Fortune Magazine, September 1998

Begin With
Impeccable European Bloodlines
Ed Brown, Editor,
September 7, 1998

fences (easy to scale), and that Remington in the closet (too dangerous). To really protect your house, you need a $42,000 German Shepherd sold by Harrison K-9* of Aiken, S.C., purveyor of ultra-high-end security dogs.

Company owner Harrison Prather won’t name names but claims his clients include high-profile executives, entertainers, professional athletes, and a few beleaguered veterans of the Nixon Administration.

What makes one of Prather’s dogs worth about as much as a BMW M-coupe? Begin with the impeccable European bloodlines. “American German Shepherds are genetic rejects”, says Prather in his southern drawl. Then there’s the education. By the time a dog arrives at Prather’s facility, it’s already a graduate of a fine European obedience school, which means it’ll respond to commands in four languages – an ability that eludes most humans.

Prather augments that education by training his pupils to, for example, search your house before you enter, not so much as flinch at the sound of gunshot, and avoid poisoned food. He also teaches Fido how to respond to the word ” bite.” When given the order, a Harrison K-9®* will clamp down on an intruder’s arm or leg with 1,200 pounds of pressure per square inch and won’t let go until told to.

“If one of these dogs bites your limb, you’re not going to use it again,” says Prather. “Probably ever.”

He is quick to add, however, that his dogs have never bitten anyone in the line of duty (truly effective protection dogs scare people away before they have to chew them up).

“Humans”, Prather astutely notes, “have this innate fear of being eaten by an animal. When a bad guy sees one of these dogs, he figures it might not be a bad idea to see what’s going on at the house across the street instead.”
Women can feel safe and secure in their own homes when their husbands are away
“Thankfully, most of our clients never encounter life-or-death situations,” says Harrison Prather, who was first exposed to the world of working K-9s while serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. After discharge, he earned a degree in business administration and founded Harrison K-9®* in 1975. He has since gone on to train dogs for law enforcement agencies around the world and the U.S. government.

Some of the canines trained by Prather and his staff have been used in counter-terrorism efforts and other covert operations in the U.S. and abroad. “Our clients have peace of mind, knowing that they and their loved ones are looked after by a faithful and intelligent creature that will be right there for them no matter what might happen.”

When it comes to deterring crime and protecting the sanctity of a home, there is little argument that trained security dogs represent one of the most effective methods available. According to case studies by Harrison K-9®* along with research from numerous law enforcement agencies:

Canine hearing abilities pick up suspicious sounds earlier than alarm systems.

Barking typically alerts homeowners and neighbors before any theft or harm can be done.

Most criminals are deterred by the prospect of a dog attack.

It’s much more difficult to disable a dog than disable an alarm system.

Choosing the ideal protection dog represents a major investment with a lot at stake. That’s why Prather advises potential clients to take a number of matters into consideration. Foremost, he suggests that you should buy only from trainers who employ “positive reinforcement” training, not the electric collar training used by many trainers.
A Harrison K-9®* will watch over your children even when you cannot
“Dogs that are trained with the threat of electric shock are

substantially different from those who benefit from one-on-one training,” he says. “You can just see it in their eyes.”

He also recommends that you should only choose a trainer who will allow you to inspect their facilities, if you should choose.

“It’s essential that you know the conditions under which your dog was raised,” says Prather. “You need to know that they have had adequate room to run and have not been subjected to the tiny ‘rabbit runs’ that some breeders use.”

In the canine world, the legendary and rigorous Schutzhund training regimen occupies a lofty and rarified position. Fearful that too many German Shepherds were being judged simply by their appearance and not for their working ability, dog owners launched Schutzhund (German for “protection dog”), as a sport in the early 1900s. While several other breeds now compete in Schutzhund, German Shepherds still dominate the field and they must pass numerous tests to determine if they are suitable for a wide variety of tasks, from police work and specific odor detection to search and rescue. In addition to testing for strength, endurance and agility, Schutzhund awards titles to dogs that demonstrate their skills in numerous areas, including courage, a strong desire to work, intelligence, trainability, perseverance, a strong bond to the handler and protective instinct. Only a very small percentage of dogs that set out for Schutzhund titles ever succeed in winning them.

One of the many things that set Harrison K-9®* apart from others in its field is that it sells only European German Shepherds and only European German Shepherds that have been Schutzhund trained and titled.
A Harrison K-9®* is a companion even the youngest member of your family can enjoy
Courage to pursue the bad guy is taught to all Harrison K-9®s*.
Training staff works on “take-down” in protection
European German Shepherds are more expensive to import and train, but they represent the best of the best,” says Prather, who points out that while many other dog trainers say they specialize in European German Shepherds the claims are often hollow. “Our dogs come from the absolute purest bloodlines and have won titles that put them at the very top of their breed.”

Harrison K-9®* imports its dogs from a single supplier in Germany, who is among the most prominent in his field and provides dogs exclusively to Harrison K-9®*. Also of importance: The supplier sends Harrison K-9®* only those dogs that have been raised in homes in Germany, not in kennels, which makes them readily adaptable to the additional training they receive once they arrive in the U.S.
After they arrive in the United States, Harrison K-9®‘s* dogs undergo a minimum of three months additional training at the company’s multi-million dollar, 25-acre facility in Aiken, South Carolina.

“We use over-sized kennels and all of our dogs get to go out and train and play every day,” says Prather. “We have half-acre turn-out pens they run in daily and a full staff of professionals that each take a dog home with them every night and socialize them around their own family and friends. When you buy a dog from us you can be sure that it has been trained to fit right in with family life.”

One key point that differentiates Harrison K-9®* from its competitors– its training staff, under the direction of vice president, November Holley, is almost entirely female. And there’s a good reason for that.
A Harrison K-9® * shows his ability to navigate through difficult obstacles.
The staff at Harrison K-9*.
Harrison Prather, Founder Harrison K-9*
“With a female training staff we can to make sure that all of our dogs can be handled by you and your family,” says Prather. “Our staff handles with positive training and attention to each individual dog’s personality. You can be assured your family can handle our dogs whether they are children or a family member that would otherwise be intimidated by a large dog. Most training facilities use men for training, because men can intimidate dogs and force them to do the training, whereas female trainers must use their handling

skills and take the time to bond with the dog to train and control an animal that weighs almost as much as they do. Wouldn’t you want a dog that has learned to behave around people, learned loyalty and devotion, and has learned how to be handled by the ‘little’ people in your life, versus a dog that has to be forced into training and only a man can make work right?”

At any one time, there are usually 35 to 40 European German Shepherds in training at Harrison K-9®* and waiting placement with clients. The large inventory of dogs is necessary, Prather says, because his company goes to extraordinary lengths to match clients with the ideal protection dogs for their needs.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing,” says Prather. “Each dog has a unique personality and skill set … just like the people they go to live with.”

And those clients have a wide variety of needs.

“Some of our clients have safety and security expectations which extend beyond the norm,” says Prather. “Our celebrity clients sadly must contend with unwanted attention from overzealous fans who threaten their personal safety or the safety of their families. We have worked with people who face these situations routinely, and given them peace of mind through our expertly trained protection dogs. A canine might not be the first security measure which comes to mind for most people, but our clients have found that this is a highly effective choice, and one which presents benefits far beyond alarm systems, monitored surveillance, or personal body guards.”

Prather and his staff spend a significant amount of time interviewing potential clients to determine which of their dogs will fit in best and perform the tasks expected of them. There is a long list of circumstances that must be considered: Does the client own any other animals– cats, dogs, horses? Will the dog accompany the family on trips, or travel often by private plane or boat? Does the family keep several homes– in the country, in the city– and will the dog be expected to adapt quickly to a variety of environments.

One recent client, confined to a wheelchair and on intravenous medication, was seeking a dog that could be a constant companion around the house.

“We settled on a dog with the ideal temperament for that particular client and then trained the dog to walk alongside the wheelchair, always on the opposite side of the I.V. drip,” Prather says. “Whatever the circumstances, we can find the dog that will be most suitable for them.”

Yes, the price for such bespoke treatment– an average of about $40,000 per dog– tops the cost of many show dogs or winners at Westminster. But the European German Shepherds trained by Harrison K-9®* aren’t after blue ribbons or trophies.

“They are dedicated to the people they serve without exception,” says Prather. “And there’s no way you can put a price on that.”

For more information about Harrison K-9*, call 803.649.5936 or visit