Choosing the right dog or puppy for your home and family is difficult because you need to consider factors such as the pup’s activity level and temperament as well as how much time you have for training. One dog you may not consider because you never heard of the breed before is the Feist.
These dogs go by other names such as Treeing Feist or Mountain Feist and are common in the American South. Many people love how cute the dogs are and how much they resemble Jack Russell pups. Before you decide to buy a Feist puppy, use our article to learn everything you need to know about this breed.
Where Did Feist Dogs Come From?
There are several rumors about where this name came from and what it means. Some people believe that the dogs share a name with Raymond Feist after he owned several of them. Others believe that the name is an old German term that means fart. They claim that men who spoke Old English would use this as a derisive term for their dogs. It’s also worth noting that the longer version of the word is feisty, which relates to how the dog acts.
Feist dogs became popular hunting dogs in the south. Their small size helped them track game through the wild and made them adept at hunting and catching small animals. Some hunters used them as companion dogs because they were docile and liked being around people.
The earliest Feist dogs came from the breeding of terriers and hunting dogs. Though the American Kennel Club (AKC) doesn’t recognize the Feist, both the United Kennel Club (UKC) and Continental Kennel Club (CKC) do. Though we’ll address some of the different types of Feist dogs later, most of those breeds received names from the traits that their breeders bred in them.
Feist Dog Characteristics
The characteristics of these dogs will depend heavily on the type that you get. Mountain Feist dogs are among the smallest of this breed and can weigh as little as 12 pounds and as much as 30 pounds. They generally stand between 12 and 18 inches in height and have quite a few muscles.
Mountain Feist dogs have a stocky shape that is similar to bulldogs and usually have short ears that either flop against their heads or stand up in the air. When you choose a Mountain Feist, you’ll find that they come in different colors.
As Feist dogs have a short coat, they’re often suitable for those with low to medium allergies. Though they are not hypoallergenic, they shed less than other types of dogs do. You do not need to do anything special to groom and care for these dogs beyond a weekly bath and brush.
This is especially important if you use the dog for hunting or let it spend a lot of time outside. The bath removes any dirt or mud from the dog’s coat, and the bath helps care for the dog’s undercoat.
Feist Dog Temperament
Bringing home the wrong type of dog can cause a lot of problems because it may fight other pets in your home or lunge at your kids. Feist dogs are generally strong pets that remain on high alert. They’re always watchful for possible dangers around their home. One advantage of choosing this breed is that the dogs do well in homes with no other pets and those with multiple pets. You’ll need to slowly introduce the new dog to any existing pets and be careful when bringing home new pets.
Known as companion dogs, a Feist can form a lasting bond with other pets and any member of its family. They produce quite a bit of noise, which makes them unsuitable for use in apartments and small homes. Your new dog will likely whine and bray in homage to its hunting roots, but it will also bark and growl. This is a very common experience among dogs who detect something different in the air or around the home.
If you ever hear the dog become silent, it’s a sign that the dog picked up on the scent of its prey. You might notice this more often when walking the dog outside.
Feist dogs have a lot of energy and need ways to burn off that energy. You may want to play games that let them track stuffed animals and toys as prey and take them on frequent walks. As there are so many different types of Feist dogs, the temperament can vary among those breeds.
When you bring home a Feist dog, you may find that you spend less time worrying about its health because this breed is generally so healthy. While some dogs have genetic issues that can cause problems in the future, Feists lack those problems. There is a chance that you might have a dog that suffers from encephalitis, but this doesn’t affect all of the dogs.
Most of the concerns you’ll have are with those that spend time outside and dogs with long or floppy ears. Dogs with longer ears often drag them across the ground and can pick up mites that live inside their ears. They can also suffer from frequent infections or a buildup of wax.
Feists used for hunting can pick up fleas outside and spread them through your home and to other pets. You also risk the pet picking up ticks, which can cause Lyme disease. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help you keep an eye out for possible problems.
As a Feist owner, you need to make sure that your dog gets all the exercise that it needs. This usually means taking daily walks to help the pup get rid of its excess energy and using activities that help them hone their hunting instincts. It’s helpful to take the dog in walks through parks, wooded areas and other spaces where they can see, hunt and track wild animals. This helps develop both their hearing and sense of smell as well as their vision.
You can work with the dog both in your home and outside too. One way you can train your dog is with simple balls that you throw, let it chase and bring back to you. You may want to try weight pulling or agility training too. If you use the Feist as a hunting dog, regular hunting trips can compensate for the less home training that you do.
No matter where you walk, train or play with your dog, you need to always keep it on a leash when outside. If you use a harness with the dog at a young age, it will feel comfortable wearing a harness and walking on a leash later. Feists tend to run after anything when they catch the scent, including squirrels, rabbits and mice.
Though Feists are very smart, they’re also very stubborn. That is why early training is so helpful with this breed. Not only does this include leash training, but it should include obedience training too. If you don’t feel confident that you can handle the training on your own, a professional can help. Feists often do well with reinforcement training where you positively reinforce good behavior and actions.
The stubbornness of this breed becomes abundantly clear if you leave the dog loose in your home for long periods. It can act out in a variety of ways, including tearing apart your couch and other furniture or scratching and chewing through walls and doors. Those that receive the proper training at a young age can usually handle being home alone.
Is a Feist Dog Right for You?
After learning a little more about Feist dogs, you might think that you need to run out and find a breeder. Before you search the web for Feist puppies for sale, you need t make sure that this is the right dog for you.
A Feist puppy isn’t a calm and relaxed dog that will want to curl up on the couch and spend a few minutes outside every day. They are very active and love being outside. This is the best type of dog for a family that plans weekend camping and hunting trips and those who like to take long walks.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Feists aren’t always suitable for apartment living. They often need a lot of space and can feel cooped up in a smaller space, including a tiny home.
Even if you have a fenced-in yard and plan on letting the dog outside a few times a day to play, it may still need more exercise. Unless you can commit to spending several hours a day on walks, you may want to look at a different type of small dog.
Feist dogs usually aren’t suitable for homes with cats or other small animals either. As they have a predatory nature, the dog can lunge at other pets and even attack them if they view the animals as threats.
If you have rodents, you may find that the dog views those animals as prey too. They can handle living with children and small animals if you give them time to socialize and be around each other. Once they regard those animals and your family as part of their packs, they can be very affectionate.
Buying Feist Puppies
Unless you live in a rural area or the south, you probably won’t find breeders selling Feist puppies in your area. Breeders typically live in rural and country settings where they can train the mother and father dogs. This also gives them plenty of space for the puppies to play. The CKC has online and offline resources that you can use to find a breeder who has purebred puppies.
To make sure that the breeders are reputable, you can look at a few things, including:
- Whether both parents live on-site
- If the breeder had the puppies checked by a veterinarian
- The living conditions of the dogs
- Whether the breeders have paperwork to show where both parents came from and their genetic/familial lines
If you love Feist dogs and don’t have your heart set on a purebred, you might look into adoption too. Rescue groups take pets when their owners cannot or did not care for them properly. Though you won’t get the paperwork needed to register your pet with the CKC, you can get a loving dog in need of a good home.
The Lifespan of Feist Dogs
A Feist is not a dog that you bring home unless you can commit to caring for it in the future. The average lifespan of these dogs is 15 to 18 years, which is significantly longer than the lifespan that other small breeds have. A toy fox terrier has a life expectancy of up to 14 years, and Jack Russell dogs can live for 13 years or more. Properly caring for your dog can increase its life expectancy to 20 years or longer.
Types of Feist Dogs
One thing to keep in mind about Feist dogs is that not all of these pups are the same. Many have different names and came from specific breeders such as Barger Stock Feist Dogs. Bill Barger owned a small terrier that he bought in Tennessee. This breed became popular among those who hunted tree animals such as squirrels because they can chase those animals into trees and keep them contained. Barger Stock dogs can watch your home and alert you of dangers, but they are as aggressive as most guard dogs are.
Fans of former President Theodore Roosevelt know that he was a Rough Rider who created national parks, but they may not know about the dog breed that bears his name. This is the only member of the Feist family in the AKC registry. Often called the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier or the Bench-Legged Feist, it came from the breeding of a beagle with a rat terrier and has characteristics of both.
This breed is friendly and does well around kids, but it also has a strong sense of smell that can assist in hunting applications. They are also sociable and will do almost anything to make their families smile.
If the Barger Stock interests you, you might find the Buckley an appealing dog. Named for Jack Buckley who first bred the dogs in the Buckley Mountains of Kentucky, they are quite similar to the Mountain Feist and considered a version of that dog. They are among the best Feists for homes with small children because they get along with kids and love chasing them around. Though Buckley Feists need brushing regularly, they aren’t prone to common health issues such as ear problems.
The Charlie Feist is one of the only dogs in this breed to come from the United Kingdom. UK immigrants brought this dog to the United States during the 19th century and used them as traveling companions. Known as friendly and loyal, they love being around people. They don’t make good security or watch dogs as they view anyone as a friend. This is the best type of Feist for those who want a dog with a lower energy level. They only need 15 to 20 minutes of daily exercise and do well in a fenced-in outdoor space.
With the Denmark Feist, you get a dog that dates back to the early 20th century. Members of the Slade family bought Feist in 1917 and bred it with other dogs to create this version. As a hunting dog, it could track both large and small animals such as squirrels and wild boars. Though the breed went through several changes over the years, it officially became the Denmark Treeing Feist in the 1980s. The Denmark breed is more stubborn than other types of Feists and requires a lot of exercise.
One of the more unique breeds is the Gray Feist or the Gray Mountain Squirrel Dog. Marcus Gray spent some time breeding dogs before introducing this Feist in 2005. Bred specifically for hunting, it does well on farms and ranches but is not a family dog that will love being inside. They need training and activities that keep them busy and do not do well when left alone in a house or apartment.
Another popular choice is the Treeing Feist, which needs a lot of socialization as soon as you bring it home. As one of the earliest types of Feist dogs, they learned how to hunt and passed those instincts to future generations. The dogs instinctively know how to find and tree a squirrel and will then bark constantly until their owners reward them. They do especially well in homes with other dogs because they like being part of a pack. As they are also quite curious, they can get into situations that other breeds do not.
The Mountain Feist is possibly one of the top breeds of Feist dogs. If you ever saw a dog that had the same characteristics as a Jack Russell but was taller and stockier, you likely saw a Mountain Feist. Originally bred in the Ozarks, this dog dates back to as early as the 17th century when pioneers used them for companionship and to watch over their children. They love being around kids and often have coats with three different colors. As Mountain Feists have short coats, they’re easy to groom.
Those looking for working dogs that have a lot of energy and can keep up with them, the All-American Feist might be the best breed for them. This is an older breed created by German immigrants who moved to the United States who bred their puppies with those of Irish immigrants. This is a dog that loves canine sports. It can chase a ball as far as you can throw it and get through an obstacle course in minutes. Smart and curious, this dog requires constant support and attention. It can view any small animal as prey and does not do well when left alone.
Pencil Tail Feist
One of the lesser-known Feists that you might come across is the Pencil-Tail Feist, which gets its name from its long and thin tail, which looks like a pencil. Pencil-Tail Feists may lack a tail too. Some believe that this dog originated in Spain, but there is no evidence of when the breed started. Similar to a rat terrier, they love chasing small animals and need a lot of exercise. The CKC placed this breed in the Terrier Group.
You’ll also find the Kemmer Feist that looks so much like a rat terrier that some confused the two. Robert Kemmer never revealed how he created this breed, but most believe that they came from three types of dogs that include a fox terrier because they have characteristics that match those breeds. As one of the smallest Feists, they can weigh as little as 14 pounds and stand only 12 inches tall when fully grown. This is a companion dog that does not like being separated from its owner.
If you need to leave for work, you might come home to find your couch destroyed. This breed is also more prone to infections than other Feists, especially in their ears and eyes.
Some of the other breeds that are part of the Feist family include:
- Mullins Feist
- Thornburg Feist
- Rat Terrier
Feist dogs are extremely loyal and take to the pack mentality easily. They can handle working in small packs when you hunt and do well on solo trips, especially when it comes to catching squirrels and other small animals. Some of the oldest breeds in this family date back to the 17th century and earlier and came from breeders who wanted loyal dogs that could also help with their homesteading.
Learning about this breed is important for anyone who thinks they might want a Feist. Though they look like small and happy dogs, they can be destructive when left alone and do not do well with cats and rodents or other animals. You should consider the characteristics and temperament of Feist dogs and whether they work with your lifestyle before bringing one home.