Schapendoes: Full Profile, History, and Care

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Schapendoes


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A shaggy, lovable sheepdog from the Netherlands, the schapendoes is a happy, funny dog that makes a great family pet. The schapendoes are highly intelligent, attentive, friendly, and eager to please.

They are lightly-built, medium-sized dogs with long, luxurious coats. They are known for being playful while at the same time incredibly agile and courageous, which makes them a popular choice for dog sports. They are known to form strong bonds with their families and are very devoted to their owners.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 16-20 inches

WEIGHT: 25-55 pounds

COAT: Long, dense coat

COAT COLOR: Can come in an array of colors; white with blue-grey, brown, or black markings are most common but they can also be seen in solid black or brown

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12-15 years

Characteristics

 Affection Level  High
 Friendliness  High
 Kid-Friendly  High
 Pet-Friendly  Medium
 Exercise Needs  High
 Playfulness  High
 Energy Level  High
 Trainability  High
 Intelligence  High
 Tendency to Bark  Medium
 Amount of Shedding  Medium

History of the Schapendoes

The origins of this breed actually remain somewhat of a mystery—and that's because the schapendoes was kept almost exclusively as a working sheepdog by Dutch farmers. Many of those farmers were illiterate until the 19th century, so there are no known records of the breed's true history. We do know that the schapendoes were an extremely popular dog in the Netherlands during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their numbers began to dwindle, however, once border collies started being imported from the United Kingdom; these dogs were also extremely adept at herding sheep .

In the Netherlands, the herding breed was an indispensable part of a shepherd’s life. The schapendoes was often used to herd sheep, whether it was to a pasture, a pen or barn, or to market. These dogs were also coveted for their trainability and intelligence (not to mention their energy and athleticism), and they fortunately had a very thick coat to protect them from the elements

World War II also had a significant impact on the schapendoes breed, as German occupation in the Netherlands placed substantial hardships on the Dutch people and their dogs. Many of the dogs died in the blitzkrieg or the resistance movement, and farmers had to make the difficult decision to abandon their dogs because they could no longer afford their care. Meanwhile, breeding stopped and the schapendoes almost became extinct. The only positive is that as the Dutch resistance movement began looking for symbols that would help differentiate the Dutch from the German occupiers, and the Dutch Kennel Club actually began to more aggressively promote and register native Dutch breeds, such as the schapendoes.

In 1952, the Raad Van Beheer Dutch kennel club granted full recognition to the breed (the first formal written standard wasn't accepted until 1954). The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) also granted full recognition to the schapendoes in 1971. Since the end of the war, breeders have been working to increase the numbers of schapendoes.

Although the breed was exclusively bred as a working dog until the 1950s, today's schapendoes has become primarily a companion animal. It is still a very rare breed and has been referred to as several different names over the years, including the Dutch sheepdog, Dutch sheep poodle, and Drent sheepdog.  

It's believed to be closely related to several other European herding breeds with long coats, including the German Sheep Poodle, Old English Sheepdog, and Polish Lowland Sheepdog. The schapendoes is more than likely the result of extensively crossing a variety of different herding breeds from across Europe.

Schapendoes Care

With all of that hair, it's no surprise that schapendoes will extensive regular grooming and owners should expect to spend a significant amount of time brushing their hair each week. During grooming sessions, be sure to carefully and thoroughly brush out any tangles or mats. They won't necessarily require professional grooming, although some schapendoes owners opt to have their dogs professionally trimmed (particularly in the summer months).

These dogs will also need the occasional bath to keep them clean and looking their best. The breed does tend to have fast-growing nails, so they should be trimmed regularly with either a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth or splitting and cracking. You'll also want to be sure to check their ears on a regular basis to help prevent a buildup of wax and debris that can result in infection, and like most breeds, the schapendoes will also require routine teeth brushing.

This high-energy, athletic breed will also need lots of exercise. They were bred to work for countless hours outdoors, and will thus require at the bare minimum an hour of vigorous exercise every single day. Whether it's playing in the backyard or going for a run (or several walks) every day, the schapendoes needs ample daily activity in order to keep them mentally and physically healthy (and prevent behavioral issues). This playful breed will happily engage in outdoor activities including swimming and hiking, and they also like to play indoor activities such as fetch, hide-and-seek, or practicing new tricks. Because of their physical capabilities, intelligence, and eagerness to please their owners, they are a fantastic breed to train for dog sports such as agility, rally, and obedience.

Though this active breed will be happiest in a larger home with lots of room to roam outdoors, as long as you take your schapendoes for multiple walks each day you can meet their exercise requirements even if you live in an apartment or smaller home.

One of the least protective and aggressive of all of the Continental sheepdogs, the schapendoes is probably not the best choice if you're looking for a guard dog. They will have to be properly trained and socialized in order to learn how to properly interact with both humans and other animals as well as to minimize their herding instincts in the home--which is something they will often attempt to do with small children.

Common Health Problems

For the most part, schapendoes are known to be a healthy dog breed. Just be sure to connect with responsible breeders who strive to maintain the standards established by kennel clubs like the AKC, as they are less likely to inherit health conditions.

Many of the common genetic health defects typically found in purebred dogs have been identified in the schapendoes, although there aren't any that are known to occur at unusually high rates. One potential health concern that breeders are concerned about in the schapendoes is progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative eye disease that almost inevitably leads to blindness. They have also been associated with other eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts, as well as other common conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia.

Diet and Nutrition

The schapendoes breed should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether it's commercially manufactured or prepared at home (with your veterinarian's supervision and approval, of course). Like all breeds, they will need plenty of clean and fresh water and you'll want to closely monitor their treat and "human food" intake to avoid weight gain and related issues.

Pros
  • Happy and friendly

  • Eager to please

  • Highly intelligent and trainable

Cons
  • Requires a lot of daily exercise

  • Long, thick coat requires a lot of maintenance

  • Rare and difficult to find

Where to Adopt or Buy a Schapendoes

The schapendoes remains a very rare breed, but that doesn't mean they are impossible to find. Always start by checking your local animal shelter and rescue groups for schapendoes in need of a forever home. You may also be able to find a schapendoes breeder in your area.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide on a schapendoes, be sure to do your homework. You can connect with other schapendoes owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about the breed and determine if it's the right fit for your family.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, you may want to consider:

Old English Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog

Puli

There's a wide variety of dog breeds out there. With a little bit of research, you can find the right one to bring home.