Dear Baxter, As a fellow veterinarian, I am hoping you can help me. My wife, Nancy, has two cow dogs that will readily obey commands to sit and stay – until they get near a cow.
Then they chase the critter and can’t hear a word we say. It’s very obvious to me they go deaf near livestock.
So, what’s your diagnosis? I’ve considered cow dander allergies, pour-on irritation and ear infections to name a few. If possible, send a note or RX.
—Signed Anxious in Tie Siding, Dr. L.W.
I am pleased to inform you your wife’s two cow dogs are suffering from a malady common in blue heelers. It also occurs in species further down the food chain, such as backyard horses, bird dogs and teenagers.
Your suggested diagnosis associates their problems to the nearness of cattle. However, research at the NASA Cow Dog Behavioral Institute in Homer City, Pennsylvania, indicated a relationship more closely related to the proximity of the dominant figure (i.e., the greater the distance between master and dog, the less your influence).
The technical name for the syndrome is called progressive dumb dog detachment amnesia or PDA. There are some social scientists who believe PDA is a result of a broken home, a puppyhood trauma or sucking hind tit. Others, with only a master’s degree, prefer to think it is a biological defect like damaged chromosomes, lack of a brain or too much co-op dog food.
Extensive studies have been done to discover a method to change the PDA dog’s behavior, such as necking him to a mule, using remote control pontoons or letting him drag a hundred foot of log chain. Although these techniques can alter his direction, they often interfere with his mobility in the corral.
Probably the most state-of-the-art information has come from a paper presented at the prestigious PDA Symposium and BBQ in Alcova, Wyoming, by one R. Guerricabeitia, sheepherder. It is his contention there is nothing wrong with the dog’s hearing, his breeding or his training. The PDA is evolving into a thinking being and has simply chosen to ignore you.
My advice: Live with it or leave ’em home.