The Mountain Feist is a dog breed that was bred in the rural South of the United States of America to be a hunting dog of small vermin — specifically a “treeing dog,” which means the type of hunting dog that chases above-ground, rather than digging underground. Today, these dogs are still well-suited to this job, but they also do well with active families with ample backyards.
Mountain Feists are also known as Tree Feists, American Treeing Feists, American Feists, and Mountain Terriers. As always, please adopt whenever possible if you’re looking to add a Mountain Feist to your life. In addition to general shelters, these dogs can be found at Terrier or Feist breed specific rescues. Remember, when you adopt, you save two lives: the one you bring home and the one you make room for at the rescue.
Friendly, loving, and active, these dogs will do best in a home with an active family and a decently sized house and yard. It’s best not to mix them in a household with small animals, due to their hunting instincts. They are great hunting dogs and family dogs, and they can make great watchdogs, too.
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Terrier DogsHeight:10 to 22 inchesWeight:10 to 30 poundsLife Span:10 to 18 years
More About This Breed
- Mountain Feists’ coats are short and smooth. They come in every color and combination, including black, white, gray, silver, blue, tan, red, brown, cream, sable, brindle, pied, Isabella, and fawn.
- Mountain Feists are known for being low-maintenance. They shed an average amount, year-round, and they do not need haircuts. They should only be bathed as needed.
- Mountain Feists would prefer to have several hours of exercise each day, but be sure to give them at least one, or else they may become destructive with that pent-up energy.
- They generally do decently well with children; their sturdy physique and small-to-medium size makes them not too fragile. Also, they are not as aggressive as other terriers.
- Because their prey drive is so strong, Mountain Feists are not recommended to add to a household with other animals, even cats, but especially small animals, like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice, gerbils, etc. Mountain Feists can get along well with other dogs of equal or larger size.
The history of Mountain Feists is a bit muddied, as the term “feist” can mean any type of small, noisy dog. Over the centuries, they have been bred as low-maintenance dogs to hunt small vermin above-ground.
Indigenous to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, Mountain Feists are sometimes called “the last true hunting dog.” They’re believed to have been in the country since as early as the 17th and 18th centuries, and though their numbers have been small over the centuries, they have grown in popularity over the last decade.
They are even rumored to have been owned by, or at least associated with, some of our first presidents: George Washington referred to “feists” in his diary, and Abraham Lincoln referenced them in a poem. They were indeed in the country before other ratting terriers, making them pioneers, of sorts, themselves!
During our founding fathers’ times, the Mountain Feist may have looked a bit different than they do today, but eventually, the breed became refined with specific traits. Today, they are often confused with Mountain Curs, who have similar roles and appearances, but are not quite the same — Mountain Feists being decidedly smaller, for one.
Although physical characteristics have become more specific than in the past, Mountain Feists’ roles are largely the same — to hunt small animals outside. They are sometimes nicknamed as a class of “squirrel dogs.” Despite their honed hunting skills, they are very friendly, playful, loving dogs, and they also play a great role as a family dog, especially in environments where they can exercise that high energy, such as decently sized homes and yards.
Mountain Feists are small- to medium-sized dogs.
Though their size and appearance have varied a lot over the years, nowadays, they are generally between ten and 22 inches tall, weighing between ten and 30 pounds.
Less aggressive than other terriers, Mountain Feists are incredibly friendly and very loving and loyal to their families. Be sure to provide them with plenty of exercise and stimulation, because they can get into trouble if bored.
Though they are loving towards their families, they are true hunting dogs, and this is important to remember when they are outside, as they may chase and even kill small animals, like squirrels. This is very important to remember, too, when considering mixing animals in the house. Mountain Feists should not be added to households where there are small animals, like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice, etc.
In addition to being great hunting dogs and family dogs, Mountain Feists make good watchdogs, too. They are loving with their families, but they can be a bit wary of strangers.
They can also be a bit stubborn, but early training and socialization will bring out the best in your dog, as with all breeds. Playing outside will be a treat for your Mountain Feist, but do beware that they might not always come immediately when called, especially if they are focused on prey. Keep this in mind for the safety of your dog, as well as other animals.
Mountain Feists tend to be pretty healthy, as they are descendants of quite a mix of other healthy dogs. However, they can be prone to a few health issues, which are important to keep in mind as you consider adding this dog to your home and monitor their health over their lifetime.
These health issues include:
- hip dysplasia
- elbow dysplasia
- allergic dermatitis from environmental stimuli
- allergy to certain food elements
As with all dogs, it’s a good idea to cut your Mountain Feist’s nails, or have your groomer cut them, about once a month, as well as to check their ears for redness or irritation about once a week. Brushing their teeth a few times a week is also a good idea to promote good dental health. You can ask your vet to show you how to do any of these tasks.
Mountain Feists are very energetic; they would prefer to be active all the time. It’s a good idea to take them on a couple of walks during the day, and they love having some additional play time outside, whether it’s playing fetch with you, running around in the backyard, or doing agility training.
Remember that they can be stubborn and have a high prey drive, so you may want to keep them on a leash or in a safe, enclosed area where you won’t have to worry about their welfare (or other animals’). Their classification as a “treeing dog” isn’t just a turn of phrase; don’t be alarmed if you see they climbing a tree in pursuit of a squirrel!
They can get some exercise indoors, too, especially with play. They are considered to be “outdoor dogs,” and they do tolerate cold weather very well, so don’t let mildly inclement weather deter you. They would prefer to have several hours of exercise each day, but be sure to give them at least one, or else they may become destructive with that pent-up energy.
An ideal Mountain Feist diet should be formulated for a small-to-medium breed with high energy levels.
As with all dogs, the Mountain Feist’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Mountain Feist’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs — including weight, energy, and health — to make a specific recommendation.
Coat Color And Grooming
Though Mountain Feists were quite varied in the past, coming from a blend of ancestor breeds, today, they have a more specific set of characteristics, some outlined by international breed organizations.
Mountain Feists’ coats are short and smooth. They come in every color and combination, including black, white, gray, silver, blue, tan, red, brown, cream, sable, brindle, pied, Isabella, and fawn.
Mountain Feists are known for being low-maintenance. They shed an average amount, year-round, and they do not need haircuts. They should only be bathed as needed, or every few months, as they can have sensitive skin. Occasional brushing to remove loose hair will be helpful.
They may not look it, but Mountain Feists actually prefer cooler weather. That being said, because they do not have long or heavy coats, you may need to put a jacket on your dog if it is snowing or very cold. When it’s hot out, be sure to provide easy access to shade and water. As with all dogs, watch for heavy panting as a sign of dehydration or even heat stroke; be sure not to keep your dog outside too long if it’s excessively hot.
Children And Other Pets
Mountain Feists are an interesting blend of personality traits: very loving and friendly to their families, but with a very strong prey drive. They generally do decently well with children; their sturdy physique and small-to-medium size makes them not too fragile. Also, they are not as aggressive as other terriers, so that is of less concern, too. Still, it’s important to supervise play between children and animals.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.
Teach your child to never approach any dog while they’re sleeping or eating or try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how good-natured, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Because their prey drive is so strong, Mountain Feists are not recommended to add to a household with other animals, even cats, but especially small animals, like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice, gerbils, etc. Mountain Feists can get along well with other dogs of equal or larger size, and, in fact, they do enjoy socializing.
Rescues specifically for Mountain Feist dogs might be hard to come by, as this is an uncommon breed. However, you can always check with your local shelter, and you may want to try a rescue that caters to all kinds of dogs. You can take a look at the following:
- Wright-Way Rescue
- Angels Among Us Pet Rescue