TEMPLE GRANDIN: When I was a little kid, loud noises like a school bell going off hurt my ears. It was like a dentist drill going down my ear hitting a nerve. It was terrible. Smoke alarms were often a problem. Big, noisy stores, supermarkets and things like this are often a problem. Some children are bothered by fluorescent lights because they can see the 60-cycle flicker. It's like being inside the speaker at the rock concert.
Now animals also have very, very sensitive hearing. I mean dogs can hear way above what we can hear. And I get very concerned in some situations such as animal shelters with noise stress. We need to be working on ways to reduce the noise stress.
Now some animals have a nervous, excitable temperament. Other animals have a calm temperament. There are genetic differences in how easily animals startle. Animals that tend to have a more nervous temperament are more aware of things going on around them. With the Arab horse, very aware, very vigilant.
And an animal is more laid back is less sensitive to what's going on around it. Yelling and screaming at animals is really stressful. They have very sensitive hearing. There have been a number of research studies now that show that screaming at cattle is extremely stressful. People need to just stop doing it.
Another thing you need to look at in your grazing animals, horses and cattle, the ears move independently. One ear can be looking over there, the other ear can be looking like that. Dog and cat ears, they work together, or the predator animal.
But horse and cattle ears, watch your ears. I call that "ear radar," because you can tell what the animal's concerned about. You're out riding a horse and the ears are going around like radar thing at the airport, that's not a good sign. Watch where the ears are pointing, then you can tell if the animal is interested in.
Fear. It's a main emotion both autism and PN animals. Fear is the primal emotion. It motivates animals to get away from predators. Now when I became a teenager, I had horrible problems with nonstop panic attacks. As I got older through my '30s, the panic attacks got worse in my late '20s, and they're now controlled with antidepressant medication.
I want to emphasize there's other people in the autism spectrum that don't need medication. There's a lot of variability. But I can understand how a prey species animal like cattle feel, always vigilant, always looking for predators, always looking for predators. I can really relate to that.
Now a lot of people think, oh, I just grab an animal quickly, do the veterinary thing really quickly, there isn't going to be any stress. Recently I was talking to a lady who worked at a zoo, and she says, well, I just grabbed this otter for 30 seconds and give him a shot, that shouldn't be any stress at all because it's only 30 seconds.
And I to her, what if you walk out in the street and you got mugged on the subway? It's only 30 seconds, but you're going to be really stressed. That is fear. Lots of time scientists don't like to use that little four-letter "fear" word, and the fear award is the biologically correct scientific word. You'll see it in all the neuroscience literature.
And I went through all the animal science literature looking for different cortisol levels. And cortisol is stress hormone. It's secreted when animals get scared. And when cattle are jumping all around and they're mishandled, they're poked with electric prods, their stress hormone levels can be three times higher compared to animals that are handled quietly.
But the thing that's really important when you get an animal to voluntarily cooperate with handling, and we did some work at the Denver Zoo on training animals to voluntarily cooperate for blood tests and injections in return for a treat, you can get the stress level down to the baseline.
In fact, zoos now have trying to most of the animals to completely cooperate with veterinary procedures. When you're forced to do something, they get a lot more scared than when they do something that they voluntarily will do.
Now in the brain, fear and pain work on different brain circuits. Fear is the most prominent, and yes, animals do feel pain. Birds and mammals feel pain, and it's been documented with a type of experiment called a "self-medication experiment." In this experiment, the knee joint was artificially injured and they get two water bottles, one containing an opiate-based painkiller that's very fast-acting but bitter tasting and nasty tasting, one containing plain water.
And with the chickens they used feed bowls. And when the leg is injured, they drink the painkiller and as it heals, they switch over to the plain feed or the plain water. Well, that's absolutely the gold standard to show that, yes, animals really do feel pain.
Animals often get scared when they're alone. You know cattle is a grazing animal. You've got to bring one up for a veterinary treatment, take another animal along with it. You bring your dog into the veterinarian clinic, if you're calming influence, he's less likely to get scared if you're there with it.
It's very important that an animal's first experience with something new is a good first experience. When it's first introduced to new people, new place, new things, it must be good. Because a first experience with let's say the veterinarian's office is bad or a horse's first experience with the horse trailer is flipping over backwards and hitting their head, they may become permanently afraid of that trailer.
Now these memories are stored as pictures, as sounds, sometimes the smells or touches, but more likely to be visual or hearing. Vision often is the dominant sense. The problem you have with these fear memories is there's no way to erase them. What you have to do is train the animal to close the file. There is no delete. You can't erase the file, it's still there. You train his brain to close the file.
Now if you have a real high-strung, nervous animal, the problem is that sometimes these files can flip back open, and that's when the horse starts bucking you off, and this can oftentimes be a problem with very nervous horses.
If you bang your cattle on the head every time you handle them, they're going to remember that and they're not going to want to go back into the chute again. I just can't believe the stupid things sometimes that people do.
Now I'm not a horse that was afraid of black cowboy hats, and he was afraid of black cowboy hats because during a veterinary procedure he was very badly abused, and he was looking at a black cowboy hat. Now these memories are very specific. White cowboy hats had no effect. Ball caps had no effect. A black head on the ground was less scary because that's a different picture. Now the ideal thing for me to do would be to try to eliminate black hats from this horse's life. I can't do that very easily.
Another fear memory I ran into was a horse that was afraid of white naked saddle blankets. If the saddle was on top of the saddle blanket, no problem. But you see saddle on top of the saddle blanket is a different picture than a naked white saddle blanket. Now I can probably just get naked white saddle blankets out of its life.
And the thing is, if the animal has a high-strung temperament, it's more difficult to train the brain to close the file. You can do it. There's ways to desensitize, medication sometimes helps, some people are doing things with pressure on the animal's body to help calm it, and I can really relate to that, because one of the things that helped me to calm my anxiety was a squeezing machine I built that was like a cattle restraining chute that put pressure all of my body and it helped calm down the nervous system. This is very calming in autism. Deep pressure is calming.
A man on a horse and a man on the ground in the mind of the animal is viewed is two different things. You can get situations where if a horse was abused by a rider, he'll be a problem when you ride him, but he'll be fine with groundwork like veterinary work or shoeing. See, man on the back, man on the ground, those are two totally different things.
Now sometimes fear memories can be generalized in a visually specific way. I knew this little red dog, and she became afraid of hot air balloons because one of them flew over the house one time and really scared her. And that fear spread to round, red plastic balls on power lines, and then she got afraid tanker truck rear ends going up over a hill.
And I go, OK, Red's afraid of round things. But there was some round things that she was not afraid of, stoplights and a round light at the pizza parlor. Well, I've kind of in my mind made a table and my mind of things round things Red was afraid of, round things Red didn't have a problem with. And I finally figured out that Red was afraid of round object background against the sky. Round against the sky was scary, round against something else was not scary.
Stop lights in Fort Collins have black metal things behind them, so that was round against black. And the pizza parlor light was round against a wall. It was not against the sky. You see it generalized, but it generalized in a visually very specific way.
Just want to give you some other ideas of how these fear memories can be specific. If a dog gets hit by a car, you'd expect him to be afraid of cars. But oftentimes he gets afraid of the place where he was hit, because he was looking at the road when he got hit, he wasn't looking at the car.
Another thing that can happen with horses, and this is the example of a touch memory, is if he was badly treated with a jointed bit that's jointed, he'll be afraid of that bit, but he may be fine with a straight bit that s a solid, one-piece bit. Now if you were to take those two bits and put them in your hands, they're going to feel different. It's a different feeling picture. I got to get you away from language.
New experiences. New experiences are attractive if an animal can voluntarily approach them, and they're scary if the animal's cornered and you suddenly just shove it in their face. New experiences are both scary and attractive.
You take a high-strung, nervous animal like the Arab horse, and you put some flags out on the pasture, the Arab's going to be the first animal to walk up and approach those flags. But if you shove the flags in that Arab horse's face and stall, it's going to panic.
Why are animals attracted to new things? They're attracted to new things because if you didn't explore somewhat, you wouldn't find new things to eat. I call it the paradox of novelty. It's both scary and attractive. You put a clipboard out in the middle of a pen of cattle, they're all going to come up and sniff it. You put a coat on the fence, they'll come up and sniff it. But if the wind blows that coat and makes it move, then they're going to be afraid of it.
One time I visited Africa and I went to a game park and there was a zebra that decided to come in and live with the horses. And the zebra seemed very calm. Well, he was calm because he was in an environment where he felt really safe and secure.
One time I was driving down the road and I saw a whole herd of Brahma bulls, and they were in amongst all these kind of decorative whirligig things, the things that spun around and stuff like this. Well, that was their home. See, novelty's in the eyes of the beholder. What's new to one animal is old home to another animal. To these bulls, it was just normal home to have all this stuff spinning around. Well, I pulled over and I sat inside the rental car and I watched, but when I opened the door of the rental car, boy, they were gone instantly. That was something new.
I often have people say to me, my horse is fine at home, and then we went to the show and he went completely crazy. Now think about it. There's new things at the show, new scary things-- flags, bikes, and balloons. I call him the big three. Flags are scary because they move rapidly and they have high contrast of light and dark. Bikes are scary because they move rapidly and they sneak up on you.
You need to get your animal used to these things at home, and the best way to introduce your horse to flags and balloons would be to decorate the pasture fence with them and let him voluntarily approach them. I do not like rough methods where you tie a horse up to a stake and throw all the stuff at him. I think that's just terrible. If you do that with a high-strung horse, he's going to stay scared, never, never habituate.
People that tend to favor those kind of nasty methods tend to work with the calmer genetics that will habituate, but that's not the way to train them. It's a lot better to just let the animal's natural curiosity attract him towards the new thing.
One of my big concerns with horses and dogs and many other animals is they're not getting properly socialized growing up. Animals have got to learn how to interact with other animals. Puppies have to learn to fight [INAUDIBLE]. Animals that are reared by themselves oftentimes will fight other animals viciously because they haven't learned the social give and take. I'm concerned that a lot of animals now don't get exposed to enough new things.
Dogs have got to have time off the leash as puppies, as adolescents, to have normal social behavior. This would help prevent a lot of dog fights. It would also help prevent a lot of bites.
When you're training an animal, You've got to figure out is his behavior motivated by fear or is it motivated by aggression? People are always mixing up fear and aggression. if you punish fear, you're going to make it worse. I talk about this at length in my book Animals in Translation. Fear and aggression are two totally different things.
Think about it yourself. When you almost had a car accident you got really scared. You didn't feel aggressive. Let's say you're taking a dog to the vet. Should you be there? If it's fear-based, probably yes. But let's say a police department brings in their guard dogs. Should the placement be there? If a dog's been specifically trained to let the vet touch him when he has a Kong toy, yes.
But if the dog hasn't been trained, he may try to protect the policeman against the vet. Now in that situation, you'd want the police car and the policeman five miles down the road, not out in the lobby of some small vet clinic. Dog's going to know it's there. So you've got to look at how is the animal actually viewing the situation.
Dairy bulls, responsible for half of all fatalities with livestock. One of the things that makes them so dangerous is that they're not properly socialized with their own kind. The way to make bulls a lot safer is to rear it on a nurse cow and rear it in with other cattle so it learns that it's cattle. It's not a tameness issue, it's a mistaken identity issue.
You know the other problem you have with animals reared alone is they'll viciously attack other animals. I bought a 30-acre piece of property, and it had a very nice horse on it that had lived there all his life. But he couldn't get along with other horses. He would try to kick them to death with both back feet. He'd never learned once you become dominant, you don't have to keep kicking. See there's a whole element of social behavior that's learned.
Now the dog is really unique. We can become their leader. They are hyper social and we become part of their society. Cattle we don't really want to be part of their society. We want bulls directing their aggression towards other bulls.
The other thing is animals aren't all that democratic. Sometimes it's best to handle the dominant animal first. They tend not to be a democracy. This is especially important with animals like boars and bulls, because if they smell a subordinate on you, they may tend to attack.
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Join Dr. Temple Grandin as she offers new insights on life with autism and how this unique perspective has helped her to develop award-winning techniques for handling livestock.
This video is part 6 of 8 in the Autism & Animal Behaviors series.