The Schipperke is often referred to as a little black devil. Now that you're forewarned, this small black prick-eared dog with the foxlike face and big smile looks like a member of the Spitz or Northern breeds of dogs, but he is thought to be a miniaturized version of a 19th century Belgian sheepherding breed.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Not if you are someone who is easily trampled on by others. The Schipperke is a take-charge kind of dog. He is highly intelligent and has a mind of his own. You had better be smarter than he is if you don't want him telling you what to do.

Mischievous and energetic, he is busy, busy, busy. Always on the alert, he is an excellent watchdog, but he can be a barker. You must teach him when it's okay to bark and when to stop. The fun-loving Schipperke can be a good choice for families with older children who can handle him appropriately.

At a minimum, the Schipperke needs a 20- to 30-minute walk on leash, but you might be surprised to know that he makes a good jogging companion. If you're really smart, though, you'll take advantage of his brains, speed and athletic ability and train him for dog sports such as agility, flyball, obedience and rally. Those are all excellent ways to meet his needs for mental and physical stimulation. Expect him to dig holes or act in other destructive ways if you don't.

Confine the Schipperke to a securely fenced yard. Besides being a digger, he is highly curious and will go off in search of an interesting scent without a second thought. He's also fond of chasing small furry animals such as squirrels and will hunt moles, mice, rats and other vermin with enthusiasm. Don't count on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. He's much too interested in having his own way for that to be a deterrent.

Train the smart but independent Schipperke with firmness, patience and consistency. Keep training sessions short and fun, and don't be surprised if he puts his own spin on commands or outthinks you in other ways. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.

Although the Schipperke's coat looks like a lot of work, it can be maintained with brushing once a week--more often when he's shedding, which occurs once or twice a year. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.

The Schipperke should live indoors. He's a companion dog and will loudly express his unhappiness if relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Schipperkes

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.

Schipperkes have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, patellar luxation and autoimmune thyroiditis.

The Schipperke Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Schipperke to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA clearances for knees and thyroid and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Optional tests are OFA clearances for hips, heart and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and a DNA test for mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB.

The SCA, in conjunction with CHIC, is also tracking anecdotal data on some other conditions sometimes seen in Schipperkes: epilepsy, autoimmune skin problems, Cushing's disease, diabetes mellitus and atopy. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC's website to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Luxating Patellas Medium $1,500-$3,000
Cataracts Medium $1,500-$5,000
Diabetes Mellitus High $3,000-$10,000
Follicular Dysplasia High $200-$500
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Medium $1,000-$3,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Schipperke Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Schipperke Club of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Sometimes health problems aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Schipperkes can live 13 to 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Schipperke to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Schipperkes

Pet insurance for Schipperkes costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Schipperkes are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance offers full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Schipperkes are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Schipperke is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.