People often ask us how a dog’s hearing is tested or what BAER testing entails. We have in-depth info about Deafness in English Setters on our web site, but since the Camas x Doc pups had their tests done yesterday we thought this would be a good time for a post about what it’s like to get the actual testing done.
We have been BAER testing our breeding dogs’ hearing since 1996. Because there are so few testing centers this has not been very easy to do. We began by flying a neurologist from Washington State’s vet school here to test all of the dogs in the kennel. After that the tests were done at various places around the country when we were on the road, including a number at the University of Minnesota during our Wisconsin grouse hunts. Although with some effort we could screen the breeding dogs, the testing centers were too far away to travel with young litters of pups. This all changed several years ago with the discovery of Dr. Cindy Olsen in Boise- a human audiologist who was also testing dogs! Recently Dr. Spencer Lifferth joined the practice and has made BAER testing dogs something of a specialty. We are thrilled to have Dr. Olsen and Dr. Lifferth available to make testing all of the pups a reality!
So here is what a BAER test looks like. Dr. Lifferth is preparing to run the test on one of Spice’s pups earlier this year. Four electrodes are placed on the puppy- one just in front of each ear, one on the forehead, and one on top of the head. They have tiny needles that go just under the skin. There is also an earpiece in each ear that makes a clicking sound, one ear at a time. This is all hooked up to a computer which displays and records the brain’s response.
Sometimes it is quite a challenge to get the puppy to hold still for long enough to get everything in place and then run the test in each ear. The puppies rarely notice the needles, but the wires are interesting to try to chew on and they tickle. They think the clicking sound in their ear tickles too, and if they shake their head everything comes out and we start all over. Some puppies do better with various approaches- standing, sitting, hold on tight, rub the belly, blow on them, etc. The Docs are patient, we keep trying, and eventually get through all of them.
The trip to Boise is a great experience for the pups. It’s a long drive requiring several stops with young puppies and we have out of the way places to safely let them out. Everyone is usually tentative at the first stop, but by the second they almost always come out of the truck ready to play and explore new territory.
The puppies catch on very quickly to the fact that when it’s time to go you need to get back in the truck. By the end of the day they often come in to your feet and wait their turn when you start loading up.
All in all it’s an excellent adventure for the puppies- lots of new experiences, new people, exposure to the big world, plus weird things happen and you live! Not quite so excellent for the human- rolled out of the driveway at 3:08 AM, racked up 684 miles, and arrived home just before 9 PM. A very long day, but well worth it.