Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Harrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Harrier
The Harrier is an ancient breed native to the UK with records of these handsome, medium sized hounds dating as far back as the 13th century. They look very much like English Foxhounds, only a lot smaller in size. They have always been highly prized for their excellent hunting abilities both here in the UK and in the United States where they are officially recognised by the American Kennel Club as a breed in its own right. However, over recent times more people are choosing to keep Harriers as pets rather than working dogs and they do make good companions and family pets, but only if they are kept in the right sort of environment and trained by people who understand the very specific needs of this type of hound.
Harriers have been bred in England for centuries with records of packs being highly prized for their hunting skills that date back to the 13th century. The first Stud Book was established by the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles in 1891 at which time these handsome hounds were more popular than the Beagle. However, the true origins of the Harrier remain a bit of a mystery other than they have always been used in the field working alongside horses and other types of hunting dogs.
There are those who believe Harriers came about by crossing Talbot Hounds with Bloodhounds and Basset Hounds, but other people think it is more likely that Harriers were first developed using Greyhounds, Fox Terriers and Foxhounds. Another opinion is that the breed is simply a descendent of the traditional English foxhound. Harriers are recognised by the American Kennel Club and although they were originally accepted by The Kennel Club here in the UK from 1851 to 1971, Harriers are no longer on their list of pedigree dogs.
Height at the withers: Males 48 - 53 cm, Females 48 - 53 cm at the withers
Average weight: Males 18.14 - 29.48 kg, Females 18.14 - 29.48 kg
Harriers are very similar looking to English Foxhounds with the only difference being they are quite a bit smaller although the two breeds are still often confused. They are well balanced dogs with heads that are nicely in proportion with the rest of their bodies. They always have a keen, alert expression in their eyes. Necks are a nice length without being too heavy and shoulders slope neatly into a dog’s well-muscled.
Ribs are deep and well sprung and nicely laid back. They have deep chests and their front legs are straight and powerful showing a good amount of bone. They have nice level, muscular backs and strong back legs that boast well developed thighs. Their feet are very cat-like having close toes that turn inwards. Tails are set high being a good length.
When it comes to their coat, the Harrier has a short, thick close lying coat and their coat colours resemble that of a Foxhound which is as follows:
The Harrier is a highly intelligent, strong-willed and independent dog that over the years has proved to be an excellent scent hound. The key to successfully living with a Harrier is to accept what these dogs are and not to try to change them which would only do a dog more harm than good making them a lot harder to live with. For centuries, the Harrier has been bred to hunt which is a strong instinct that's deeply embedded in their psyche. As such, it would be a mistake to think they can be trained not to wander off if they ever pick up an interesting scent.
With this said, enrolling a Harrier into scenting and tracking activities will help them indulge their strong desire to track a scent which in turn makes them a lot easier to live with when kept in a home environment. They are extremely people-oriented which in short means they love being in the company of humans and hate being left on their own for long periods of time. If a Harrier is left to their own devices for too long, they would be extremely unhappy dogs and may well develop some very destructive behaviours as a way of relieving their stress.
It cannot be stressed strongly enough the importance of socialising a Harrier from a young age and this has to include introducing them to lots of people, new situations, noises, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. This helps them mature into more outgoing, confident adult dogs. Their training has to start early and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life so they understand what is expected of them.
Harriers need to know their place in the pack and who the alpha dog is in a household because if they do not, they may well take on this role showing a more dominant side to their natures. They are never happier than when they know who they can look to for direction and guidance. They are not a good choice for first time owners because they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the specific needs of this type of highly skilled and intelligent hound.
With this said, in the right hands and a country environment, Harriers do make good companions and family pets thanks to their kind and placid natures, but they need to be well exercised on a daily basis for them to be truly happy. Gardens have to be made ultra-secure to keep a Harrier in and this includes making it impossible for a dog to dig their way under a fence, which is something that Harriers are very good at doing. Fences also have to be extra high. These dogs are extremely good problem solvers which is another trait that should never be forgotten when sharing a home with a Harrier.
They like the sound of their own voices and will "sing" to their heart's content when the mood takes them which is usually when they're excited. This can turn into a problem especially with any neighbours who live close by. They do better when they live with another dog in the household because they tend to get stressed living as an “only dog”. It should never be forgotten that a Harrier is first and foremost a working dog and keeping them fit, happy and occupied in a home environment can be challenging. With this said, they thrive in rural environments where they can spend plenty of time in the great outdoors and ideally with other dogs.
Harriers are intelligent and they are social dogs by nature, enjoying nothing more than being in the company people and other dogs. As such, as long as they receive the correct amount of socialisation from a young age and are kept in the sort of environment that suits this type of high energy, highly skill scent hound, they do make good companions and family pet, but only with people who really understand their very specific needs.
They have extremely strong hunting instincts which have to be taken into account during their training. Particular attention has to be paid to the "recall" command and even then there is no guarantee a dog would pay any attention, not because they are being disobedient, but rather because they are just following their incredibly strong instinct to track down a scent.
Training a Harrier takes a lot of time and patience together with a deep understanding of how to handle a highly intelligent scenthound. Their training has to be consistent throughout a dog’s life and rather than try to prevent a Harrier from doing what comes naturally to them, it’s best to go with the flow allowing them to use their strong scenting abilities as often as possible, but always in a safe environment so that small animals and wildlife is never put in any danger.
Harriers are known to be good around children of all ages and like nothing more than to interact and play games with them. However, they can play rough at times which means any interaction between younger children and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone getting hurt.
They generally get on with other dogs they meet, more especially if well socialised from a young enough age. However, care has to be taken when a Harrier is around any other small animals, pets or wildlife because of their strong hunting instincts. As such any contact is best avoided. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually tolerate having them around, but would think nothing of chasing any other cats they come across.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Harrier is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Harrier is known to be a healthy dog and one that does not suffer from many of the hereditary health issues that affect other dogs. However, they are known to suffer from the following condition:
suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Harriers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Harriers have short, thick coats which are relatively easy maintenance. They shed throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to remove dead and loose hair from a dog's coat. At other times of the year brushing their coats twice a week will keep things tidy.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Harrier is a high energy dog and one that boasts s a tremendous amount of stamina. As such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need to be given a minimum of 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Harrier would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is a dog's way of relieving stress.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these high energy, very skilled hunting dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Harrier puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Harrier puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go bearing in mind that Harriers are known to like their food a little too much for their own good.
If you are looking to buy a Harrier, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £300 for a well-bred puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Harrier in northern England would be £19.44 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Harrier and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Harrier would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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