Unraveling the Mystery Mutt

couchAt least once a week while out on a walk with Dahlia, someone stops me and says some variation of “Your dog is gorgeous” or “I had a dog who looked just like this,” which is often followed by the question I can never quite formulate an answer to: “What is she?”

I have, literally, had this question shouted at me by people on bikes, by people walking their dogs across the road, and once even by someone who was stopped at a stoplight and just had to know.

The answer? I have no idea. Dahlia was picked up as a stray as an adult. Her mix is entirely unknown to me. I have ideas of course, based on her looks and her personality (and ok, a bit of research into canine genetics because I’m an obsessive type) and I will share those guesses but really that’s all they are. I tend to call her a “Hairy Black Farm Dog” these days and leave it at that.

But then this Christmas my mother (bless her soul), got us a Wisdom Panel DNA test. For those who have never heard of this, the basic gist is you swab your dog’s cheek to gather up some DNA and send it off to them. Their lab analyzes it and sends you information on your dog’s ancestry. Are they a purebred? Are they a “designer” dog (a 50/50 mix between two purebreds) or is their mix a little more complicated than that.

Of course, there are a lot of discussions on how accurate these tests really are. Looking through the dogs on the Wisdom Panel site, some seem likely to match at least part of their ancestry. Some seem so far off it’s ridiculous (we’ll have Kelsey share her Wisdom Panel story in a followup post). But since I have the test, we’ll be doing it.

So I thought it would be fun to open this up to our TU readers to see what you think Dahlia might be before we get back the results.

Let me first tell you a bit about Dahlia: She’s currently approximately 7 1/2 years old (best guess). She weighs 50 pounds and measures 20.25″ at the withers. She is fairly mellow, but can get the energy up to do agility. She is a very quiet dog, unless the UPS truck comes by or she sees the horses at the agility barn. She is almost all black, except for some white at her haunches and on her belly, and she has a thick double coat. Her favorite things to do are play tug, squeak her toys, chase the geese and ducks at the park, and get belly rubs.

Below you will find a variety of photos that should give you a good idea of what she looks like.

First some front viewsfacefrontview2 frontview

And some side views.


Winter coat not in all the way yet.



Full winter coat


Here you can see the color of her fur on her belly.

And here you can see what’s beneath all that hair.
top view

And here are some action shots of her so you can see her moving.


Note: The weird chunk of hair that seems to be shorter over her shoulders was because she had surgery and that patch had been shaved some months before this photo was taken.

action3 action2 action

So tell us Team Unruly readers, what do you think Dahlia is? What do you think the Wisdom Panel test might say she is?

For results from this test, see the follow up post here.

62 thoughts on “Unraveling the Mystery Mutt

  1. I see border collie/collie-type plus a black lab in her; although her coat is reminiscent of a flat-coated retriever. I always love hearing what those DNA tests come back with; they’re usually quite surprising! For all we know, she could be half Cesky terrier!

    • I’m thinking it’ll come up with something like long-coated Chihuahua and Newfie mix. LOL I really honestly have little trust in these DNA things but my Mom got me it for Christmas so I thought it would make a fun post!

      • I saw an advert for a collie/flat coat cross and thought brains and a loving dog. That’s exactly what we got. The best dog ever. He’s a carbon copy of your dog. The mum was a farm collie and the dad was a pedigree flatcoat. Result an agile, calm but full of energy loving dog. Active when out on walks, loves water but totally relaxed at home and smart. Enjoy your dog. Regards Gareth

      • PS if you suspect Border Collie or Collie breed mix, get your dog tested for the mutant gene that causes Ivermectin/heartworm/dewormers, certain antibiotics and heart meds. to be toxic and often fatal.

  2. I vote flat coated retriever / border collie. It’s something about her facial structure/muzzle/nose that says flat coat to me!

  3. I’m going with golden retriever/australian shepherd or border collie.

    The tests seem to work better the fewer breeds the dog is mixed with. The ones I’ve seen with full halves and quarters of breeds seem very accurate, its when you get down to 12% and less that you get silly breeds.

    • That makes sense! My dog came back with one quarter each Border Collie and Jack Russell and those breeds seem spot on. The list of “trace” breeds…not so much with some pretty rare ones.

  4. My vote is Golden retriever plus some kind of collie/herding dog. Goldens are genetically black under that golden coat, so most golden mixes will have black coats.

  5. I see Lab/Border Collie. I did the Wisdom Panel blood test for my dog and it came back as primarily Border Collie and JRT. While Ruby is not a straight 50/50, there is a deliberate cross called a Border Jack and she looks remarkably like many I’ve seen. I see so many traits of both breeds, especially the Border Collie in her personality and behavior that I have no reason to doubt the results.

    I had my previous dog tested with another company, and it came back as 50-50 Chow/GSD which had always been my guess with her – the Chow part was undeniable as she had a blue tongue.

    I’ll be interested to see what Dahlia’s results are!

  6. Golden ret/black lab cross?

    Border collie/black lab cross?

    Flat-coated ret./golden ret cross?
    (my golden was so laid back and mellow, that’s why I am guessing that breed is in the mix somewhere)

  7. Wait, I have a second guess here too–

    25% Spaniel, 25% Border Collie, 50% Flat Coat Retriever. I think that’s my final answer. I think.

    • Interesting! This is the first time I’ve seen someone guess Spaniel. What about her makes you think of Spaniels? It’s definitely possible because pretty much ANYTHING is but not many think of Spaniels when they look at her!

      • I see Spaniel in there too. It’s the coat and the paws, and her build. She looks like a bigger, broader Cocker with a border collie body/tail.

  8. She definitely has some retriever blood, and I’m guessing Golden over Lab or Flat Coat. That’s mostly based on her coat and head shape. Collie or a related herding breed also seems likely.

    50/50 lab/golden wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  9. I’m going to guess Lab X something, because I think there’s pretty obviously SOME kind of retriever as the predominant breed in the mix, and Labs are far and away the most common working retrievers in the (rural Southern) shelter systems I pull from, so I’ve got a bit of a bias in that direction.

    Golden is another strong possibility (and so is Lab x Golden!). Flatcoat I’m not as convinced about, just because they’re less common and so the chances seem considerably smaller to me.

    • I’ve been on the “Flat coat is not likely” bandwagon since I got her for that very reason. I’ve also thought Golden more likely than Lab only because I remember reading that the short coat gene is dominant. But I know that there ARE some long-coated labs, though they’re somewhat rare, which means that some labs are carriers of the long-coat gene. I would definitely be floored if some retriever did not show up in her genes (despite her complete lack of understanding what retrieving is all about…”you want me to GET that? Oh come on!”).

  10. I’m a spaniel person and, FWIW, I don’t see any spaniel. I’m in the Golden RetrieverX camp. Especially because goldens throw dominant black genes unless the other dog has the recessive ee red gene in there. Flat-coats are rare and I don’t personally see it.

    • Hey some people think my golden mix has spaniel in it but some say absolutely not. You mentioned spaniel so I wanted to ask u. But idk how to post pic

  11. I will be amazed if she’s not part Golden, and I wonder if it might be something like English shepherd instead of border collie as the rest. Generally heavier coat like she has, softer eye, bossy but not as obsessive. And definitely in the hairy farm dog line!

    • I would be amazed if she’s not part Golden too. When I took photos of her to a GR site about 95% of the people instantly said “That dog’s part Golden.” Bossy but not obsessive! That’s a perfect description of Dahlia.

      Are English Shepherds very common? I always tend to go for more common breeds when trying to figure out her mix, but anything is possible!

  12. Lots and lots of retriever – golden retriever, Labrador retriever, maybe some flat-coated retriever. Then some other breeds thrown in just to keep it interesting :-)

  13. The tail and coat say Samoyed to me. Also the personality. Plus black Lab for the color and head/ear shape. And she is definitely high on my personal list of fave Team Unruly dogs!

  14. Pingback: The results are in! | Team Unruly

  15. I have a dog named buster who looks literally identical. He is incredibly smart but quiet. Lots of energy like a flatty but much more thoughtful and observant. He came from California and I was told for sure Mom was a flatty and dad was a border collie.

  16. She looks very similar to my dog who is a borador, border collie/ flat coat retriever mix. She has a wonderful personality, laid back and eager to please.
    She gets many complements as they are a beautiful mix. I would highly recommend this mix for a family.

    • That’s definitely a possibility, though Flat Coats aren’t super common here, which is why I tend toward Golden, instead of Flat Coat. Either way, they’re a great mix!

  17. Your dog looks so much like mine. I’ve been told my dog is border collie, black lab and a boxer. His personality is amazing. We visit nursing homes together. He loves people, dogs , everyone!

    • Boxer? That’s an interesting idea. I’m pretty much 99% sure that my dog doesn’t have a bit of Boxer in her! Not with all that hair.

      And it’s always so awesome when dogs can be therapy dogs like that. I bet the folks in the nursing home love him!

  18. She looks like our Jack, but her build is a bit heavier. Jack is somewhat wirey and looks like a wet river rat when he goes swimming. He doesn’t get a heavy winter coat, but we live in Washington. He’s three years old and hasn’t lost his “puppy” smell, so it makes me think he could be part spaniel, which would explain why his legs aren’t stockier.

    Border collie / Retriever is our best guess too for Jack. Possibly some spaniel in there. We’ve owned many golden mixes over the decades and he has exactly the same temprement. He’s happiest with a kid hanging off of each of his ears. Very obedient with border collie focus. Precise and calculated when working, a floppy mess when playing. Here are pics of him in my Instagram, as a puppy his ears were always high on his head, and go back up there when he hears a noise or thinks there is a spider to catch.


  19. We had a girl exactly like your Dahlia.
    She was a Flat-coated retriever/Border collie combo. The best dog we ever had. Extremely loving, athletic, fast and smart. Miss her terribly – to Heaven on April 10, 2015 at almost 14 years young..
    But every God-given day with our beloved dogs is a blessing, right?
    Have fun ..!!

    • Every day is indeed a blessing! Dahlia is now somewhere around 10 1/2 and I hope to have at least a few more years with my best girl. It’s hard seeing her starting to slow down. Not that she was ever FAST, mind you. Dahlia has always acted like one of those old Golden Retrievers you see in movies.

  20. Dahlia could be the twin sister to my dog, Lola. I think she is a border collie/flat coated retriever. Lola is the most fabulous dog. Loving, athletic, and so intelligent. I’m sure Dahlia is the same.

    • Dahlia is very loving…not quite so athletic, but she’s super intelligent. She’s a very mellow mutt and is sweet as pie!

  21. Did you ever get the results? We just adopted your dogs twin yesterday and I am trying to figure out what he is?? He looks just like the Flat Coated Retreiver X Collie pics.

  22. This is so funny! My dog looks very similar to yours (side profile definitely, but my dog’s muzzle is a bit narrower and she’s less boxy), but that doesn’t surprise me with all of the other comments on this post. She also has the faint white underbelly and muzzle with a black spotted tongue and the reddish tint to her hair in the sun. I never considered that she could be golden retriever: I didn’t know about the recessive genes. The rescue we got her from told us she was a border collie/Boykin spaniel (I see no Boykin in her) but I have taken to telling people she’s a border collie flat coat mix after comments from people and online photos. But your mentioning the rarity of the flat coat has me questioning that now, especially with the red tint to her fur. She is also very mellow and sweet, but she doesn’t know how to play with toys of any kind–she prefers pets!

    However, what made me laugh is what you said about EVERYONE coming up to you to tell you how gorgeous she is AND how she reminds them of a dog they have/had because that is EXACTLY what happens to me when I take my dog out! Literally almost every time. I’ve come to saying that it’s her superpower, reminding people of their beloved dogs, most of which are no longer here.

    • How funny is that? It must be a common result of mixes or something! I still have people telling me how much she looks like X dog they knew. It really is almost a superpower isn’t it?

      Your dog sounds so much like Dahlia! I would love to see pictures!

  23. She is absolutely stunning! I had a flat coat/border collie/ possibly some setter mixed in there mix some years ago. He was also stunning. And looked very much like Dahlia. Smartest, most loving and laid back dog I ever had! Clyde would play frisbee until he collapsed lol. He got cancer and had to be put to rest in 2002 at age 12. I had a small dog for awhile but he is now also gone. So, I’m looking for another one just like my Clyde. Hoping to find one soon!

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