Before I begin my view on the AKC Schipperke standard, I find it important to inform you that my life prior to dogs was teaching young children with learning disabilities. All were bright and had a true willingness to learn; they just learned differently. Thus, it was my duty as their teacher to present one subject in five or six different ways. Anything that worked was a success. This was in the early 1960s and the beginning of the change from standardized teaching to one that was more individualistic in nature.
I began my odyssey with AKC-registered dogs in 1972 with the purchase of two Shetland Sheepdogs. Fortunately, I’d purchased my Shelties from a reputable breeder, which began my introduction to showing dogs. I’d viewed my first dog show in 1969 while living in Japan with my husband, after his squadron’s tour in Vietnam was finished.
While I loved the sweet temperament and amenable behavior of the Shetland Sheepdogs, I found that I was drawn to a temperament more independent in nature. So, in 1980, I obtained my first Schipperke, and a few years later, my first Great Pyrenees; the two breeds that have held me captive for the past 39 years. While different in looks, both breeds are very much alike in their determination, independent nature, and complete loyalty.
I will be using various “verbally visual” references in this interpretation, providing, hopefully, a successful mentoring experience of the Schipperke.
I am totally devoted to and smitten with the Schipperke! Now, on to the important part—my breed.
The Tale of the Tail*
“The small, fox-like Schipperke is known for its mischievous expression and distinctive black coat, which stands off from the body and is harsh to the touch. This enthusiastic, joyful, and sometimes willful dog has a thickset, cobby body, and lacks a tail. Although historically a watchdog and vermin hunter, today this ageless breed enjoys competing in conformation, agility and a variety of other dog sports, often well into its teens.”
The verbiage used to describe all standards is significant. The wording used in the Schipperke standard is essential. Those words, whether nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs, bring to us an image of our breed; the Schipperke. To look at and capture that visual image, we must be able “to perceive as a picture in the mind, rather than as an abstract idea.”
When presented with a new Standard and the learning process begins, our mind views the entire physical presence. As future judges, we see the entire dog. We have this picture captured and stored away to be utilized when followed by the written language.
The standard for the Schipperke begins with General Appearance:
“The Schipperke is an agile, active watchdog and hunter of vermin. In appearance he is a small, thickset, cobby, black, tailless dog, with a fox-like face. The dog is square in profile and possesses a distinctive coat, which includes a stand-out ruff, cape and culottes. All of these create a unique silhouette, appearing to slope from shoulders to croup. Males are decidedly masculine without coarseness. Bitches are decidedly feminine without over-refinement. Any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Schipperke as in any other breed, even though such faults may not be specifically mentioned in the standard.”
Honestly, this one paragraph says it all. Let’s look at the descriptive words used in the very first sentence to portray this one small dog:
Agile, active, watchdog, hunter, small, thickset, cobby, black, tailless, fox-like.
It then continues with:
Square, distinctive coat, stand-out, ruff, cape, culottes,
Some of these words are derived from the French language, so further exploration is needed to conclude the desired physical picture. Off to the dictionary:
Ruff – A separate collar of starched pleated linen or lace worn by men and women in the 16th and 17th centuries; a growth of long, colorful or bushy hair or feathers on the neck of a bird or other animal.”
Cape – Cloak, mantle, poncho, wrap, shawl or robe.
Culottes – A pair of women’s knee-length shorts, cut to resemble a skirt.
Silhouette – An outline, shape, shadow, profile. An outline of something filled in with black or a dark color on a light background, especially when done as a… work of art.
Unique – Exclusive, exceptional, distinctive, matchless, irreplaceable, rare.
When the word unique is added to silhouette, something magical occurs, giving strength to the desired image. Visualize
Exclusive shape, exceptional profile, distinctive shadow, matchless outline, rare work of art and irreplaceable outline.
The physical picture created becomes remarkable when these two words are placed together. There is no quarter for any other picture. When the Schipperke is viewed as a silhouette, it is immediately identified as a “Schipperke.” Other breeds that can be identified by its silhouette alone are the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Old English Sheepdog. (Neither has a tail.) Other words that can be utilized for the word “unique” when describing “silhouette” are “exclusive, one of a kind, exceptionally distinctive, irreplaceable and rare.” The antonym of unique is “common.” I certainly would never describe a Schipperke seen in silhouette form as common.
Just by reading the “general appearance” we know what this dog is not. He is not long in body or any color other than black. He doesn’t have a hound-like expression and he does not have a tail. Since the 1500s, the Schipperke has never been visualized as having a tail. The lack of a tail accentuates the unique silhouette.
At the tail end of the paragraph identified as “general appearance,” the term “fault” is mentioned. The dictionary and thesaurus have been utilized for those words found in the “general appearance” section. If used as a noun, the definition would be:
Fault – Error, mistake, blunder, blemish, imperfection, defect, omission, flaw, shortcoming or deficiency. The antonym is strength.
In its Breed Standard, the Schipperke is described as a small, thickset, cobby, black, “tailless” dog. There is a very small group of breeders who feel the presence of tails is merely a fault. However, when being exhibited, the appearance of a tail totally destroys the silhouette. Let’s explore this word “fault.” Below are examples gathered by looking in the dictionary. The choices are:
Liability, error, mistake, blunder, blemish, imperfection, defect, and flaw.
AKC Rep – Why did you choose to give that tailed Schipperke the points?
Judges Responses –
I view the tail on a Schipperke as only a fault.
I view the tail on a Schipperke as a defect.
I view the tail on a Schipperke as just a flaw.
I view the tail on a Schipperke as a blunder.
I view the tail on a Schipperke as an imperfection.
I view the tail on a Schipperke as a mistake. (And that is what it is!)
Would anyone use any of the other words when answering that question? The word “fault” is easily used without thought. The standard neither mentions nor describes a tail. It is acknowledged only as being “docked.” “No tail is visually discernible.”
Other descriptive words found in the Breed Standard under “General Appearance” are small, thickset, cobby, black, tailless dog, with a fox-like face. He is small, but he does not give the impression of being toy-like. Thickset refers to having substance. Cobby refers to being as tall as he is long.
Other words mentioned under General Appearance are agile, active, watchdog, and hunter. He is all of these. He is curious and loyal. He is extremely intelligent and remembers everything that’s important to him. I have told my puppy buyers that he is a cross between a two-year-old and a raccoon; into everything and tells you “no” a lot. He is fun!! He is not for everyone, but those of us who adore the Schipperke do so forever.
Please, when judging our breed either as a sweeps judge or a licensed judge, do not view them as common. Value everything found in our “General Appearance.” The Schipperke possesses
“a distinctive coat and unique silhouette.”