Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Schapendoes

A medium-sized herding dog that has existed on Dutch farms for centuries, the Schapendoes is easily recognised by the long, shaggy coat that covers its face and body. While naturally talented shepherding dogs, nowadays, the Schapendoes is rarely seen on the farm, having largely been replaced by other European dogs, such as the Border Collie.

Now most often seen as a companion animal, the Schapendoes has a sweet nature and is devoted to its family. They can be trained to a very high standard and have been doing well in a variety of disciplines, such as agility and obedience, for many years now. The Schapendoes, or Dutch Sheepdog, is not to be confused with the Dutch Shepherd; an entirely separate breed that is closely related to the German Shepherd.

About & History

While it is certain that the Schapendoes originates from Holland, and has been traditionally used as a shepherding dog, little more is known about its origins. Thought to have been most popular in Drenthe – a province in the northeast of Holland known for its marshland, swamps and forests – the ‘does’ in its name comes from the word for swamp.

The breeds most closely related to the Schapendoes include the Old English Sheepdog, Bergamasco, the Bearded Collie, as well as the Polish Lowland Sheepdog and the Briard, all of whom bear a close resemblance. As the Schapendoes developed naturally on mainland Europe, it is likely that it is a landrace of many local shepherding breeds.

In the late 1800s, all of the regional shepherding dogs were grouped together and called ‘domestic herding dogs’. Their ability as working dogs was the priority for farmers, who were not overly concerned with their physical characteristics. These dogs would herd sheep for long hours in wet and cold weather conditions, thus requiring their long, protective coat. They needed to be easy to train and responsive to their master. Unlike many other sheep dogs, the Schapendoes did not necessarily need to be protective or courageous, as the Dutch farmers had little to worry about predators, such as the bears and wolves of Eastern Europe.

Over time, the Schapendoes became less popular with farmers as they imported other dogs, such as the Border Collie, to do their jobs. And, like many other breeds, they were hit hard in the World Wars, with breed numbers greatly diminishing in the mid 20th century.

Initially after the Second World War, it was a P.M.C. Toepoel, a Dutch inspector, that is credited with the revival of the breed, as he encouraged others to take an interest and to start restoring the population size. His efforts were successful and, while the local farmers may have moved on, the Schapendoes is no longer at risk of extinction. Nowadays, there are many local fanciers and breeders who are keen to preserve this iconic Dutch breed. While certainly more common in Holland than anywhere else, the Schapendoes has been exported to many other European countries, the USA and Canada.

The ‘Raad van Beheer’, or Dutch Kennel Club, eventually recognised the breed in 1952 and the FCI did the same in 1971. More recently, several major kennel clubs, including the UKC, have registered them within their Herding Groups.


Schapendoes Large Photo

A dog of medium size, the main distinguishing feature of the Schapendoes is it’s thick, long coat that covers its ear and eyes. They should have a moustache and a beard, as well as distinctive feathering on the backs of their legs and tails. Their tail should be long and will swing from side to side when at work or will spring straight up when running. While not at all visible to the naked eye, underneath their dense coat of fur, the Schapendoes has an athletic and well-muscled body.

Males measure between 43 and 50cm, while females will measure between 40 and 45cm. Typically, breed members will weigh between 12 and 25kg. Their long and profuse double coat can be any colour, though the most common is an overall white coat with either brown or grey markings, and their fur tends to get lighter towards their feet.

Character & Temperament

Having worked without much human interaction on the Dutch fields for many years, it is easy to understand why the Schapendoes is an independent dog. However, farmers also bred their dogs to be easy to train and responsive, meaning they are eager to please people and will be keen to do what is asked of them.

As they never had to defend their flocks from dangerous predators, Schapendoes dogs did not have to develop aggressive or defensive personalities, and most are very friendly and affectionate. A natural watchdog, the Schapendoes will bark at the approach of a stranger, and is always alert, even when resting at home.

The breed loves to play and are a cheerful dogs that get along with most everyone. While tolerant of children and other animals, their herding instincts are often strong, and care should be taken that they do not try to round up toddlers!


Photo of Schapendoes puppy

Very smart, the Schapendoes can quickly learn many tasks. However, their intelligence may work against you at times, as they can be cheeky, breaking any rules that are not clearly demarcated if it makes their life easier. Firm training with consistent methods should help to prevent any silliness or disobedience in the breed.

The Schapendoes is more and more frequently being seen in the competitive sport ring, excelling in a number of disciplines, including agility and flyball. The natural athleticism and trainability that was so vital to the Dutch sheep farmers of long ago, has resulted in a very talented dog today.


The Schapendoes is thought of as a healthy dog and will often live to between the ages of 12 and 15. Medical conditions to be aware of include:


A retrospective Dutch study published in 2012 revealed a predisposition for the Schapendoes to develop the cardiac condition known as PDA, or Patent Ductus Arteriosus. This abnormality leads to improper blood flow and will often present as a heart murmur in a puppy’s first health check. It is possible for this defect to be repaired via surgery, potentially curing the affected Schapendoes. Sadly, untreated dogs will inevitably go on to develop congestive heart failure and will have a much-reduced lifespan.


Several studies have indicated the link between the Schapendoes and PRA, or Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is a non-painful ocular condition that will lead to the destruction of eye cells over time, resulting in eventual blindness. Initially, owners will notice that their dogs have become night blind, and usually within months this has progressed to total blindness. While there is no known cure for this devastating disease, there are genetic tests which can ensure carriers of PRA are not bred from.

Ear Infections

Of course, the long-haired Schapendoes has particularly hairy ears, and as they do not stand erect, the ear canals have a propensity for becoming moist and humid, and will easily trap debris and foreign bodies. Failure to regularly clean the ears, and not drying ears after a swim or bath, will increase the odds of the dog developing an infection.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Schapendoes was a true working dog only a few decades ago, and while most are no longer used as shepherds, the breed has retained their stamina and high exercise demands. Used to patrolling fields tirelessly for hours on end, the Schapendoes does best in a rural environment or an area with secure, outdoor access. In the absence of this, several long walks a day will be necessary.

Walks alone, however, will not be sufficient to keep the Schapendoes occupied, as they equally need to be mentally stimulated, and should be encouraged to participate in dog training, agility, obedience and other disciplines. An unmotivated, bored Schapendoes is very likely to develop bad behaviours such as hyperactivity and excessive barking.


A short, daily grooming session should keep the long coat of the Schapendoes free from tangles. Trimming is not necessary, and the ‘shabby’ coat is a breed trait rather than something that needs correcting. Owners must ensure they check the ear canals every few days, as their furry, pendulous ears can be prone to infections.

Famous Schapendoezen

Tenji, known on the popular photo sharing site as submissivetenji, is a very popular female Schapendoes on Instagram with over 20,000 followers.


There are no popular Schapendoes cross-breeds as of yet.

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