipperkes are not just full of curiosity, they are also full of energy. These little, black dynamos can run and play for hours at a time and will always find something “urgent” that needs their attention in the other room.
This is great for people with kids or most ages as they’ll have a very energetic and playful pet to play with. Of course, like all other dogs, a Schipperke would need a bit of training to behave well around small children and a proper introduction with them as well. Once that’s done, however, you can expect your Schipperke to be an excellent pet for your child.
An obvious drawback of the Schipperke’s high energy is that you’d have to give your dog lots of playtime per day, both indoors and outdoors. Two brief walks around the block just won’t do it with this dog.
3. This breed makes for an excellent watchdog
A possibly unexpected characteristic of the Schipperke is that it’s also a great watchdog. This is somewhat atypical for a hound breed but that’s just par for the course with this breed.
What does this mean exactly?
Well, the Schipperke is too small for a guard dog – all the courage in the world can’t compensate for the fact that the average adult Schipperke reaches just around 11-13 inches (
33 cm) and 14-16 pounds (7 kg). However, the Schipperke has the natural instinct to protect its home and family so you can rest assured that you’ll always be alerted of anything and anyone trying to get into your home.
4. Schipperkes get along fine with dogs and cats. Be careful with other pets, however.
While not an explicitly pack dog, the Schipperke gets along very well with other dogs and even with cats. The Schipperke has no inherent “dog aggression” so these dogs don’t mind sharing their home and adventures with other pets.
Of course, proper socialization with other pets is a must – your Schipperke needs to be ok with other animals from the earliest age to avoid any possibility of aggression. Then, it’s also important how you introduce your dog to a new dog or cat – the first meeting is the most important one. If you go through the standard steps, however, your Schipperke will be happy to share your home with any other dog or cat.
When it comes to other pets such as hamsters or birds, that’s when things get iffy. Schipperkes are hunters and they have a very strong prey drive. So, any pet that resembles prey a little too much can trigger your Schipperke’s instincts no matter what you do.
1. Schipperkes have a very strong prey drive – always leash your Schipperke when you’re outside
The Schipperke’s hunting instincts go beyond trying to hunt rodents. Like the much larger and faster sighthound breeds, the Schipperke is always looking for things to chase when outdoors. This can mean anything from cars to leaves flying in the wind.
How is this a problem?
It’s a problem because it’s extraordinarily easy to lose your Schipperke if you’re not keeping him on a leash when you’re outside. Whether it’s in the dog park or just on a quick walk around the block, an off-leash Schipperke can jump to chase anything at any moment. And no matter how much obedience training you’ve gone through, it’s very difficult to order a Schipperke to stop when he starts chasing something.
In short – always leash up your Schipperke outside. The only exception for this is if you’re in a fully-fenced dog park.
2. Containing a Schipperke in even a properly-fenced yard can be a challenge
What’s even more astonishing is the escape artistry of this breed. Even though they are small, Schipperkes are very good climbers and crafty diggers.
Yes indeed. Schipperke dogs are well-known for digging under fences when they can’t climb over them. This makes it complicated for many owners as even if you have a well-fenced yard, it’s still risky to leave your Schipperke there unsupervised – this breed’s curiosity is just too strong for them to stay put.
What you can do is reinforce your yard’s fence and its foundation. Another option to consider is putting your Schipperke on a long but strong leash when the dog’s in the yard – long enough to roam freely but secure enough to prevent an escape. Or, just always make sure that the dog has supervision.
3. Schipperkes aren’t overly trusting of strangers so some socialization is required
While friendly toward other dogs and cats, Schipperkes are distrustful of strangers. This is what makes them good watchdogs, after all. This can be a problem if you want to have people over from time to time or if you live in an apartment building and your Schipperke’s barking is annoying to your neighbors.
A way to alleviate this issue is by socializing your pup from an early age. This will show your Schipperke that strangers are not to be mistrusted and not every visitor or noise outside is worth barking at. Even then a Schipperke won’t be as social as other breeds but at least your pup won’t cause problems when you have guests.
And, of course, doing some no-bark training is a good idea too.
Who are Schipperkes “right” for?
Schipperke dogs are fantastic pets for anyone looking for an energetic and playful but small and manageable dog breed. Schipperkes have near-limitless energy but are small enough to live well in small homes or apartments. Still, small or not, they require lots of outdoor time and exercise so you better love going to the park.
Schipperkes are also fantastic with children and other dogs, so you should definitely consider this breed if you want a pet for your child.
How to prepare for getting a Schipperke?
The first and foremost thing to do before getting a Schipperke is to make sure that your yard is well-secured. If you don’t have a fence – build one. If you have a fence – reinforce it, both at the top and at the bottom.
Aside from that, the rest is easy – basic training techniques work with Schipperkes so just have fun with your little bundle of joy as much as you want!