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The Harrier is frequently mistaken for an oversize Beagle or a small English Foxhound. Primarily a packhound, he’s sweet and affectionate, but also highly energetic. Health permitting, he can be an excellent companion for a runner, rider, or other athletic person.
Dogs of the Harrier type, which were used to hunt hares, may have been brought to England after the Normans invaded in 1066. The first known pack of Harriers in Britain, the Penistone pack, dated to 1260, and the line continued for at least half a millennium.
The Harrier is frequently mistaken for an oversize Beagle or a small English Foxhound, but he is a distinct breed of scenthound used to hunt hare and fox. His history in this country dates to colonial times and his lineage farther back still, to the early French hounds that were the ancestors of the Bloodhound and the Basset. This rare breed is primarily a packhound, but that is no barrier to his ability to be a companion dog. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering making one of these handsome hounds a member of your family.
Like all hounds, Harriers are sweet and affectionate, but because of their hunting heritage, they are also highly energetic. Overall health permitting, expect to provide a Harrier with a long daily walk or jog of an hour or more or strenuous outdoor play. Just check with your veterinarian before starting any exercise program with your dog. Harriers are great hiking companions or you can teach them to run alongside you -- leashed, of course -- as you ride your bike. Live in the country? A Harrier is a great companion as you ride your horse around your property. He is a good competitor in agility and is a natural at tracking. Consider a Harrier if you are an active, outdoorsy person who will enjoy spending time with this playful, people-oriented dog.
Be sure to walk or run a Harrier on leash unless you’re in an enclosed or traffic-free area. Otherwise, he’ll take off when he finds a good scent, going at a pace that you won’t be able to match. He’ll also need a securely fenced yard to ensure that he doesn’t escape and go off hunting on his own. Think Fort Knox. Harriers can be diggers and will dig under a fence. An underground electronic fence does not qualify as secure or effective for this breed. The desire to follow a scent may overrule any fear of a brief shock.
The typical Harrier has a keen sense of humor and is known for playing the clown. He loves kids and gets along with other animals. Being a pack animal, the Harrier is fond of canine company and is best suited to a home where he won’t be the only dog. He will alert you to anyone approaching the home, but he will also welcome the burglar and help him find the silver. The The Harrier likes to “talk” and will communicate with you using moans and groans, grumbles and mumbles.
When it comes to training, the Harrier is smart and easily trained. Positive reinforcement, particularly with food rewards, is the way to win his heart and mind. You must, however, take into account his desire to follow his nose. If the Harrier is on a good scent, he’ll tune out everything else and no amount of calling will get his attention until he has satisfied his curiosity. Hence the need for a leash.
Harriers have short, easy-care coats and need only a weekly brushing or wipedown. The only other grooming they require is regular nail trimming and tooth brushing. Check the ears weekly and clean them as needed.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Harriers love their people and will pine without human companionship. They should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, the Harrier should be with them.
Almost nothing is known about the origin of the Harrier. The great English dog expert who went by the name Stonehenge theorized that the dogs had been arrived at by crossing the now-extinct old Southern hound with the Greyhound. Dogs of the Harrier type, which were used to hunt hares, may have been brought to England after the Normans invaded in 1066. The first known pack of Harriers in Britain, the Penistone pack, dated to 1260, and the line continued for at least half a millennium. Harriers are followed on foot, unlike the Foxhounds, which are ridden to on horseback, but in most other respects they are simply a smaller version of the Foxhound.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Harrier as a member of the Hound Group in 1885, making it one of the oldest AKC-recognized breeds. The current Harrier Club of America was founded in 1992. Today, because of his highly specialized job, the Harrier is uncommon and ranks 165th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Like most hounds, the Harrier is outgoing and friendly toward people. He should also be friendly toward other dogs. Aggression toward them would make it impossible for him to be the great pack hound that he is. And because of his pack dog heritage, he dislikes being alone. A Harrier does best when he has human or canine company all the time. He’s vocal and will tell you all about his day in great detail.
While Harriers have the typically sweet hound nature, they can also be stubborn. Harriers are smart and like to have their own way. Train them with firmness, consistency and lots of positive reinforcement in the form of praise and food rewards. Speaking of food, keep it out of the Harrier’s reach. He will take it if given half a chance. You can teach him not to, but it might be easier just to put it away rather than to lead him into temptation.
Harriers are scenthounds and will go off hunting on their own if given half a chance. It’s essential to keep them in a securely fenced yard so they can’t wander off -- think Fort Knox! They are good problem-solvers, so think ahead and take steps to bar any potential escape routes. When they’re not out hunting and don’t have anything else interesting to do, Harriers enjoy digging. If you don’t want his landscape advice, give him his own place to dig or make sure he is always occupied with other activities.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at even or eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a bigger, more headstrong dog to deal with. A young Harrier will test you to see what he can get away with. Get him to puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Harrier, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
That said, Harriers are a pretty healthy breed. Hip dysplasia is the main problem seen in the breed. Eye diseases are uncommon. Ask a breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. The eye clearance should have been performed within the past year.
If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Report any serious disease to your Harrier’s breeder. If breeders don’t know that a health problem has cropped up in their line, they can’t take steps to eradicate it.
The Harrier’s short, dense coat is easy to groom. Brush it weekly with a hound mitt or rubber curry brush to remove dead hairs and distribute skin oils. The dogs shed moderately, and regular brushing will help prevent loose hairs from settling on your floors, furniture and clothing. Bathe the dog as needed.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every week or two. Keep the rounded hanging ears clean and dry, and brush the teeth with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Harrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Harrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the HCA’s code of ethics , which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and recommends that the breeder obtain certain health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the HCA and the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Harrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Harrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Harriers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Harrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Harriers love all Harriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Harrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Harrier rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Harrier home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Harrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Harrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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