Harrier Breed Guide

Harriers are sturdy dogs that look like smaller versions of the English Foxhound. Their coat is dense, short, and glossy, with the hair on their ears being of finer texture than that on their body. These dogs come in any color, but they are most often seen in the tricolor hound coloration of black, white, and tan. Rarely, they come in a mottled blue pattern. The Harrier's eyes are medium sized and brown or hazel, and their ears are set low and rounded at the tips. These dogs range in size from 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 40 to 60 pounds.

Harriers are good problem solvers, too, so steps must be taken to prevent their escape from yards and homes.

Very friendly and outgoing, Harriers get long well with children and other pets. They may be chatty, and some are known to howl or bay on occasion. These sweet and affectionate dogs enjoy being active and are ideally suited for active families.

Because the Harrier is a rare breed, it may take a year or more before a puppy becomes available for adoption or purchase. Patience is key if one of these dogs is desired.

Harriers crave companionship. They are very people-oriented and prefer to be with their human family at all times. They especially enjoy spending time with children, and they do not like spending long periods alone. Because of their history as a pack dog, Harriers get along very well with other animals. Both dogs and cats make good company for this breed when human family members cannot be around. If raised together, the Harrier may become depressed if his companion animal (whether dog or cat) is no longer around.

These are tolerant and amiable dogs, and they are also active and playful. They need time outdoors every day, preferably in a securely fenced yard. When not in a yard, they should be kept on a tight leash to prevent running off after prey. These are not the best apartment dogs due to their activity level. They thrive in homes with large yards, either in suburban or rural areas.

To prevent boredom and digging, it's best to keep these dogs physically and mentally stimulated as often as possible. Regular exercise will also help burn off excess energy and keep these dogs calmer and more content indoors.

Harriers are one of the more healthy dog breeds, but that doesn't mean they are free of disease or genetic concern. Hip dysplasia is a common problem in this breed, and Harriers are also known to suffer from eye diseases more often than many other breeds.

Weight management is a big part of caring for these dogs. Because Harriers have never met a plate of food they didn't like, portion sizes must be strictly controlled and leftover food must be put away promptly to keep it out of the Harrier's mouth. Exercise is also an important part of weight management.

Routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, proper nutrition, and attention to weight help ensure Harriers live a full and active life of up to 15 years.

Harriers are very intelligent and highly trainable dogs. Positive reinforcement is an ideal training approach with this breed, and Harriers respond exceptionally well to food rewards. Of course, part of training must be teaching the Harrier not to sneak and steal any food found sitting around on tables and counters. Unless taught otherwise, these dogs will eat anything in sight.

This breed tends to be a bit stubborn, and patience is key during training. Firmness and consistency will help ensure success, but harsh criticism is likely to backfire and cause these dogs to shut down. Overly repetitive training is also not very effective; as an intelligent breed, these dogs learn and bore quickly.

Training cannot quell the hunting instincts of these dogs, and the breed is likely to chase small animals out of the yard or off the leash if given any room to do so. These dogs must be kept in a very secure yard. Harriers are good problem solvers, too, so steps must be taken to prevent their escape from yards and homes. If there is any place to dig free, they will find it and take advantage of it.

The Harrier's coat is easily cared for and requires only minimal grooming. Regular brushing, once or twice weekly, will keep loose hair under control and help distribute skin oils throughout the coat. A hound mitt or rubber curry brush is ideal for this task. If shedding becomes a problem, more frequent brushing will generally take care of excess hair and prevent its accumulation along baseboards and under furniture.

A general wipe-down once a week is usually all that is needed to clean these dogs, but an occasional bath may be necessary if the Harrier rolls around in something stinky, sticky, or harmful. Using a pH-balanced dog shampoo will freshen the coat without causing skin irritation.

The nails need trimming every few weeks to prevent snags and breaks, and the teeth should be brushed daily to keep tartar from accumulating and to protect against gum disease and tooth decay. The ears need checking every week for signs of ear infection and excess wax accumulation.

The Harrier was first developed in England to hunt hare and other game in packs. Known for its strong nose and slower hunting speed, the breed became very popular because hunters could easily follow it on foot, which meant no need for horses.

The breed has been in the United States as long as any other scent hound, and it was a popular hunting dog during Colonial times. Harriers are very similar in every way to English Foxhounds, except that they are a bit smaller and their slower speed makes them ideal for hunting on foot instead of horse.

Today, the Harrier breed is primarily kept as a companion animal in America. The breed's easygoing personality, affectionate nature, and ability to get along well with children and other animals make it a household hit. These dogs are lovely, playful, and highly prized by many American families.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Harrier in 1885.