What’s In a Charlie?

When my fiancé and I adopted Charlie, the humane society had guessed that he was a German Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog mix. 

 Here’s a flashback to the day we brought him home! 
This Shepherd/Cattle dog combo seemed likely enough- he had shepherd coloring and was about the size of a cattle dog. As time went on, we wondered if he might also have a little corgi in him, what with his foxy face, fluffy neck, and very fluffy haunches. We both also just really like corgis, so we knew that might be just wishful thinking on our parts. 

At some point, I recalled reading about a company that would analyze your dog’s DNA and tell you what breed (or combination of breeds) they were. I finally got around to googling it at the beginning of February. 

I found out that the company, Mars Veterinary, offers a product called Wisdom Panel that can test canine DNA and match it to a database of over 200 different breeds. 

It’s a bit pricey, but my fiancé and I decided to get it as a sort of Valentine’s Day gift for each other. I ordered it through Amazon and the kit arrived in about 3 days!

  
The directions were easy to follow: take the two sealed swabs provided and get a sample from the inside of your dog’s cheek. You do have to make sure they have not eaten in the past two hours to avoid food contamination. Charlie was less than thrilled about that part. 

 
Charlie didn’t exactly mind having the actual samples taken, but my fiancé did have to give him lots of pets to keep him still so I could make sure the get a good swab. 

Then I put the swabs back in the box, stuck a pre printed shipping label on it, activated the kit online, and mailed it off. 
Waiting was the hardest part. I had read that it would take between 2 and 3 weeks after the lab received the sample to process the results. 

To my pleasant surprise, I got an email saying Charlie’s results were ready one week after they were received at the lab. 

  
Say what?? Obviously we weren’t surprised by the German Shepherd or Australian Cattle dog, but Doberman? Sheltie? Lab?

After thinking about it, though, I realized Charlie has the brown on black “eyebrows” most Dobermans have. 

  
Shelties are pretty fluffy and also on the petite side, which could be where he gets the extra floof and his smaller and slimmer size than most of the other breeds in his ancestry. 

But I’m still not sure about the lab…Charlie does not like swimming at all, and I’ve seen cats learn to fetch better than he does. 

The exact breakdown of Charlie’s breeding, in case you are interested, is:

*37.5% Australian Cattle Dog

* 12.5% German Shepherd

*12.5% Shetland Sheepdog

*12.5% Labrador Retriever 

*12.5% Doberman Pinscher 

*12.5% Mixed breed- this means that some of Charlie’s ancestry was mixed beyond the 3 generations back the test looks at. The full report does show what groups (i.e., herding, sporting, terrier, etc) the DNA is most similar to. In Charlie’s case, it was the working class breeds. 

Overall, I was really thrilled with the test. It was fun to find out what kind of mutt he is and try to find some characteristics of those breeds in his looks or temperament. 

At the end of the day, though, Charlie could be any combination of breeds and he would still be 100% spoiled and 100% loved. 

  
  

6 Months with Charlie

Today marks 6 months since we first brought Charlie home! This little guy continues to be such a ray of sunshine in my life. Everyone who meets him remarks on his sweet, friendly nature. I can’t say enough about how much I love this dog. In honor of having put up with us for half a year, here’s an update profile on Mr. Charlie.

Age: 1 1/2

Weight: Right around 40 pounds

Dog Food of Choice: Charlie eats Blue Buffalo. Until recently we were feeding him the chicken and brown rice flavor. To help with some food boredom and also hopefully help his dry, itchy skin we switched to the fish and sweet potato flavor.

People Food of Choice: Cheese. And peanut butter. But mainly cheese.

Tricks/Commands He Knows: Sit, Stay, Shake, Beg, Come are rock solid. Lay down is a little rough, but we’re working on it. Roll over is also a work in progress.

Favorite Things: Cuddles, going for walks, running and playing chase, wiggling on his back in grass, car rides, eating, and giving kisses.

Favorite Toys: Until very recently Charlie had zero interest in toys. It was like he didn’t know how to play. Then my friend Laura sent him a rope tug toy and he LOVED it. So far that’s to only one he really likes. Well, he does like his Kong. But since his main interest in that involves getting the peanut butter out of it, I don’t think it really counts as a toy.

Dislikes: Being home alone, smoke alarms (which I set off at an unfortunate rate), and the vacuum. We haven’t experienced a thunder storm since we got him so I’m not sure how he’ll do with that.

Speaking of being home alone…: I’m so happy with the progress Charlie has made with his separation anxiety. After consulting a vet, he began taking a very low dose of Prozac (yes, really). Along with some good, old fashioned time, it seems to have made a big difference. Charlie still hates being left alone and does still whine (and occasionally bark) but it is much quieter and less frequent than before. Just yesterday I set up my laptop to record him while I was out for a few hours and he spent probably 70% of the time just laying on the bed. Maybe 20% was spent looking out the window, and only 10% of the time was spent making noise. Given that when we first got him he would literally bark nonstop, this a HUGE improvement. I can only hope that time will continue to make him more comfortable being on his own.

Dog Friends: Charlie loves to go to the dog park and really enjoys playing chase with dogs that are his size or smaller. He also likes to stop and visit with dogs we meet on walks. He is, however, still very intimated by dogs that are bigger than he is unless they are also very friendly.

Now enjoy some pictures of my favorite mutt.

Sunday cuddles

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His beloved tug toy

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Being brave and making friends with the Great Dane at the dog park

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More friends!

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Can you spot the Charlie nose?

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Knee is good spot. I will nap here.

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Bedtime cuddles

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Baby steps

Unbeknownst to us, Charlie has not made much progress with his immense fear of being left alone.

We have thought that, aside from some initial distress at our departure, he eventually calmed down and spent the day doing…well, whatever dogs do all day.

Apparently this has not been the case. Our sweet Charlie, it seems, barks. A lot. All. Day. Long. Loudly and pitifully. And did I mention constantly? Literally?

Our neighbor came over to talk to us about it for the first time on Sunday. Apparently our schedules are often similar enough that no one is home during the majority of Charlie’s bark fest. But when we went out early on Sunday for breakfast, that prompted a visit.

I felt awful that Charlie (and our neighbors) had been suffering for so long without us knowing. We truly believed the strategies we had been trying were helping and he was doing well. Had we know, I definitely would have started a more aggressive desensitization program right away.

Luckily our neighbor has been pretty understanding, especially when we reassured him that we were taking/ are going to take steps to fix the problem.

Which is why is spent my day off trying every single thing I could find to help dogs with separation anxiety in addition to the several methods we already have in place.

I think I’ve found a strategy that so far has shown a lot of promise. Charlie has responded pretty well to it, and I think with more time and consistency it will help a great deal. I just wish it was possible for me to have a few days off right now, for I fear the progress we made today (which has been wonderful but by no means close to “cured” status) will be lost when Charlie is back to being on his own tomorrow.

All I can do is hope for the best and keep on trying. I really love this little guy and I so much want for him to be able to spend his days relaxed and not afraid. And not driving our neighbors crazy.

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to post a more specific description of what we have tried and what has and hasn’t helped, so that maybe someone going through the same thing can find some ideas to help their dog.

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