The "Little Skipper Dog" of CaninesThe Schipperke was originally bred by a canal boat captain in an effort to create a dog that would do well aboard a boat. In Flemish, Schipperke literally means "Little Skipper" because of this dog's use aboard the canal boats. Those early dogs were used primarily for two equally important purposes. They were meant to chase the small vermin that were huge problems aboard a boat. Mainly wharf rats, these vermin could wreak havoc on supplies and do incredible damage over the course of a voyage. The Schipperke were taught to hunt down these pests and kill them. The Little Skippers were also left in charge when the boat was at dock, allowing more of the crew to go ashore with the assurance that the dog would alert those left on board in the event of an intruder.
The origin of the Schipperke is somewhat of a mystery, though most seem to agree that the Schipperke and Belgian Sheepdog share at least some of the same lineage. It's likely that over a period of time the Schipperke was selectively bred to be smaller than the original dogs of this breed. Today, the Schipperke will reach a maximum weight of only about 15 to 20 pounds, possibly half that of the early ancestors of this breed.
Keep in mind that the Schipperke was bred for many generations to be protector of his territory - usually his boat.
Even the ancestors of this breed were likely herding dogs who were taught to protect flocks. That trait is still highly evident in the Shipperke of today. These dogs tend to be very protective, even though they're relatively small in size. Some owners say their Schipperkes simply don't realize that they're not big enough to take on any threat, and that they'll try anyway.
The Schipperke is a naturally tailless dog. Some canine organizations - including the American Kennel Club - accept only solid black Schipperke dogs. However, the coloration of these dogs ranges down to a pale tan and some organizations, breeders and fanciers accept or even prefer those other colors. The coat is fairly short, but with longer fur around the neck area. People may choose the Schipperke because of the short coat thinking that there'll be limited shedding and less intensive grooming necessary.
For the most part, this is true but it's important to note that some dogs of this breed go through a heavy shedding period. For some dogs, it's an annual event while others shed several times a year. When this happens, the dog is almost bare skinned for a period of time, though the coat that grows back in is usually very lush and beautiful.