What to Know About the Harrier Dog Breed

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 08, 2022
7 min read

The Harrier is a part of the hound group and is a loving, affectionate dog with lots of energy. Developed to help hunt hares, this breed has a good sense of smell and is very athletic. 

If you’re looking for an outgoing and friendly dog to join your family, the Harrier might be a perfect match.

So, what does a Harrier look like? Many people say that this dog looks like a bigger, more muscular version of the beagle. The Harrier dog size is medium, as this breed stands between 19 to 21 inches at the shoulders and weighs anywhere between 45 to 65 pounds. This dog has also been compared to the English Foxhound, but is a little bit smaller.

The Harrier has a medium-sized head with prominent eyebrows that give it a very expressive face. This dog has either brown or hazel eyes that are set far apart and velvety ears that lie close to its cheeks. However, when the Harrier is alert, its ears will stand straight up. This dog has a tapered tail that usually stands up but moves around depending on its mood. A natural athlete, the Harrier has lean, muscular legs and an effortless gait.

The Harrier has a short double coat that’s quite dense and stiff. This glossy coat is weatherproof to help protect the dog from the elements while they are on the hunt. Because of the nature of this breed’s coat, it’s very low-maintenance. 

Like other hounds, the Harrier is a mix of colors. According to the breed standard, the Harrier’s coat can contain a mix of these colors:

  • Black, white, and tan
  • Lemon and white
  • Red and white

The Harrier temperament is very friendly and open, as these dogs are very social and not at all shy. This breed was developed to hunt in packs, so it craves the company of humans and gets along really well with other dogs. This is not a dog that you can leave alone for long periods of time. 

Despite being outgoing and open to strangers, the Harrier is still vigilant around the home. This is a dog that is best suited to spend part of its time outdoors, getting some exercise, and the other part inside, spending time with family.

As mentioned, the Harrier’s coat requires a lot less maintenance than other breeds, which could be good for some owners. However, your dog will need an occasional bath to stay clean and weekly brushing. When you groom your dog, use a brush with soft bristles or a grooming glove to remove any dead hair or dirt. This will help the coat shine and continue to look healthy and glossy. 

While you’re brushing your dog, check its nails. Since Harriers are quite active, their nails tend to wear down naturally, but if you notice that they’re getting long, give the nails a trim. If your dog’s nails are too long, they might feel pain or discomfort when running or walking.

Your dog’s teeth need to be cared for as well. Every day, brush your Harrier’s teeth with a toothpaste made specifically for dogs. You should never brush your dog’s teeth with human toothpaste. Your dog’s mouth doesn’t need to be open for this. Simply lift your Harrier’s upper and lower lips and gently brush their teeth, paying attention to the gumline.

Harriers do well on a diet of high-quality dog food. You should look for a food made for their age group, and the amount fed will depend on how active your dog is. Another option is to make homemade dog food, which can be time-consuming and expensive to prepare but very nutritious for your dog. However, you should speak to your vet before starting your dog on a new diet. 

Even if your dog begs, avoid giving it too many table scraps from the table, especially greasy foods or pieces with bones in them. Consult a vet about which human foods are safe to share with your dog.

When you get a Harrier, you need to take them to the vet to talk about all the ways you need to keep them healthy. This involves an initial round of vaccinations, followed by booster shots every 1 to 3 years. Core vaccinations include:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza 

There are other vaccinations that your vet may recommend to keep your dog healthy. While not always required, these vaccines prevent diseases that can make your dog sick:

  • Lyme disease
  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine influenza
  • Bordetella
  • Coronavirus

Another concern for dog owners is heartworms. There isn’t a vaccine to prevent infections, but your vet will suggest different options to keep your dog healthy. The most popular method is a prescription shot that your vet can give your Harrier every 6 to 12 months. Other heartworm prevention options include monthly chewable pills or topical spot treatments.

When it comes to fleas and ticks, you should check your dog regularly. After they have spent time outside, check your dog’s body for pests, especially if your Harrier has been in a wooded area. If you find pests, remove them from your dog’s body with a flea comb or tick tool or by using a flea/tick shampoo, but be careful not to expose yourself to the blood inside the tick, which could be infectious. 

Flea and tick topical applications, sprays or flea collars can help to keep these pests off of your dog, so you can ask your vet about these. When it comes to preventing flea infestations, your vet may recommend flea and tick chewable preventatives, which tend to be more effective. These are oral products that have different ingredients selected to either control, prevent, or treat flea outbreaks in dogs.

As this is generally a very healthy breed, the average Harrier lifespan is between 12 and 15 years. Even so, there are some health problems that have been noted in this breed.

The most common health issue that affects Harriers is canine hip dysplasia. This condition develops as dogs grow and causes the hip joints to become loose or unstable. When this happens, your harrier may feel hip pain, or it can experience dysfunction in its legs. The hip joint can progressively get worse. Over time, the joint loses cartilage, and scar tissue grows around it. Bone spurs also develop around the joint. 

Canine hip dysplasia is mostly genetic and occurs most often in big dogs. However, it can be brought on by a quick weight gain or growth spurt.

As with many other breeds, check your Harrier’s ears for any signs of infection and be sure to clean them regularly.

The Harrier is a very athletic dog that does best in a large home that has access to a yard or garden where it can safely run around freely. This dog is not suited for apartment or city dwelling and loves the country life.

This high-energy breed was developed specifically to spend long days running around the field. This means that it needs ample exercise each day for both its physical and mental health. Harriers are great companions for a long walk, jog, or bike ride. 

While out on walks, Harriers love to follow their noses and explore, so make sure your dog is on a leash or in an enclosed area so that it doesn’t run off. Harriers are great with kids and love playing around the house, which is also a good source of exercise for them. Without enough time for play or exercise, Harriers can quickly become bored and destructive.

Harriers need ongoing training throughout their lives. You should use firm but gentle techniques and consistently train your dog, starting from when it’s a puppy. This breed is very clever and will be very obedient when you let them know who’s the boss. Even so, their tracking and hunting senses kick in at times, and they might not always come when called.

The Harrier dog origin goes back to at least the thirteenth century in England. These dogs were developed to hunt hares in packs with hunters following behind on foot. These ancestral dogs were much slower and more methodical than the Harriers that we know today, more like bloodhounds.

Later on, in the nineteenth century, the Harrier was bred with the foxhound to create a dog that was faster, lighter, and more agile. To keep up with this dog, hunters began to follow it on horseback rather than on foot. Even though hunting hares was its specialty, the breed was also used to hunt foxes thanks to its speed.

The Harrier is believed to have many different breeds as ancestors, including:

  • Bloodhounds
  • Talbot hounds
  • Basset hound
  • English Foxhounds
  • Fox terriers
  • Greyhounds 

The Harrier saw a decline in the number of packs over the last century but is still used as a hunting companion. Something interesting about this breed is that even though it has been an active working dog in England, it only officially became recognized by the Kennel Club in 2019.