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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Harrier Dog: Breed Guide, Pictures, Traits, History, Food & Care | Pet Keen

Harrier Dog: Breed Guide, Pictures, Traits, History, Food & Care | Pet Keen

Harrier dog_evaleenage_Shutterstock

The Harrier is a medium to large dog breed. Often confused with a larger Beagle, this dog has larger muscles and is a smaller version of the English Foxhound. This dog is also known as the Harehound, Heirer, or the Super Beagle.

Harriers were primarily bred to hunt foxes and hares in packs. Because of this, they still remain as pack animals till today and are not very comfortable being left alone.

Breed Overview


19 – 21 inches


45 – 60 pounds


11 – 15 years


Brown, black, white, red and white, grey

Suitable for:

Houses with access to a yard, active families, families with lots of time, Temperament: Playful, friendly, intensely active, high prey drive, independent and sweet


Playful, friendly, intensely active, high prey drive, independent and sweet

This pup loves hanging around people, is energetic and fun-loving. Because of its intense energy levels, the Harrier is well suited for active families.

It’s a trustworthy dog for your children; therefore, it makes a great companion for families. Harriers need to be with families that spend most of their time with him; otherwise, he’ll get bored quickly.

Harrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Harrier Puppies

Temperament & Intelligence of the Harrier

The Harrier is pretty playful and fun-loving. This dog makes a great family pet because it enjoys being with people.

The dog adores its master and has affection for family members. They crave human company; therefore, they won’t mind having guests at home. After a long day of hunting and exercising, Harriers love to snuggle and enjoy being petted and having his tummy rubbed.

Harriers are really vocal. When they get lonely, bored, or are unhappy, they’ll bark non-stop. They also have an annoying howling habit.

They howl mostly at night or when an emergency siren goes off. This can be very problematic for the owners. In addition to howling, these dogs also engage in a lot of digging.

They start sticking their paws into your lawn if they are bored or have not received their daily dose of exercise. Therefore, if you have a good lawn or noise-sensitive neighbors, this dog breed may not be the most suitable pup for you.

These dogs are also highly intelligent; however, they don’t make good watchdogs. As much as they are alert, they tend to be very friendly to people, even strangers.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Because of its friendly personality, a Harrier is very accepting. It will get along with the entire family, children, strangers, and even new additions to the family. Despite being intensely active, this breed is respectful and calm in the home and knows when to be on its best behavior.

As a natural pack animal, this pup prefers to be with humans or other dogs. It’s a great choice if your family spends a lot of time together at home or even outside.

It will get along and mingle with everyone without any problems. However, leaving this dog alone for extended periods is not advisable because once it gets bored, it starts acting up and can cause damage.

Harriers are not well suited for new owners and prefer highly active families. They view the family as their pack.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

This dog breed was bred as a pack dog; therefore, it will appreciate company from another canine friend when you are not home. If socialized early and adequately, this dog enjoys companionship with other dogs and will not be aggressive.

On the other hand, you need to keep in mind that Harriers have a high prey drive. Because of this, they will not get along with smaller animals such as cats and birds. Even if the two pets have been brought up together in the same house, the Harrier will still view it as prey and take it as a challenge and hunt, chase, and even kill.

Therefore, if you have smaller pets other than dogs, Harriers are not ideal. They should stay in homes with people and other canines only.

divider-paw Things to Know When Owning a Harrier

A Harrier dog breed is very high maintenance when it comes to exercise and activity level. They need dedication and commitment to avoid boredom. Before getting this pup, you need to consider all its needs, such as exercise, nutritional requirements, training needs, grooming habits, and medical conditions.

These are the day-to-day needs that will keep your pet happy. Let’s examine them in detail.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Because they are high-energy dogs, Harriers require a quality diet that meets their nutritional needs. In a day, you should feed your pup at least two cups of high-quality food. The food should contain a good balance of fiber, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and probiotics to help digestion.

Harriers can get dental problems if they are primarily fed wet canned food. It is advisable to feed your pup dry kibble to cut down the risk of cavities, gum infections, and overall bad breath.

Just like the Beagle, Harrier is highly prone to obesity. They tend to eat a lot and take food from your counters if it’s not locked up in the cupboards. Therefore, once you bring one of these dogs home, it’s advisable to put away extra food in a locked space for the safety and health of your dog.

The amount of food your Harrier eats depends on the size, age, health, metabolism, and activity level. If you don’t have a clear nutritional guide, you can consult your vet to assist you in coming up with the daily diet requirements.

In addition, the food quality also matters. The better the quality, the more nourishing the diet will be for your dog.

Exercise 🐕

The Harrier is more active than a Beagle. Because of these high energy levels, this pup is not suited to your average family because not all families will make time to cater to its exercise needs.

Harriers were bred to chase and hunt. This incredible stamina requires intense exercises daily.

You can tag your dog along for hikes, runs and engage it in exercises around a fenced yard to meet the exercise needs. As a hound, this dog should not miss 1 or 2 hours of vigorous exercise daily; otherwise, it becomes unhappy and bored.

During walks, especially in a dog park, ensure the dog is on a leash to keep it from running after other animals. It has a high prey drive; hence, if it catches a scent, it will insist on following it. As long as your dog is properly socialized, it will enjoy walks in the dog park.

This breed is highly intelligent; therefore, you can vary the levels of exercise to keep him mentally and physically stimulated. Keep the dog interested by changing up activities; otherwise, he’ll become agitated and unruly.

Harriers enjoy playing, so; they are well suited for families with kids. Your children can play fetch, catch, and tag to keep the dog engaged and happy.  If you and your family are not highly active, this dog breed is not a good choice.

Training 🎾

Training this dog is very important. Because it has a high prey drive, you have to put it on a leash. No amount of training will change this behavior. Once it’s off the leash, it becomes hard to control it.

Like other dogs, Harriers also need to be socialized early enough. They need to be introduced to people, environments, other animals, and situations to enable them to adapt as they grow older.

With proper training, your Harrier will grow to be an obedient dog with proper etiquette. Obedience training is also crucial and a means to increase your bond.

If you want to train your dog as a hunting breed, you can use the services of a breeder or professional trainer to guide you on how to go about it. These dogs are natural hunters, but they still require proper training to reach their full potential.

Because they are hounds, Harriers have a stubborn side. They can learn hunting commands much quicker compared to other commands. Therefore, while training, you’ll need to establish yourself as a pack leader and use a calm and positive approach.

Positive reinforcement is the best approach for this breed. You can use snacks moderately because these dogs love to eat.

During the training process, keep the sessions short and interesting to keep the dog engaged. It’s also important to be consistent for the dog to keep up.

Grooming ✂️

Harriers have short, thick, and shiny coats. Because of this, they are relatively easy to maintain.

They also shed at least twice each year, which makes their grooming schedule pretty direct. You should brush the coat several times every week to keep the coat healthy, shiny, mat-free, and remove dead hairs.

A bath every three months is recommended to keep nasty odors away from your dog. If the dog is relatively clean, you can space out the bath sessions to avoid drying out your dog’s skin. This dog is generally hygienic, but if they get muddy or dirty from running around, you can hose them down.

Harriers have long drop-down ears, which can be a breeding area for bacteria. To prevent ear infections, it’s advisable to check for redness, wax build-up, or discharge constantly. Also, because they are constantly running outside, always check for any foreign objects.

Clean the ears every week using a warm damp cloth or cotton ball. Your vet can recommend the best ear cleaning solution.

In addition, you need to trim your dog’s nails. Use a proper nail clipper meant for dogs, and be extra careful to avoid cutting too deep into the skin and blood vessels.

You can also have your vet or professional groomer do it for you to make things easier. Also, brush your dog’s teeth two to three times every week.

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Harrier enjoys a lifespan of 12 to 15 years and has a relatively healthy life. However, like other purebreds, they suffer from some medical issues. Here are the common ones.

Minor Conditions
  • Ear Infections
  • Eye Problems
Serious Conditions
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bloating

Minor Conditions

  • Ear Infections: Harriers have long ears that are highly prone to bacterial infection. You can protect your dog from getting these problems by cleaning the ears as often as you can.
  • Eye Problems: Harriers get eye problems, especially as they age. Always check your pup to notice any changes in the eyesight. If this problem is detected early, you can protect your dog from becoming blind.

Serious Conditions

  • Hip Dysplasia: This medical condition is inheritable. It occurs when the thighbone doesn’t properly fit into the hip joint. When your Harrier starts experiencing this, you’ll notice that they display pain and walk limply on one or both rear legs. This condition is not easily noticeable; therefore, it’s advisable to have X-ray screening for your dog as they age. Since this condition is hereditary, dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. When buying a puppy, ask the breeder to provide the medical history of the parent breeders to confirm that they have been tested for the condition.  However, in some cases, this condition can also be triggered by environmental factors such as injuries, rapid growth from a high-calorie diet. Reputable breeders try and ensure that their stock is free from these issues. Because of this, hip dysplasia is on the decline among Harriers.
  • Hypothyroidism: This medical problem arises when the dog has a thyroid problem. If you suspect or notice any symptoms such as a slack of appetite, consult your vet for tests early in advance.
  • Bloating: Harriers love to eat. If your dog eats and then engages in vigorous exercises, it’s highly likely to experience bloating. This condition can be fatal to your pup. To prevent this, it’s advisable to feed your dog an hour or two before engaging in exercise.

Male vs Female

The difference in personality between the male and female Harriers depends on the type of upbringing, training, and family environment. However, the two differ when it comes to physical attributes. Males are heavier and taller compared to their female counterparts.


3 Little-Known Facts about the Harrier

Before getting a Harrier dog, here are some facts that you should know.

1. The Harrier Has Many Origin Stories

Several conflicting stories exist about how the Harrier breed came to be. It’s believed to be originally from England. However, the name Harrier also means hound or dog in Norman French. Because of this connection, they are also linked as descendants from a cross of the Bloodhounds and Talbot hounds which are originally from France and Belgium.

Because of these factors, there are different theories about the origin of this dog breed.

2. Harriers Have the Ability to Change Colour

As they age, the tri-colored Harriers’ coat colors fade, especially the black shade. White and lemon-colored Harriers also tend to darken. These changes are unpredictable; therefore, it’s challenging to determine how much change will happen.

3. Harriers are Among the Rarest Breeds in the U.S.

Getting a Harrier puppy in the U.S. is quite a challenge, and most breeders will add you to a waitlist. This dog is rare because it’s a hunting dog with very high energy levels, which most average families can’t handle. Because it’s hard to find, it’s ranked by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as the 189th most popular dog breed out of 196 breeds.


In Summary

A Harrier makes a good family pet. It’s a medium to large dog breed that’s highly active; therefore, more suitable for active families.

It’s very rare in America because of its extreme exercise needs. However, if the family is a perfect fit, this pup will live happily because it’s very friendly and playful.

Before getting this dog, you need to remember that it has a pack mentality and a high prey drive. Therefore, it will need companionship from humans or other dogs. These dogs are not ideal if you have smaller pets in your home, such as cats.

If you and your family are not active, this dog is not the best option.

Featured Image Credit: evaleenage, Shutterstock

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