Three Schapendoes Dogs
Schapendoes Dog Face Closeup
Often described as cheerful, funny, clever and brave, this shaggy Dutch herding dog also has an astounding ability to jump. Although he sports a thick double coat, it sheds very little and isn’t difficult to groom. The Schapendoes can be a good companion for an active person or family.The sturdy Schapendoes got his start as a Dutch farm dog, and he retains the traits of intelligence, ability to work on his own and cooperation that made him a good helper for farmers. Today he is more likely to be a family dog, having an adaptable nature that can make him a good choice for those willing to devote the time needed to train him and provide him with daily exercise.

This is an athletic dog who (overall health permitting — get the go-ahead from your vet first) is often versatile enough to excel at agility, herding and other dog sports. When you ask him to jump, he’ll probably ask, “How high?” So be sure your fence is high enough to contain him. Consider this breed if you would like to have a dog to accompany you on hikes or runs.

As long as he gets adequate exercise daily such as running, playing a fast-paced game of fetch or going for a long walk, the lively Schapendoes can do well in most environments. If you have acreage with some sheep or goats he can herd, even better. Once he gets his daily allotment of activity, the Schapendoes will probably be happy to hang out with you while you watch a movie.

With early socialization, the Schapendoes can be a fine companion for children of all ages. But as with any dog, interactions with young children should always be supervised. His activity level can make him a good playmate for preteens or teens, and his coat and trainability can make him a great partner for a child who competes in United Kennel Club junior showmanship or 4-H.

Have other pets in the household? The Schapendoes is likely to get along with other dogs and with cats, especially if he is raised with them.

Before getting a Schapendoes, meet one or more in person, ideally in a home setting. You should also interview breeders thoroughly to make sure your lifestyle matches this dog’s activity needs. The Schapendoes is a highly people-oriented dog who typically enjoys using his mind and body. Choose him only if you can give him the attention and interaction he needs, or you will likely end up with a bored, unhappy and destructive dog.

Quick Facts

  • A Schapendoes can be any color or combination of colors, but the preferred coat for the show ring is blue-gray to black.
  • The Schapendoes’ feet are usually lighter in color than the body.
  • The long, well-feathered tail, carried high with a characteristic swing from side to side, is a notable feature of the breed. Typically, when the Schapendoes is at rest, the tail hangs low, and when the dog gallops, the tail flies straight out behind him.

The History of the Schapendoes

Also known as the Dutch Sheep Dog, the Schapendoes was an all-around farm dog and sheepherder in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most commonly found in the province of Drenthe, in the northeast part of the country, he was little known outside his homeland of the Netherlands.

The Schapendoes was not recognized as a distinct breed until World War I and came close to extinction in 1940s because of competition from imported Border Collies. A breed club — Nederlandse Schapendoes — was formed in 1947.

The breed began its march toward a formal identity in 1954, when a breed standard and a studbook were established. It wasn’t until 1971, however, that the Schapendoes earned full recognition as a Dutch breed. The Federation Cynologique Internationale recognized the breed in 1989.

Recognized by the United Kennel Club in 2006, the Schapendoes has been recorded in the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service since 2005 but does not have full recognition.

Schapendoes Temperament and Personality

The typically friendly and adaptable Schapendoes is generally easy to live with as long as he gets plenty of exercise and playtime. Although he’s an independent thinker, he is usually cooperative and wants to please. He tends to enjoy being with his people, so expect him to stick close to you, indoors or out.

The Schapendoes works sheep by nudging them with his nose and shoulders, and he may try to do this with people, too, especially children. Don’t permit it. On the plus side, he is generally a playful and energetic friend for children who are old enough to toss a ball for him, run around with him and teach him tricks.

This is typically a smart breed who is quick to learn. But it’s important to be clear about the rules or he will try to get around them if you aren’t consistent.

His generally alert nature can make this breed a good watchdog. Although herding breeds have a tendency to be vocal, the Schapendoes is not typically a big barker. He can become a nuisance barker, though, if he is left to his own devices and becomes bored.

Like most herding dogs, the Schapendoes requires plenty of socialization to help ensure that he doesn’t become overly cautious or suspicious. Socialize puppies at an early age to many different people, environments and circumstances so they can learn to be adaptable.

Start training a Schapendoes the day you bring him home, or before you know it, he will have you trained. (If these dogs were lawyers, they would know all the loopholes.) He is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog on your hands.

If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy-training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Schapendoes puppy doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from an early age.

What You Need to Know About Schapendoes Health

The Schapendoes is a generally healthy breed with an expected life span of 12 to 15 years. All 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 her puppies, who claims 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. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Schapendoes is generally healthy, but there is some incidence of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an eye disease that can cause blindness. Responsible breeders DNA test their dogs for PRA and have them examined by a board-certified ophthalmologist before breeding them. They also screen breeding stock for hip dysplasia.

Health certifications your pup’s parents should have:

Hip Dysplasia: hip evaluation, with results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: DNA test with results registered with OFA or the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).
  • An eye exam by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with results registered with OFA.
  • Some breeders may also have an OFA-registered evaluation for elbow dysplasia; an exam for autoimmune thyroiditis, with results registered with OFA; and an exam by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist to check for heart defects.

    If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines or her dogs have been vet-checked or gives any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of dogs, walk away immediately.

    Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in many cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and typical causes of death.

    Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. Keeping a Schapendoes at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to promote better overall health.

    The Basics of Schapendoes Grooming

    The Schapendoes has a dense double coat with fine hair that is lightly waved. At its longest, on the hindquarters, the hair is approximately three inches long. The breed’s head and face are characterized by a topknot, mustache and beard.

    Considering the amount of coat he has, the Schapendoes is fairly easy to groom, requiring no trimming or clipping. It’s normal for him to look a little unkempt.

    Still, it’s best to check him a few times a week for matting and brush him accordingly. To help prevent tangles, puppies may need to be groomed two or three times a week as their adult coat comes in. Bathe the dog as needed.

    You won’t find yourself wearing your Schapendoes’ coat or wiping hair off your hand after you pet him because the breed typically sheds very little.

    The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every three to four weeks or as needed. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.

    Finding a Schapendoes

    Finding a good breeder is a great way to find 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. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.

    Choosing a Schapendoes Breeder

    Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.

    Start your search with the Schapendoes USA Club ([email protected]), the Schapendoes Club of America ([email protected]) or the Schapendoes Club of Canada. They should be able to refer you to breeders in the United States or Canada. This is a rare breed, so expect to wait a while before a puppy is available, especially if you want a specific color or gender.

    Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club, too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports or therapy dog programs. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she will take the dogs back if at any time during their lives the owners cannot keep them.

    Ask the breeder to provide you with documentation that your prospective puppy’s parents were cleared for health problems in the breed and have results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the Canine Health Information Center.

    Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

    Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

    Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store or another source, don’t forget the adage “let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100-percent guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals) and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization or other reliable source for healthy puppies.

    And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Schapendoes might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Schapendoes, if one is available, may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an adult dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

    Adopting a Schapendoes From a Rescue Group or Shelter

    Bear in mind that the Schapendoes is a rare breed and few are available in this country. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group. If you want to search, though, here’s how to get started.

    1. Use the Web

    Sites like and can have you searching for a Schapendoes in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Schapendoes available on Petfinder across the country). can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

    Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

    2. Reach Out to Local Experts

    Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Schapendoes. That includes vets, dog walkers and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

    3. Talk to Breed Rescue

    Most people who love Schapendoes love all Schapendoes. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Schapendoes is a rare breed in North America so few dogs are available through rescue, but breeders and breed clubs work to place dogs when they are in need of a new home.

    The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They may also offer opportunities to foster a dog if you are an experienced dog owner.

    4. Key Questions to Ask

    You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:

    • What is his energy level?
    • How is he around other animals?
    • How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
    • What is his personality like?
    • What is his age?
    • Is he housetrained?
    • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
    • Are there any known health issues?
    Wherever you acquire your Schapendoes, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

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