Harriers are very unique canine characters. While Harriers are extremely attractive hounds, you cannot consider adding a Harrier to your family based on looks alone. Behind those soft brown eyes and sweet face is a very intelligent, independent, and self-willed scent-hound. If you’ve never met a Harrier in person, we strongly recommend that you try to do so. Please contact breeder referral and we can try and find one in your area. We’ll try to present the pros and cons of having a Harrier in your life.
Like any breed, Harriers have characteristics and traits about them that owners have to be prepared to deal with. While most of these are issues that can be handled using appropriate and consistent training methods, new owners should be aware of them in advance so that you can decide if these are things you can live with. You have to understand a Harrier’s distinct characteristics and accept them… not try to change them. Any one who gets a Harrier expecting to be able to train it not to wander away from an unfenced yard or not to follow it’s nose is going to be very disappointed and frustrated. And their Harrier will be unhappy and frustrated as well – they deserve to be appreciated for what they are, not criticized for what they are not.
Harriers are very social and people-oriented. They are not happy in the yard by themselves 24 hours a day. If your hound will be alone for most of the day while you are at work, consider getting another dog for your Harrier to play with – they’ll be much happier than being alone and less likely to get bored and destructive. Harriers want to be part of the family and like to spend quality time with you. They like to play games with you, be on your lap when you watch tv and in your room (preferably in your bed!) when you sleep. A bored Harrier can be a destructive Harrier.
Harriers have been bred for centuries to follow their noses over long distances, it is an instinctive behavior for them. And it may get them into lots of trouble. Many of the Harriers being bred today in the US have parents or grandparents that were imported directly from working packs in the UK, so the hunting instinct is still VERY strong in the breed.
Harriers absolutely need to have a securely fenced yard. The fence needs to be secure at the top and the bottom. Many Harrier owners line their fence with chicken wire to prevent digging out or add an electric wire to zap them if they get near the fence. Underground fences or invisible fences are not suitable for Harriers. If your Harrier gets loose and they catch a good scent, their nose will hit the ground and they will go off to follow it. Without proper training, they won’t come back no matter how loud you yell “Come”. It’s not that they don’t love you and want to run away, or that they are being
purposefully disobedient… they are just following their instincts. And unfortunately, there are far too many dangers out there such as cars, other dogs, or poison, such as slug or rat bait, that will kill your dog. We humans need to make sure that they are safely contained so that their noses don’t get them into a dangerous situation.
Harriers, like all dogs, need obedience training/house manners started early. Harriers are very intelligent and can be trained quite easily. While not many Harriers compete in obedience, they are certainly capable if you wish to devote the time and energy into training. They have wonderful problem solving abilities.
Harriers adore food. Most of them will eat as much as you want to give them. Controlling their intake is important to keep a Harrier healthy. A fat Harrier is not only unhealthy, but also unattractive. You will need to steel yourself against those pleading eyes, because a Harrier will try to convince you that he/she is *always* hungry! If you want to be able to leave food on a table or counter top, you will have to teach your Harrier not to touch it.
Harriers can be talkative. They have very distinctive voices and use it when they are excited (or bored, or lonely). How much your Harrier talks depends on him/her and, more importantly, the owner. Harriers can be taught to be quiet. Sometimes it is helpful to teach a Harrier when it is appropriate to make noise, to allow them an outlet.
Some Harriers like to dig. A few dig for the sheer joy of it, some dig after moles or other below ground critters, and many will dig out of boredom. You need to train them not to dig or provide them with a place to dig, a sandbox or designated area in the yard and train them to use that. But if you put an under-exercised, ignored Harrier in your carefully landscaped yard, expect them to re-landscape to their taste.
So after reading all of that… why would anyone want a Harrier?
Harriers are wonderful family dogs. They are loving and affectionate to everyone in the family and they are great with kids. (Although no dog, no matter the breed, should be left unsupervised with small children.) They love to spend time with you, they will happily cuddle next to you on the couch while you watch tv, or lay near you while you use the computer, or help you out in the yard while you garden.
One of the best things about Harriers is that they can always make you laugh – they have no dignity, have a wonderful sense of humor and aren’t embarrassed to play the clown. Harriers love to play, not only as puppies, but all through their lives.
Harriers do not need a lot of grooming, regular brushing can help keep the amount of shedding down. Most Harriers enjoy being brushed. They need baths occasionally and regular nail trims and ear cleanings.
Harriers are adaptable to different lifestyles and do not get stuck in routines.
Harriers make the most wonderful sounds, not only their singing voice, but a whole variety of contented groans and moans and sighs, especially when you give them ear or tummy rubs. Harriers also have a wonderfully expressive face which is fun to watch.
They want to be part of your family and will give you lots of love. When you come home after being away for 5 minutes or a few hours, they greet you with such wonderful enthusiasm that it will take away all your worries for the day.
Harriers make good watch dogs; they will generally alert you of anyone coming up the walk. They do not, however, make good guard dogs because they are friendly to everyone they meet. They’ll happily help the thief find all the good stuff in your house.
Because Harriers are a pack hound, they generally get along well with other dogs and pets, including cats.
Harriers are a healthy breed, with relatively few health issues. They will usually give you 12-14 years of unconditional love.
Harriers love athletic activities such as hiking, biking, and jogging. If introduced to water early in life, Harriers enjoy swimming too. And some Harriers have learned to enjoy going boating with their owners.
Harriers love the sport of agility and they are competing around the country, keeping up with and in some cases, surpassing the border collies and australian shepherds. However, they do need a good basic foundation in obedience before you attempt agility. They also love the sport of tracking and pick it up with ease.
If you are interested in conformation showing, the Harrier is a great breed to show. Because of the easy grooming and their general happy, friendly nature, they are great for first time handlers as well as seasoned show professionals. (However, finding other Harriers to compete against can be a little more challenging.)
A few of our house harrier pictures below……