How do you pronounce it? Most of us call them “SKIPPER-KEES” with emphasis on the “SKIP” part…or we just call them “SKIPS.”
How big do they get? In regard to nicely pedigreed Schipperkes, the average male in good condition will weigh from 15-18 pounds and stand 11-13 inches at the withers. A bitch will be an inch or so shorter and weigh less, usually from 11-15 pounds depending on build and bone structure. A Schipperke in full coat will look heavier than its actual weight. In regard to rescue Schipperkes, they can come in any size, large or small. As part of our regimen of foster care, we attempt to adjust the diet to achieve the weight that is ideal for the individual dog.
Do they shed a lot? Healthy Schipperkes usually shed their undercoats twice a year — in the spring and again in the fall. A bitch who has whelped will shed undercoat about two months after having her litter, and dogs who have been ill or undergone surgery will sometimes shed following these events. If your Schipperke seems to shed more often or for too long, check with your veterinarian.
Are they High-strung? Nervous? Yappy? In general, a well-adjusted Schipperke is not considered to be high-strung, nervous, or yappy … however, they are very intelligent dogs who like to involve themselves in their environment. Thus, they do tend to bark as they react to changes in that environment. Like any breed, including homo sapiens, Schipperkes who are faced with unfamiliar situations will become unsettled and, if not reassured, can become anxious. Dogs who come from parents of generally calm dispositions will tend to be calm as well, but their treatment as puppies and young dogs is far more important in shaping character and disposition. This is why it is important to buy from a breeder whose breeding stock and socialization practices are known. Many rescue Schipperkes become highly agitated and nervous during thunderstorms. Thus, special attention is required to assist them in calming down during periods of thunder and lightning.
Do they get along with kids? If treated well, they respond with love and loyalty — and the size of their people doesn’t seem to matter. Generally, a young Schipperke who is raised with young children will get along quite well with children of any age. Schipperkes who are raised without benefit of exposure to young children will require monitoring until the dog becomes comfortable with the noises and sudden motions of babies and toddlers.
How about with other animals? Many Schipperke breeders started out with Schipperkes as a second breed, usually after having owned a larger breed for some time. The average Schipperke seems to have no difficulty in adjusting to life with other dogs, even large ones, or with cats, horses, cows, etc. Many of them have a herding or prey instinct that causes them to dig for moles and gophers, bark at ground squirrels, and go alert when attacked by the occasional broom or box. More than one Schipperke of the same sex in any household, however, can be a problem until the order of seniority is established.
Are they difficult to breed? The relative smallness of the puppies (average weight of 4-6 ounces) requires great care during the first few days. Once through their tail docking and first few days of sucking up their mother’s milk, though, they are very sturdy little creatures. It should be noted that litters are small (2-4 puppies), and the expense of whelping and caring for the litter helps eliminate the profit motive as an incentive to breed.
Can they adapt to apartments? Small yards? Yes, but special care must be taken to meet their needs for exercise, especially during their first two or three years. They are active, sociable, curious dogs, and it is dangerous to their well-being to confine them to a small space or to let them run loose. Many breeders will not sell a Schipperke unless the minimum requirements of a fenced yard and abundant human companionship will be met. They also love to go for walks, regardless of their age.
Are they naturally tail-less? Schipperkes are generally born with a tail that is often docked within the first of 3-4 days after birth. Within a given litter, the pups can be born with a full tail, a half tail (or stub), or a nub. The tail-less silhouette is a breed standard in conformation but showing a Schipperke with a tail is not a disqualification. More breeders are no longer docking tails because of potential health issues. The United States is the only major country in the world that still allows docking of tails; other countries have banned the practice.
Are they hard to train? It depends on your patience. As indicated, they are inquisitive and not usually satisfied to do something every time, just because they are told to. They are intelligent enough to adapt well to a training program and a regime with emphasis on praise. They may seem slow to learn initially, however, after they reach about eighteen months of age, they learn at a much faster rate, and will often surprise their owners with the depth of what they have mastered. Schipperkes are quite trainable in obedience, agility, freestyle dance, etc., however, they do require variety in their training as they can become bored quite easily with the same routine.
Are they prone to any diseases? Schipperkes are not really prone to any viral diseases. They require all the usual protections from diseases, such as rabies, parvo, and distemper, in addition to protection from parasites. There is a very debilitating and painful genetic disease called MPS-IIIB that affects humans, emus, and Schipperkes. When considering the purchase of a Schipperke, you should request proof of MPS testing for both the sire and the dam. The University of Pennsylvania conducts the testing and issues a letter specific to each individual dog that was tested and which provides the results of the testing. MPS can affect the offspring only when both the sire and dam are determined to be carriers of the genetic marker. Schipperkes whose sire and dam were tested as “normal” (clear) for MPS-IIIB are considered “clear by pedigree” and will not have been tested directly.
Are they hard to groom? Schipperkes require normal grooming that includes regular brushing, bathing, and nail trimming … usually about twice a month. During shedding periods, more frequent brushing will help to remove the loose fur and encourage new growth.
How old do they get? A healthy Schipperke should live to be 12 to 16 years old. One that consistently chews your shoes or gets into the laundry basket will probably live much, much longer. Schipperkes have been known to live to the age of 20+ years.
How much do they cost? The cost depends on the quality and reputation of the sire and dam and the breeder, as well as of the individual dog. An excellent quality show puppy from a reputable breeder can command a minimum of $1,000 (and upward). A so-called “pet-quality” puppy may cost a bit less than that amount, and you’ll be required to neuter the animal. In assessing the cost of a Schipperke, one should give primary consideration to finding a healthy dog from a reputable breeder. It is up to each breeder to decide how much to charge for show-quality and pet-quality dogs.
Are Schipperkes always black? Nope, but colors are rare, especially in the U.S. Schips genetically come in five colors – black, cream (which in appearance can range from white to red), chocolate, blue, and black & tan. Specific breeders will intentionally breed for all the colors except for blue, as they often have dermatological problems. Only black Schipperkes can be shown at American Kennel Club shows; however, the United Kennel Club allows for colors.
Where can I get one? Your first source of a Schipperke is through a reputable breeder. Our breeder referral page will give you access to the list of breeders provided by the Schipperke Club of America. Be sure to buy only from breeders or individuals who will provide you with the pedigree and medical history of your dog, and the opportunity to visit their kennel and see the parents of your pup. Avoid pet shops or “puppy mills” who cannot or will not provide you with detailed breeding records.
What about a Rescue? The Colonial Schipperke Club is very active in supporting rescue and placement of “pre-owned” Schipperkes. These are Schipperkes who, for reasons normally not of their making, have lost their people. They may be lost or stolen dogs, dogs who suffer from the deaths or divorces of their owners, or dogs who are given up for a variety of reasons by their original owners. The club and our members work through SchipperkeRescue.net and Midwest Schipperke Rescue to provide transport, foster care, and fund-raising events to assist Schipperkes in need. If you are interested in possibly adopting a rescued Schipperke, please visit our Rescue page for more information.