Schipperkes are intelligent, alert, and energetic. They were often used as watchdogs on canal boats, and continue to be good companions for boaters. Even though the Schipperke is a small breed, they are usually quite smart and can participate in a variety of dog sports such as agility, flyball, herding, musical freestyle, and obedience as sport that provide physical and mental challenges as well as bonding with their family. Schipperkes have also been used as animal-assisted therapy dogs. The Schipperke is considered a watchdog because it tends to defend itself, but socialization can lessen any fear-based defensive aggression. The Schipperke's small size lets it be more easily intimidated by other dogs, when it may bark to defend itself by trying to appear fearless. This barking could result in confrontations with other dogs that lead to injury.
The Schipperke breed was developed in Belgium as a working dog used aboard river boats. Their name is believed to mean either "little captain" or "little shepherd." On board the barges the Schipperke had three jobs which consisted of ridding the barges of rats and other vermin, nipping at the heels of tow horses, and providing security by barking if anyone approached the barge. Before the name Schipperke was given the breed, they were called "Spitzke." The Schipperke was standardized and the modern name of Schipperke was given in 1888, the same year the breed was introduced to the United States. It officially entered the ranks of American Kennel Club recognized breeds in 1904. Even today, Schipperkes are found on many yachts and other boats around the world. They are one of the few breeds that do not suffer from seasickness.