From the age of around 6 months, your pup will become more sensitive to his environment and will respond differently to new stimuli. Fear, territorialism and aggression are possible reactions to new stimuli. Your poor puppy may hide and growl when experiencing these reactions.
A loud noise, a new person or dog or simply having his paw accidentally stepped on can cause your puppy to become fearful. Hiding under the sofa, where the dog thinks he is safe from the cause of his fear, is a perfectly natural response. Once Lucky figures out that the sofa is a “safe place,” he will form a habit of retreating there whenever he's fearful.
Hiding to Escape
Sometimes puppies can become overwhelmed by activity in the house and just need a place of their own to treat as a sanctuary. To you, this may seem like he is hiding, but the reality is quite different. Your puppy is simply getting away from all the fuss. Some pups may hide under the sofa to keep the sunlight out of their eyes when trying to nap.
If your dog has taken refuge under the sofa as a fear response, it is probable that he will growl if you attempt to coax him out. The growl is a sign of distress and anxiety. The trick to getting your puppy to come out is to make not being under the sofa more appealing than being under it. Place treats just where he can see them, so he is tempted out by positive stimuli. Never reach under the sofa to pull a fearful puppy out. This can compound the problem. Your puppy is still learning about his environment, so forcing him out from his “safe place” can create more behavioral problems down the line.
Growling to Protect
Resource guarding is a survival instinct. In the domestic environment, dogs see food and toys as their resources for survival, and depending on their personality, may feel the need to guard these objects. For example, if a new dog visits the house, your pup may gather up his toys and put them in a place where the other dog can’t get them.
Growling to Warn
Some dogs value their solitude, especially in a household with young children and other pets. Despite his young age, your pup may simply be showing signs that he likes to be alone sometimes. If disturbed when under the sofa, Lucky may give a warning growl as if to say “leave me alone.” This isn’t a fear response.
A high-pitched growl accompanied by a wagging tail is typically a sign that your pup actually wants to play. If he is in an excitable, playful state when he hides under the sofa, he wants you to chase him. Observe his body language to make sure he is being playful. A wagging tail, relaxed posture and alert expression mean that it’s playtime.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.