Thundershirts and Squeeze Chutes: What Do They Have in Common?

As it is the Fourth of July, the air is full of lights and explosions. What a beautiful experience–unless you are a dog that hates loud noises.

Burger on the Grill

Ah, nothing is more American than burgers, explosions, and dogs hiding under the deck, wondering when World War III will end. Except my dog, who seems to gravitate towards loud things. Probably OK for a bird dog. 

If you haven’t heard, there’s a nice invention out there that helps dogs with noise anxiety called a “Thundershirt“. While it doesn’t work for every dog, for many it helps keep them calm on days like Independence Day and during stormy weather (hence the name). The premise behind its success is “deep pressure therapy”, a technique that works by creating pressure similar to a firm hug. This pressure helps induce calming in the animal (or person).

A pioneer of this concept, Dr. Temple Grandin, observed this happening in what may seem like a very different situation. She noticed many cattle when restrained in a squeeze chute would calm down when broad, steady pressure was applied to their bodies. Just like the Thundershirt, this does not work 100% of the time, but for many cattle that pressure calms them down, allowing a cowboy to safely administer vaccinations or treatments to an animal several times his size.

Cow in chute

Because if you’re going to stick your face down by a cow’s foot to see why she is sore, it is best if she doesn’t want to kick your face in.

Squeeze chutes can come in a variety of styles, and can operated by human labor or hydraulic pressure. But they all function on a similar premise. Cattle walk into the cute from the rear and a gate is closed behind them. This prevents them from backing out, as well as an animal behind them from entering the chute. The animal then walks forward until the head is in the headgate, which is then closed. The sides of the chute are then squeezed down, which applies pressure across the entire body of the animal. While they may be a bit skittish at first, most of the time the animal quickly stands still and treatments can be preformed. Then, after the treatments are done, the animal is unsqueezed and the headgate released so the animal can walk out of the chute.

So although they look quite different, both the Thundershirt and the squeeze chute perform the same function; they calm the animal. Although I don’t plan on putting cows in a squeeze chute today because of the fireworks, they serve a vital purpose to keep both the cow and the cattle handler safe while administering treatment.



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