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Fear of Unfamiliar People or Places


Unfamiliar situations and people are unnerving to many pets. A pet's territorial and social nature, combined with past experiences in new places with new people, helps to determine its reactions. The ability to adapt to a variety of situations is, in part, a learned ability. A dog that is confined or that has limited opportunity to socialize with others, particularly during the critical period of socialization to people between 6 and 14 weeks of age, may develop antisocial behavior later in life. This important developmental phase may occur even sooner in kittens. Pets may respond fearfully toward certain people. This does not necessarily mean that the pet has had a past negative experience with that person or another person. A pet that is fearful of men, for example, has not necessarily been abused by a man in the past. A fear of men, common to many pets, is likely a reflection of inadequate socialization to males as compared with females. A young pet should be exposed to a variety of social situations early in life to prevent problems later, but it should not be forced to endure any situation that makes it uncomfortable. Shyness in adult pets must be met with patience. The pet should be coaxed with food treats and gentle verbal praise.