Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Harrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Harrier
Breed Specific Buying Advice
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 quite a bit 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. 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 accepting how they are rather than trying to change a dog.
With this said, finding a pure-bred Harrier can prove challenging although many hunt kennels choose to let people take on puppies for the “puppy walking” stage of their lives before being put to work in the field. It is also possible to take on a retired Harrier and with the right handling and direction, they make wonderful companions and family pets.
The origins of the Harrier date back centuries to 1260. However, the first stud book was set up by the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB) in 1891, a time when Harriers were more popular in the hunting field than Beagles. From 1891 through to 1900, there were 107 packs of Harriers registered with the AMHB and it is worth noting that man of the “foundation” hounds used to create Harriers were small Foxhounds. With this said, Foxhounds are still often crossed with Harriers to improve lines today. 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 a recognised Kennel Club breed, Harriers are no longer on their list of pedigree dogs and anyone wanting to share a home with one of these elegant, charming hounds might find it hard to find well-bred puppies, although hunt kennels do allow some people to “puppy walk” a Harrier for the first 6 months of their lives.
Height at the withers: Males 48 - 53 cm, Females 48 - 53 cm at the withers
Average weight: Males 18.0 - 29.5 kg, Females 18.0 - 29.5 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 as follows:
When a Harrier moves, they do so with a determined gait covering a lot of ground with their noses to the ground when they do.
Prospective Harrier owners should be wary of any puppies or dogs that show any sort of exaggeration whether in their looks or conformation. A responsible breeder would always ensure that puppies they produce are of a good size and conformation and would avoid breeding extra small dogs for these reasons. Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums.
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 must 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 must start early, and it must 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 every day for them to be truly happy. Gardens must 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 must 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 not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such an intelligent, problem solving and energetic hounds. With this said, taking on a Harrier puppy for the first 6 months of their lives before they join the pack must be done by people who understand how a Harrier thinks and works.
Harriers have been bred for centuries to hunt and follow their noses and as such they have a high prey drive even in the home environment. As such, care must always be taken as to where and when a Harrier can run off the lead and gardens must have high fencing to keep these active, hounds safely in.
Harriers love playing games and thrive on being both entertaining and entertained. With this said, they are not the best at playing games like fetch or at retrieving things preferring to go off with the object to do their own thing rather than bring it back to the person who has thrown it for them.
Harriers are better suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and would not be happy living in an apartment which could result in a dog being very unhappy.
Harriers are very social by nature and dislike being on their own for any length of time which could result in them suffering from separation anxiety and being destructive around the home. This can also lead to incessant barking as a way of getting attention.
Harriers like to voice an opinion on just about anything and have a very distinctive voice all their own more especially when they are excited. The good news is that a Harrier can be taught not to bark providing it’s gently done when they are still young being careful not to frighten them.
Most Harriers love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a dog off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Harriers are not natural watchdogs although this is not to say a dog would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about although they would rarely do this aggressively because they are just too social for their own good.
Harriers are intelligent, and they are social dogs by nature, enjoying nothing more than being in the company people and other dogs. As such, providing 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 must be taken into account during their training. Special attention must 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 scent hound. Their training must 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.
Like all puppies, Harriers are incredibly cute when they are young, and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in a new home or when they are being “puppy walked”. However, once a puppy is nicely settled new owners must start out as they mean to go on which means laying down rules and boundaries so that puppies understand what is expected of them. It also helps establish a pecking order and who the alpha dog is in a household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
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 must 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:
Harrier puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Harriers are known to be very fond of their food and therefore are prone to putting on too much weight if not given enough daily exercise to suit the amount there are being fed. Some Harriers, like other breeds can also put on weight when they are spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Harriers are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Harrier breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
There are no breed specific breeding restrictions in place for Harriers because they are not a recognised Kennel Club breed.
There are no Assured Breeder requirements in place for Harriers because they are not a Kennel Club recognised breed. However, all breeders should follow Kennel Club breeding guidelines to ensure the well-being of the breed and any puppies they produce.
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.
Harrier puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Harrier puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Harrier puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Harriers need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns which could also have resulted from injuries they received while working in the field. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Harrier in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Harriers need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives, bearing in mind that huntsman would give owners advice on what to feed a retired Harrier:
Older Harriers don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
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 builds 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 must 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.
Puppies must be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Harrier puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Harrier should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult dog can be fed the following amounts every day:
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 £21.32 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £43.36 a month (quote as of May 2018). 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 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 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 healthy, well-bred Harrier puppy, bearing in mind that many hunt kennels only rehome adult dogs when they retire or can no longer work.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
It can be very hard to find a purebred Harrier and as such puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Harriers there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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