This Quintessential Breed Is Almost Perfect in Every Way

midsummer dog

Story at-a-glance -

  • Schapendoes, a quintessential “shaggy dog” with his ground-sweeping, wavy hair, may look like a disheveled pup, but his coat is easier to take care of than you might think and won’t need to be cut or clipped
  • Also known as the Dutch Sheepdog, the Schapendoes breed was considered an “all-around farm dog” during the 19th and early 20th centuries around his home turf of the Netherlands
  • Naturally athletic and energetic, the Schapendoes has a “springy” and light-footed gait when they run, and one of their most important hallmarks is their amazing jumping ability
  • Being smart, lively, eager to please and easy to train, you can expect your Schapendoes to live a good long life with few problems, and to be a good companion, and fun, for both kids and other pets

By Dr. Becker

Described as cheerful, funny and brave, the Schapendoes breed may look like a mop of a dog with their unruly-looking fur hanging into their eyes, but this Dutch herding dog, also known as the quintessential “shaggy dog,” is actually quite easy to groom.

It’s evident that they sport a dense double coat, but their lightly wavy hair, which can make them look much larger and broader than they are, can touch the ground both on his front and hind legs. Their hair (which couldn’t really be called “fur”) typically reaches 3 inches in length at the longest point, which is at their hindquarters, but it’s fine and doesn’t even require clipping or trimming. The Schapendoes Club notes that:

“The coat, where it is long, is inclined to stand off in tufts, giving the Schapendoes a large girth, especially at the rear. The Schapendoes has a tremendous top knot, moustache and beard.”1

That doesn’t mean this adorable dog doesn’t need checking a few times a week to make sure his fur doesn’t get matted, which it may when they’re puppies until their “adult” coat comes in. It may be hard to believe, but this breed sheds very little, even though VetStreet comments that it’s normal for them to “look a little unkempt.”2

Schapendoes Breed: Origination and Characteristics

This Dutch Sheepdog was considered more than a sheepdog around his original home turf of the northeastern Drenthe province of the Netherlands, as his official title may have been more like “all-around farm dog” during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Outside this area of the world, this breed was very little known, and in fact wasn’t recognized as a breed unto itself until World War I, when it almost faded from existence. This occurred because in the 1940s, border collies were being imported that began overshadowing the native breed until its own club was formed in 1947, known as the Nederlandse Schapendoes.

In 1954, a breed standard was set forth, complete with a studbook, but they weren’t formally recognized as a Dutch breed until 1971. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, or World Canine Organization, added the breed to their list in 1989. In the U.S. the Schapendoes breed — which is the singular, not the plural — joined the American Kennel Club, but does not, as yet, enjoy full recognition as a breed.

Close relatives to this breed include bearded collies, the puli, briard, Polish Loweland Sheepdog and the Bergamasco. The Schapendoes is typically a combination of white, gray, brown, black and blue-black, but the Schapendoes Club stresses that while it may tend to be curly, “frizzy hair is not permitted,” and it should never be silky. They also have a lot of hair emerging from between their toes, a long, feathery tail, which, when they jump, serves as a sort of rudder and flies out behind them when they run.

Attributes of the Schapendoes

One of the things that may surprise anyone watching naturally athletic Schapendoes at play is how “springy” and light-footed they are when they run. In fact, one of the most often-mentioned notations of the breed is its amazing jumping ability. You’ll often hear people mention making sure your fences are high enough.

That’s one skill that makes the breed so excellent when it comes to agility training and other competitive sports for dogs. If you have a field or open grasslands where they can safely run unimpeded, they’re very happy, and they’re eager to join you on your run, hike or on the trail on a daily basis.

Afterward, very much like humans, they’re just as happy to join you on the couch, as they’re very people oriented. Schapendoes get along well with children, although a natural tendency to herd might be something to watch for, as they can begin “nudging” people who are shorter than their usual 16- to 20-inch height, and depending on the bulk of their usual 26- to 55-pound weight, this nudge could cause a child to fall. With children under a certain age, they should be closely supervised, as with any other dog.

This breed also plays and lives happily amongst other dogs and even cats, especially if they were raised together. Understandably, there aren’t nearly the number of Schapendoes in the sheepherding business as there once were, so this breed has settled down to become a beloved family dog. But like many other dogs with a long history of activity like this one has, exercise is important.

Schapendoes: Smart, Cooperative and Playful

The Schapendoes Club site mentions their general expression as being “open-minded, honest and lively.” Further:

“The Schapendoes is a herding dog with an attentive and courageous character. He is intelligent, watchful, jolly, lively, friendly and high spirited. Towards people familiar to him, he develops great affection and loyalty.”3

Besides being friendly and energetic, these dogs are very eager to please, so they’re easy to get along with and introduce to new situations, especially if they’ve been trained from a young age. Like dogs of this breed that have been featured on television and in movies, they enjoy running around the yard, playing ball and expending pent-up energy to keep them at an even keel.

At the same time, because they have an alert, attentive nature, which makes them fast learners and great watchdogs, they can become bored fairly easily, which may result in a barking problem if, again, they’re not trained at an early age and given proper physical and mental stimulation.

As VetStreet notes, “If these dogs were lawyers, they would know all the loopholes.” That said, socialization is key. Another perk for anyone who gets to be around this breed very much, family or otherwise, is that the Schapendoes is affectionate and adaptable, a great companion whether you’re riding in the car, taking a walk or just hanging out.

Lifespan and Health Profile

The Schapendoes generally lives to be 12 to 15 years old, and luckily, no major health problems have been documented. That said, any animal can develop problems just like any other breed. If there were any problem areas that potential Schapendoes owners should know about, it might include:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy, which could cause blindness but is fairly rare
  • Hip dysplasia, evidenced by limping and difficulty rising after lying down. However, it’s seen most often in large dogs, and the Schapendoes is a medium-sized breed
  • Obesity, which is so common in pets today that all pet owners are encouraged to be alert to the dangers of overfeeding poor-quality food and lack of exercise

Because this is a breed that can truly be described as generally healthy, with fresh air, exercise, lots of love and early, consistent training, you and your family can expect to enjoy your Schapendoes dog for a good long time and provide them with the home they can appreciate. If you’re interested in adding a Schapendoes to your family, check into rescue groups looking to provide their rescuees with loving “forever” homes.

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