Dog Health & More
Harriers originally were bred to hunt hares and foxes. Today, the dog breed isn't especially popular, but his excellent sense of smell and tireless work ethic makes him a great fit for hunters.
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Harriers sometimes are described as "Beagles on steroids." These lively, active scent hounds were originally bred to hunt hares and foxes in large packs, but they also are wonderful family companions.
Don't expect to find one in your neighborhood, however. They are one of the rarest breeds registered with the American Kennel Club. In 1994, for example, there were only four Harrier litters born in the entire United States (resulting in only 31 puppies).
Built to work, Harriers have lots of bone and substance for their size. Their muzzles are long with a well-developed nose and open nostrils. Their eyes are dark, alert, and intelligent. Speed is not as important as stamina for these dogs. Hares and foxes have been known to drop from exhaustion after being pursued by a relentless pack of Harriers.
Harriers have long, dropped ears, and their feet have thick pads that enable them to run for hours through rough terrain. They have broad chests to provide lots of room for their hearts and lungs. Their tails are set high and carried upright (not curled over their backs), making it easier for hunters to see them from a distance or in thick brush.
Harriers have a playful, outgoing personality. They are not quite as outgoing as the Beagle, but they definitely love to be around people and other animals. They generally are sweet-tempered and tolerant of children.
You should watch them, however, around pets that aren't dogs. Because they are pack dogs, they generally get along well with other dogs, but may see cats, hamsters, and other non-canine pets as prey. They like to live in a pack, whether the pack is made up of other dogs or people.
You should always keep in mind that your Harrier is an active dog who likes to explore and track. Some like to bay (a loud, prolonged bark). You should have a well-secured fence your dog can't jump over or crawl under, and when you take your Harrier to unsecured areas, such as a park, be sure to keep him on leash. Otherwise, he may take off, chasing a squirrel or a rabbit.
Also, remember that Harriers were bred to have a lot of energy and stamina, as well as to think for themselves. They are independent and tireless hunters. These traits, while good for hunting, may present difficulties in training. You'll need to provide them with enough exercise to keep them from becoming bored and destructive.
These are dogs who love to be with you, but do not demand attention. They are capable of entertaining themselves. Your job is to make sure that their idea of entertainment doesn't mean getting into mischief!
Because they are independent thinkers who can sometimes be stubborn, you should strongly consider obedience training for your Harrier. Because these dogs have great stamina and are energetic without being hyperactive, they do well in performance sports such as agility and rally. They also make great jogging, bicycling, and hiking companions.
Although they are relatively inactive in the house, they are not recommended for apartment dwellers unless you are willing to provide them with a great deal of outside exercise every day.
Harriers make good watchdogs because they will alert you to any strange noises or visitors to your home. However, don't expect them to be guard dogs. They are so friendly that they often greet strangers as though they were old friends.
Although they are sweet, even-tempered dogs, Harriers are not recommended for first-time dog owners because of their training and exercise needs.