A Schipperke (the Americanized pronunciation is skipper-kee) is a small Belgian breed of dog that originated in the early 16th century. There has been a long informal debate over whether this type of dog is a spitz or miniature sheepdog.
Dogs of this breed usually weigh between 3 and 9 kg (7 to 20 lb). The Schipperke dogs are born with tails. In Canada and the United States, they are usually docked immediately after birth. In other countries that have bans on docking, the Schipperkes display their natural tails which curve over the back of the dog in a spitz-like fashion as well as down in a sabre fashion such as the german shepherd.
The Schipperke is also known as the "little black devil," often because they can be stubborn, mischievous, and headstrong. Because they are naturally curious and high-energy dogs, when Schipperkes are bored, they often damage property and wreak havoc. Schipperkes are very smart, and sometimes debate listening to owners and doing whatever benefits them the most. This requires a stubborn and patient owner to housebreak.
The Schipperke also loves car rides, air conditioning, and children. They hate closed doors and fast-waving hands, however.
The one minor caveat to the Schipperke's good health is MPS IIIB, a genetic mutation that occurs in at most 15% of the total breed population. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has developed a test for the disease and began accepting samples in April 2003. Their website at http://w3.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers/penngen/faq/mps3b.html has more specifics. If you seek to acquire a Schipperke be sure to ask the breeder if they have tested for the condition. A large effort is underway by many responsible breeders to eliminate this fatal and debilitating disease from the population
Schipperkes can "blow" their coats up to several times a year, and usually bitches more frequently than males. When this happens, they lose their undercoat. Owners typically find warm baths helpful during this time to remove the undercoat, rather than getting fur all over the home. Blowing their undercoat can last several days or weeks, and can take up to 2-3 months for schipperkes to grow back.
The breed name of "Schipperke," officially taken in 1888, is traditionally thought to mean "little captain". Beginning in the 1920s, however, it became popular in Belgium to believe that the name was actually a corruption of the Dutch word "Shapocke" or "Scheperke", meaning "little shepherd". It has been suggested that the idea of "little captain" was an invention of the English, who mistook the Schipperke for a Dutch barge dog.
Before the name "Schipperke" was officially taken, the breed was also known colloquially as "Spitzke". It is thought that the name change was to distinguish it from the German Spitz.
Correctly or not, Schipperkes are widely known in the U.S.A. as "Belgian barge dogs." Some reports say they were found frequently as working dogs aboard barges in the canals of Belgium, with three jobs onboard: security (barking vigorously when anyone approached the barge), keeping the barges free of vermin, and nipping at the towing horses' heels to get them moving to tow the barge. To this day, Schipperkes are known as excellent boat dogs and are often found cruising the world aboard sailing yachts and powerboats. They are not prone to seasickness.
It is often said that Schipperkes lived up to their name in World War Two. The Belgian Resistance used the dogs to run messages between various resistance hideouts and cells, and the Nazis never caught on.