Breed standard: a detailled look


Mrs. A.J.C. Schneider-Louter

Before I start the actual explanation of our standard, first some general points.
Every internationally recognized breed has its own F(édération) C(ynologique) l(nternationale) – standard. For our breed this is number 313

The breed standard describes what the ‘ideal’ dog of a specific should look like. In the official FCI-languages English, French, German and Spanish, our breed is indicated as ‘Nederlandse Schapendoes’. Above that only the translation of the word ‘Nederlandse’ (Dutch).

The first breed points for the Nederlandse Schapendoes were set in a board meeting of 13 November 1954. This was not yet an FCl-standard, by then our breed was not yet internationally recognized, it was not even recognized nationally. That only happened in 1970: in that year the studbook was closed, Schapendoezen of unknown decent could not be registered anymore. Until then they were registered in the annex of the NHSB (Nederlands Honden Stamboek, Dutch Dog Studbook).

Until November 1988 we worked with the first standard. The Vereniging received a request that year from the Dutch Kennel Club to transform the standard to the FCI format. The FCI aimed for more standardization in all breed standards. Mrs. drs. J.H.C. Brooijmans-Schallenberg, Mrs. Trude van den Berg-Zwaan and yours truly then created the new, current breed standard. Of course the first one was our basis but the set up needed to be different and most explanations had to be removed. All for the sake of standardization. The consequence of this is that breed standards of all breeds are a bit boring with less variety. Progress is that with most standards drawings have been added, usually of the head and the dog as a whole. This is done in our standard too. I have added these drawings, by Manon Terluin, to this article.

After 1988, regularly small adjustments were done. The latest standard (in all FCI-languages) is of 14-4-1999. I used that version for this article. All (standardized) breed standards start these days with: Translation, Origin, Date of publication, Utilization, Classification and Brief historical summary. I will not go into these parts of the standard. First I will mention in Italic a part of the standard, followed by my personal explanation of the how, what and why, and if required, an explanation of some terms.

The Nederlandse Schapendoes is a lightly built, long coated dog with a height at withers of 40 to 50 cm. His movement is effortless and springy. He is remarkable jumper.

Short and simple! In three sentences immediately a number of characteristics of our Schapendoes are mentioned. Lightly built means that the bones (usually mentioned as ‘bone’) are lighter, more delicate than one would expect for this size of dog. Because of this he moves (walks) effortless and springy and allows him to jump so easily. One of the early Dutch judges, mr. K.V. Antal, thought this to be so important that he wanted proof. During his judgements he made the dogs jump onto the table. This may be the reason why Schapendoezen are assessed on the table. In the original standard a clear explanation was written: ‘The springy movement of the happy, feisty and not-at-all mushy, stiff or weak Schapendoes is by all means a characteristic of the breed. The great agility and the certainty with which he lands, are striking’. At the section Body I will discuss the ‘lightly built-ness’ of the Schapendoes.

Long coated: this speaks for itself. A Schapendoes that is cut, or is of very short coat, just before a show, no matter the reason why, will not have any chance of winning any awards.

The Schapendoes is a normally and harmonically constructed 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.

In the first standard it was written: ‘He should not be ‘dead’, nor should he be nervous, but excited’. Nice, clear explanation! The judge at a show (show, club match, Young Dogs Day etc.) should asses your dog in a few minutes. Behavior and temperament are part of the breed standard. If your dog appears bored and uninterested in those few minutes, and goes around unhappy with little enthusiasm, you should not expect the judge to qualify or place him high. Even if you tell the judge that your Schapendoes is very happy at home, it will not help. The judge assesses what he sees on the spot. Usually it is inexperience and it will go better next time, after a bit of training.

The abundant growth of hair gives the head the appearance of looking bigger and, in particular, broader.

The layout of the last standard has been changed a little. In the past it was only described as ‘Head and Cranial Region’. Now it is divided in three chapters: Head, Cranial Region and Facial Region. ‘Abundant growth of hair’ speaks for itself. In the chapter ‘Coat’ I will get back to this. In this part especially the words ‘gives appearance’ are important. In ‘Cranial Region’ I will discuss this more in detail.

Skull: Almost flat with a moderate frontal furrow and strongly defined superciliary arches. It is fairly broad in proportion to its length: the width is slightly greater than the distance between the stop and the occiput.
Stop: Clearly defined but not steep.

There is hardly any breed with a truly flat skull. One will always feel a slight curve, as well from left to right as from front to back. You will see the judge putting a hand on the skull. This has two reasons: feeling whether the skull is not too round, and to determine the ratio of width and length. We cannot see this with the naked eye, because of the hairs we always need to use our hands on long coated dogs. In the previous chapter we read that the skull appears wider, this chapter indicates how wide it should be: a little more than the length. Nowhere in the complete standard it is written that the skull should be very wide! It should not look like a Great Dane dog or bobtail skull. Sometimes it is stated in a report: beautiful broad skull. Usually the width is then not correct ratio to the length, and therefore not correct. Quite wide compared to the length is different from very wide. The stop is the transition from skull to muzzle, located at the eyes. In drawing 1 you can see the course of the stop in a Schapendoes.

If the stop is too deep, we usually see a round forehead, a too short muzzle and sometimes a too wide skull.

Nose: The bridge of the nose is placed a little lower than the line of the skull.
Muzzle: The muzzle is shorter than the distance between the stop and the occiput. The foreface tapers hardly, remains deep and ends broadly, being only slightly rounded at its end. Seen from the side, with jaw closed, the lower jaw must be clearly visible.

Nose: while it is not stated explicitly, this means that the nose line runs parallel to the skull line. You can see this in drawing 1. A nose line that for example runs down compared to the skull line, gives a strange look. We call this down-faced. But also a nose line that runs up is not nice and not good. Nothing is said in the standard about the nostrils, but they should be of normal size and well opened. (otherwise the dog would have a handicap for doing his work, with breathing).

Muzzle: little to add (see also drawing 1 ). A full, broad muzzle is characteristic for the Schapendoes head. It is immediately visible if the muzzle is narrow or pointy. On occasion we can already see from the outside that the teeth are not ok. Missing teeth can cause a narrow jaw. (The opposite is also possible: with a small jaw not all elements have space). A substantial overbite can also be the cause for the lower jaw not being visible with a closed mouth.

Teeth: Normal developed scissor bite.
Despite the fact that it is not stated exactly that the teeth should be complete, it does say ‘normal’, and normal is complete. The teeth of a dog consist of 42 elements, divided in: 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars and 4 molars in the upper jaw, and 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars and 6 molars in the lower jaw (drawing 2).

Premolars are the first grinders after behind canines. The first two are quite small, often so small that you can hardly see them. Especially the first one can sometimes only be detected by feeling you’re your nail. Occasionally, premolars are missing. It depends on the amount and of which ones are missing, how this is rated. One judge may be stricter on this than others.

The teeth should have a scissor bite (drawing 3a). This tells us something of the position of the teeth. A scissor bite is the most normal and most common bite in dogs (also in humans by the way).

Occassionaly we see a level bite (drawing 3b).

It is a mistake, but not so huge as an overbite (drawing 3c).



Very rarely we see underbites (drawing 3d) in Schapendoezen. (For a boxer, this is exactly the desired bite.) In the drawings this is clarified. Deviations in the position of the teeth occur in different degrees. We will then speak of e.g. a slight overbite or a severe overbite, etc. Sometimes, if we want to be mild, we will say ‘ample scissoring’. Occasionally the teeth are not neatly lined up, then it is called ‘irregular’ or ‘messy’ teeth. The cause of this is often that the jaw is somewhat narrow, so that the teeth no longer fit neatly next to each other. A ‘skewed’ tooth usually says more about the position of the jaws in relation to each other than about the teeth. Sometimes a tongue that is too long causes the teeth not to fit neatly together. Such a long tongue no longer fits in the closed mouth and then pushes against the teeth. That long tongue will eventually have exactly the same effect on the teeth as a thumb on the teeth of a thumb-sucking child. Moreover, we always see such a tongue hanging out. The teeth will eventually become totally deformed as they get older. Such a long tongue is something hereditary. A bracket to get the teeth back in a neat row (yes really, this is done), is fooling yourself and the judge and what is much worse: you are hiding a hereditary mistake. By the way, all the above-mentioned deviations from the normal position of the teeth are hereditary.

Cheeks: The zygomatic arches are strongly prominent.

Cheeks: through those strongly protruding cheekbones, we get that full typical schapendoes head.

Eyes: The eyes are fairly large, round and set into the socket in a normal position.  They are placed more to the front than the side of the head.  Their colour is brown; they should not give the impression of being black.  The white of the eye should only be visible when the dog looks hard to one side.  The expression is open minded, honest and lively.  Shape, colour and expression are very characteristic for the breed.

Eyes: clear description! Little to add (drawing 4).


Especially the ‘expression’ is well described. If something disturbs that special expression, we can take it as an error, even if it is not mentioned as such. For example: an unpigmented third eyelid (drawing 4a) is not mentioned as a mistake, yet it is not good, not beautiful, because it disturbs the correct expression. Not, bad, or thinly pigmented eyelid edges can also cause another, undesired, expression.

Ears: These are set on fairly high and are neither large nor fleshy.  They hang free, but not close to the head.  They are amply feathered and mobile, but should not protrude beyond the outline of the skull.

Ears: large, thick ears, sometimes set a little low, used to be commonplace. Nowadays we see much more often the desired, mobile ear. An ear set too low gives a somewhat sad expression. Occasionally we see an ear placed too high, too small. Such an ear, with strong attention, tends to stand halfway. This is also not a good look. It resembles a terrier. The judge will, by attracting attention, always check if the ears are sufficiently movable. A so called ‘dead’ ear is not characteristic for a Schapendoes. If we check the ears, we sometimes find unwanted folds and/or ridges. With folds (kind of ridge) the ears are sometimes carried open, folded backwards. Ridges can be more or less thick and hard, it feels like cartilage. Usually those ears are less movable.

The head is carried high on a strong, clean neck.

Dry means: without fat or loose (throat) skin. The head is carried high, so not as we often see with hunting dogs, the nose facing the ground. The length of the neck is not mentioned, so we assume that it should be a normal, not short and not long neck.

The Schapendoes is slightly longer than high.  The skeleton is fine boned, pliable and elastic.
Topline: Curved over a strong muscular loin.
Chest: Deep.  Ribs are moderately to well sprung; they reach far back.
Lower lone and Belly: Not too tucked up.

The body must be slightly longer than high (see drawing 5). There are no proportions given. ‘Slightly’ is not much, so it is clearly not a long dog, but also not a square, short dog. Both occur occasionally. In the really long dog, it is often a combination with short legs. We call these dogs low-legged or short-legged (see drawing 5a).






Low-leggedness can be measured: when the distance from the ground to the bottom of the chest is less than the distance from the bottom of the chest to the withers (where the shoulder points meet), or when the depth of the chest goes beyond the elbows. Low-leggedness occurs in various degrees and is severely punished according to how severe it is. It has turned out to be a strongly inherited trait. A too short, square Does, does not look typical. Because of the (too) short back such a Does will also be less flexible in its movements, more difficult to twist and turn.

At ‘General Appearance’ it was already said that the Schapendoes is a light-built dog. Here this is emphasized again, this time in combination with ‘pliant and resilient’. It will be clear that a Does with a heavy skeleton, also called heavy bone, is not flexible and resilient.

In ‘General Appearance’ it also stated: In his movements he is springy and light: he is a remarkable jumper’. This is one of the most essential characteristics of the Schapendoes. A do with heavy bone is not a typical Schapendoes! Especially in other countries these large, heavily built dogs often come to shows and often win. It is the task of our breed association to keep pointing out this typical breed characteristic to the judges, also the foreign ones. Bone that is too light sometimes occurs. This is not good either! Often this type of dog also has a less developed chest. They are a bit amicable, puny dogs; it can be small and large dogs.

At the inventories the dogs are nowadays not only measured but also weighed. This happened in 1999 with 59 males and 91 females. This gives an interesting picture of the average heights and weights. The average weight of the males was 18, 1 kg and the average height 48,3 cm. For bitches the average weight was 15.9 kg, average height 45.7 cm.

The topline is vaulted over the strongly muscled loins (drawing 5). I have always thought it said, ‘slightly arched’. It used to say: ‘The topline rises slightly at the loins’. I hope that in the future this can be changed in the breed points. The danger is that there will be Schapendoezen with round backs, which certainly can’t be the intention. It would be more clear if it said: ‘the muscle tension makes the topline on the loins slightly curved’. The chest is deep, but not deeper than the elbows (also drawing 5). The shape of the ribcage is very clearly described. Not flat, not barrel-shaped and not short. In our old standard was mentioned: “The ribs extend far back. Again, without exaggeration’. Next to the explanation: ‘Proportionality in construction is an important requirement for a working dog. Therefore, great attention needs to be paid to this’. A raised belly line can of course be nicely camouflaged by the hair. So, a good judge will always check this. Such a tucked-up belly line often occurs in the very lightly built, puny dogs.

The tail is long, well coated and feathered.  The manner and way in which the dog carries his tail is characteristic of the breed.  In repose it hangs downwards.  When trotting, the tail is carried fairly high and swings slightly curved from one side to the other.  When galloping, it is stretched out straight.  When jumping, the tail definitely serves as a rudder.  When the dog is alert, the tail may sometimes be raised high.  It should, however, never be carried stiffly over the back.

This is quite a long story about just a tail (see drawing 6).

This shows how important this part is for our breed. In the old standard there was something very specific, namely: feathered tail with a hook! When we made the new standard in 1988, we thought for a long time about how we would name this specific shape. With a hook in the tail we quickly thought of a kink in the tail and a kinked tail is something we definitely did not want! The bad consequences of breeding with dogs that have a kinked tail are well known. To avoid any misunderstandings about the right shape, we left out ‘with a hook’ at that time. I hope that in a new version of the standard we can add something about the shape of the tail, e.g. sable tail would be a good name. Also ‘slightly bent at the end’ would be a good description. It may be clear that a straight down hanging tail (drawing 6a) is not desirable. Luckily, we don’t see this very often. A tail that is carried too high we regularly encounter (see drawing 6b). This is then described in the judging reports as ‘the tail is carried too cheerfully’. Or ‘Is very proud of his tail’. It does not look nice and is not good, but it does say something about the temperament of the dog. A frightened, timid Does will have his tail wedged between his legs. That is actually much worse, because it is not typical for the character of our breed.


Drawing 6c. A judge who knows our breed well, will almost always say something about the tail in the judging report. Remarks like: ‘Very typical tail carriage’ or ‘Makes good use of tail’, you will often encounter. The two runaway Doezen at the end of this part show the tail carriage in trot and gallop. The tail carriage is not discussed here. It is clear that it should not be too high, otherwise the tail would always be carried over the back, kind of like the Pomerian dog’s tail (see drawing 6c). In the section ‘Hindquarters’ you will read that the pelvis must be sloping well and this in turn has consequences for the set of the tail.

The front legs are straight and lightly boned.  Good angulation of the front legs should emphasize the fore-chest.
Pasterns: Springy.

Forequarters: again the remark “light of bone”. This is so important for our breed! Straight forelegs. This means no O-legs, no outward-facing feet. The latter is called French stand (drawing 7). Also, no twisted, not-well-connected elbows (drawing 7a).

Good angulations mean that the angle of the shoulder which lies at a good angle) and the upper arm (the so-called bow joint) is close to 100° and the angle of the upper arm and lower leg (elbow joint) is close to 135° (see drawing 5). These are ideal situations and those are rare. More often we see that the shoulder is too straight, too steep and therefore is in a much larger angle with the upper arm. The shoulder blades should lie neatly against the chest and lean well backwards. If the shoulder is too steep, or placed far forward, you won’t be able to feel a forechest. Forechest is the front of the chest and the top of the chest-bone, felt midway between the two bow joints. The shoulder points should be quite close together, about 1 to 2 fingers apart. Excessive distance is often due to a loaded shoulder.

Pelvis: In a well slanted position.
Hocks : Moderately angulated, well muscled.
Metatarsus: Short.

The feet are fairly large and elastic, broad and oval in shape.  The toes are tightly bunched.  The pads are thick and springy, with plentiful hair between them.  Dewclaws are permitted.

The forefoot is resilient. Neither slack nor steep. They must be able to take a beating when the dog is working on the Dutch heath. The forefoot should not be straight, but also not sagging.

Hindquarters: the well-sloping pelvis has to do with the fact that the Does can do its job well, it is functional. A dog with a straight pelvis, will not be able to twist and turn so well and will not be able to jump and canter so easily. Pelvis that is too sloping (crotch) is also not good. It is ideal if the pelvis creates an angle of about 30° with the horizontal (see drawing 5). The pelvis is also called the croupe. Moderately angled in hocks: in the old standard this was directly behind: built for the work in the herd. Functional again. The hock is also called ‘the heel’.

“Well-muscled” is in the new standard wrongly shifted to just the hock. It should say: ‘the hind legs are properly muscled. The judges give a lot of importance to being well-muscled and mention whether or not they are muscled in the judging reports.

At ‘the heels are low’ it used to say: again, without exaggeration. With too low heels the Schapendoes would not be able to canter so easily.

Errors in the position of the hind legs are e.g. legs that are too close together (drawing 8).

Cowhocks; this means that the heels are close together and the feet are a bit apart again (drawing 8a).

Once in a while we see bow-legs. Sometimes the hind middle foot from the heel (hock) does not go straight down, but forward. We call this ‘sabre-legged’ or ‘sickle-heeled’. (see drawing 8b). This is neither good nor functional.

In his work, the Schapendoes gallops rather than trots, so his movement must be light footed and springy without excessive use of energy. He must be able to jump well and turn swiftly.

Because the Schapendoes canters more at work than he trots, the movement must be light-footed and springy, without unnecessary energy consumption. He must be able to jump well and turn around fast.

This is clear, nothing to add. Remarkable is that there is nothing about driving movement. In most standards this is a requirement. Many judges also want to see a driving movement in our Does. But it’s not built for this, it’s more of a canter! I would like to tell you what was said about the movement in the former standard state, namely: the faster he goes, the narrower the Schapendoes runs. In fast gait the dog moves forward smoothly. Clarification: Going narrower with faster gait – a characteristic of the working dog – means that the feet are placed more towards the middle, so right and left foot towards each other. Furthermore, one could say that the dog walks ‘effortless’, i.e. without any superfluity, e.g. like unnecessary lifting of the feet.

The Schapendoes has a thick coat with sufficient undercoat. The coat is long, a good 7 cm or more in the region of the hindquarters. It is not smooth, but lightly waved. Definitely curly, frizzy hair is not permitted. The hairs grow very densely together; they are fine and dry, but above all, never silky. 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.

All colours are permitted.  Preference is given to blue-grey to black.

Hair: quite a long description about the coat, but apparently not clear enough yet, because the hair is often a reason for discussion between breeders, judges and exhibitors. I too am not in a position to write it down more clearly than the standard already does. You must have seen and felt a lot of good coats to know what is good. From pictures you can sometimes get an impression, but then even then the hair can be too soft. Lately, we unfortunately do not see the so desired ‘formidable crest’ anymore. Usually the hair on the head is too soft and falls like a curtain in front of the eyes. A top knot stands a bit away from the face, so that the eyes remain visible. Many owners tie the crest at home with an elastic band or hair clip, but because of this the hairs will keep growing and will not be subject to natural wear and tear. At exhibitions, the rubber band will naturally be taken off, with the result that the crest hairs will fall over the eyes. Apart from too soft hair, we occasionally come across a coat that is too hard. This looks like a terrier coat and could also be trimmed or plucked. A good coat never needs to be trimmed or plucked. How the coat should be groomed is a separate chapter and does not fit in the context of this story. I do not want to withhold what was in the old standard with the explanation ‘The Schapendoes, being a working dog, should be protected from rain and cold. Hence the dense, and in the undercoat very dense, coat. Daily brushing (not combing) and, if necessary, untangling, is necessary. However, good care must be taken that the undercoat does not disappear as a result of this, which would also result in a loss of natural protection’.

Colour: although the standard talks about preferred colours, I would like to warn you not to breed for this! We could lose the nice varied colour pattern. An expression among judges is: ‘A good dog has no colour’. By this we mean that overall quality always comes first and never a ‘preferred’ colour.

Height at withers:
for dogs:43 – 50 cm,
for bitches: 40 – 47 cm.

The withers are the point on the back where the shoulder blades meet. This is where the height is measured. There is a tolerance of 7 cm both in males and bitches. At exhibitions the judges will not be ready with a measuring device. We judge ‘by the eye’. A judging report will not say: this dog is too big or too small, we express ourselves like e.g.: a very big male or very small bitch, etcetera. During breeding inventarisations on the other hand, both height and weight will be checked. We do see dogs that are too big and also too small. Up till now we are dealing with the measurements with flexibility. Extremes are excluded for breeding.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

This is a standard phrase that appears in all updated standards of all varieties.

No Schapendoes which behaves nervously and – or – aggressively in the ring will be placed or classified.

It is very good that this is included in the standard. A dog that would exhibit these characteristics does not have the right character. Fortunately, it rarely or never happens that a Schapendoes is sent out of the ring because of fear or agression.

In males, two normally developed testicles should be fully descended into the scrotum.

Also, a standard sentence in all breed points.

While the writing this chapter it became clear to me again that this standard is above all focused on function. The makers of the original standard, Toepoel mainly, had a working, or capable of working dog in mind. I want to end with a part of the original standard:

“The Schapendoes must remain a working, and certainly a shepherd dog, in mind, senses and body”.

Clarification: first it is a task of the breeders, but second also of the judges, to make sure that the Dutch Schapendoes has the correct nature and the ideal body for a shepherd dog on the Dutch heath, so without anything that hinders him in this, even if it is an exaggeration of desired characteristics. The Schapendoes must not degenerate into a so called “exhibition dog”.

Annigje Schneider-Louter

With thanks to Manon Terluin, who made the drawings for this chapter.