Those who work with or live aboard boats swear by the Schipperke. The breed can often be found on charter boats throughout the Caribbean. They are sure footed even in the choppiest of water and their fluffy coat has no doggy smell even when they are wet. Unlike other breeds, they are even litter box trainable for the times when they are out at sea.
Throughout history, the Schipperke could be found in a number of sizes. While the smallest typically worked as ratters, larger Schipperkes were used for herding sheep and cattle on farms. A 14th century law passed by the French upperclass deemed it inappropriate for peasants to have large dogs. Since families and farmers still needed something to chase mice and provide security, the small version of the Schipperke eventually became the only one.
In approximately the 17th century, Schipperke shows were held by the Guild of Brussels by aristocrats and other members of the upperclass. These shows attracted visitors from miles around and the dogs were often shown wearing decorative collars of brass. Nobles who wanted to show their status could be found walking in public with their Schipperke in tow. According to the correct pronunciation of the time, the dogs were referred to as skeeper-ker.
It wasn't until the late 1800's that the Schipperke was finally given a breed standard and entered in kennel club shows. However, their popularity soared when Queen Marie-Henriette took on several of the breed making them highly fashionable. Soon the Schipperke was everywhere with some con artists cashing in on the madness offering anything that closely resembled the little black dog.
There is great debate as to whether or not the Barge Dog of Belgium every really worked on boats at all. While some say the Schippereke's name is derived from a Flemish word for skipper, others say it is derived from the Flemish word for shepherd. Though it is true the dog was used on farms, a number of historians say the dogs worked only for a very short time on Belgian barges.
Schipperkes can be found with and without tails. Though the practice is falling by the wayside, breeders still have the choice to dock the tail of newborn puppies. When left intact, the tail will nicely plume over the dog's back. It is one of the main traits that gets the dog confused for a spitz breed. However, some Schipperkes have been born with no tail at all.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were great fans of the Schipperke and owned several of the petite breed, one of whom was named Ginger. The famous couple got acquainted with the breed at a dog show. Ginger was a celebrity herself and had the privilege of accompanying the famous comic actress where ever she went.