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 scenthound. 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 to find one in your area. This might be challenging as there are few breeders; you might find yourself on a waiting list to get a Harrier. 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. Anyone who gets a Harrier expecting to be able to train it not to wander away from an unfenced yard or not to follow its 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, or even a cat, for your Harrier to play with; they’ll be much happier than being alone and less likely to get bored and destructive. (A bored Harrier can be a destructive Harrier.) 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.
Harriers have been bred for centuries to follow their noses over long distances. This is an instinctive behavior for them—and it may get them into lots of trouble. Many of the Harriers being bred today in the United States have parents or grandparents that were imported directly from working packs in the United Kingdom, 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 don’t generally work well with Harriers. If your Harriers get 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 and other dogs or poisons 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. Although few Harriers compete in obedience, they are certainly capable if you wish to devote the time and energy into training. They have wonderful
Harriers adore food. Most of them will eat as much as you want to give them, so 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 countertop, you will have to teach your Harrier not to touch it.
Harriers can be talkative. They have a very distinctive singing voice and use it when they are excited. 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. However, if you put an under-exercised, ignored Harrier in your carefully landscaped yard, expect them to re-landscape to their taste.
Photo from the American Kennel Club AKC.ORG