Feist Dog: The Pride of the American South

They say you shouldn’t judge a dog by its size and boy does the Feist Dog prove the saying true. Known for its bravery and loyalty, the Feist Dog is a natural hunter that’s been around for hundreds of years and has enjoyed an impressive representation in literature and art throughout time.

At their core, these are squirrel dogs that people have traditionally used to hunt rodents. As such, they are well-known for their tracking skill and sublime ability to chase down prey on any terrain and regardless of the weather.

Loyal and dependable, Feist Dogs are generally very friendly, spirited, and quite intelligent by most accounts. Energetic and fearless, the Feist enjoys a challenge and will often prefer a headstrong approach to any task provided that its owner allows it.

What Is A Feist Dog?

The Feist Dog was originally brought to the Americas by English miners around 1770 and has been a popular breed among Southerners ever since. Now, there are quite a few theories about the breed’s exact origins, but the general consensus on the dog is that it has a mixed heritage rather than being of a single origin.

This small to medium-sized dog can prove trusty and dependable companions, much thanks to their intrinsic desire to please. Originally bred in the southern mountain regions, these dogs have traditionally been used for hunting and general labor, which explains why it looks like a working dog to begin with.

Interestingly enough, because the dog has been specifically bred for speed, the modern Feist Dog is among the fastest and most tireless dogs this size. Needless to say, this makes owning such a dog a bit demanding as the dog requires regular exercise to exhaust its impressive energy.

feist breed


Seeing how this is a hunting dog rather than a companion, the pups can be of different colors and have different coat types. Mind you, this is not a show dog by any means, in the sense that it has the body type of a working dog that some people might find a bit peculiar.

Height & Weight

This is a small or medium-size dog according to most international standards, and it can grow between 10 to 18 inches in height. Although the pups may share similar body characteristics, it’s usually the adults who tend to differ ever so slightly from one another.

As for weight, you can expect a fully grown adult to weigh between 15 and 30 lbs most of the time. That said, it may be possible for sedentary Feist Dogs to be a bit heavier, but this is only the case with dogs that aren’t exercised properly and as often as they should.

Coat & Colors

It should be said that Feist Dogs generally have a short coat that comes in a variety of colors. This coat is usually smooth and can be either black, red and white, black and tan, blue and white, red brindle, or in some cases, of three different colors. That said, many of these dogs are white because people who get them prefer them this way.

One thing to point out about the Feist Dog’s coat is that it doesn’t have hypoallergenic hair but that they are low-shedders by most metrics. This means that you shouldn’t really have any issues with the grooming provided that you dedicate the bare minimum time every week to looking after the dog’s well-being.

feist dog

Feist Dog Personality & Temperament

Because of the fact that traditionally, these dogs have been bred for hunting purposes, they tend to be very curious and boast an impressive amount of energy. As such, you can have your hands full with a Feist, even more so if you live in an environment that can stimulate the dog’s fine eyesight and hearing.

Speaking of which, these dogs rely a lot on their sense of smell, eyesight, and hearing, to the point where they have to engage all senses even when they play around. Meeting the dog’s requirements may not be easy for most dog owners, but then again, the people who get a Feist Dog aren’t exactly surprised about the maintenance and care the dog requires on a regular basis.

Other than that, it should be said that these dogs are generally quite friendly and that they rarely antagonize other dogs. This is because the Feist Dog has a natural inclination to focus on what they’re doing and to ignore any possibility of a conflict if they can help it.

Feist Dog Behavior

Very alert dogs by nature, they will jump on the opportunity to accompany you in almost any activity. This also means that you need to dedicate a lot of attention and time to them, or else they might start acting up. This is definitely something to avoid with these types of dogs, as they can cause a lot of damage on account of their energy.

Bear in mind that Feist Dogs are very vocal and will get into a barking fit every time it encounters something that angers or confuses the dog. In this respect, it may not be such a good dog for people who live in an apartment setting, nor will the dog fit in well in an environment in which they might inconvenience other people or pets through the noise they make.

These dogs also tend to latch onto their owners the same way a parrot would, preferring to spend time with the owner instead of other dogs. In fact, the dog will even disregard playtime if their owner has another activity in mind, just as long as they get to be around the owner, the dog will undoubtedly be alright with the change in routine.

feist dog breed

Feist Dog Temperament

We already closed in on the dog’s barking, which needless to say, may prove a problem in some cases. That said, it rarely if ever bites other people or dogs and will generally showcase a reasonable standard of restraint around strangers and other pets.

It should be said, however, that if your households contain any rodents, the dog can and will try to catch them and/or kill them. This also applies to any rodents that people sometimes keep as pets such as hamsters, rats, and squirrels. This is a result of hundreds of years of careful breeding and it’s unlikely that you will be able to train the dog to disregard its basic instincts.

One should understand that Feist Dogs rarely engage in a direct confrontation with other dogs and prefer to avoid aggressive pups by instinct. As a matter of fact, they tend to make new friends very quickly and without too much input from the owner.

Are A Feist Dogs Good Family Dogs?

Considering that Feist Dogs are very sociable animals, the answer is yes. Feist Dogs will always feel in their element around people, especially around those whose company the dog prefers. This also includes children who often possess the same amount of energy that Feist Dogs have in regards to running and/or playing.

These are very flexible dogs by nature who are always in the mood to play. Needless to say, this makes them very popular among children and small adults. Gentle and adaptable, these dogs are very careful not to cause any injury to their family or other dogs, which doesn’t necessarily mean that you should disregard the dog’s training needs.

Caring for a Feist Dog

A quick look at a picture of a Feist Dog will tell you that these dogs are fairly muscular and compact, with strong legs and an equally strong bone structure. As such, they require lots of exercise and activities to keep them active during the day.

They also enjoy being outdoors so if you live in an area with wood or any stint of trees and nature, then you will get to find out just how much these dogs love being out in nature.


It is very important for these dogs to live in an environment that’s suited for their energy temperament. It is equally important that you dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to exercising them outside your actual playtime. Bear in mind that these are very agile dogs and that there is a possibility they will jump/climb over your fences if they’re not tall enough.

Because of its small size, the Feist Dog will find it very easy to squeeze into tight spaces, a compact build that also helps the dog in its climbing endeavors. Fortunately for you, these dogs tend to stay close to their owners and require regular attention from them, so you shouldn’t normally worry about them running away under normal circumstances.

Now, you should also remember that these are very sociable and tame dogs, meaning that they will likely get along with other dogs without any issues to speak of. In fact, they are very quick to make friends not only with other dogs but other pets as well, provided that they’re not rodents that might otherwise trigger the dog’s aggressive instincts.

feist puppy

Grooming & Shedding

Due to having a short coat, the Feist Dog is not all that demanding in terms of grooming. You see, these dogs rarely shed and even when they do, they do it very little of it. So in that regard, you won’t have any real issues caring for a Feist Dog, although you should wash them regularly on account of how dirty they get.

Feist Dogs also require that you brush their teeth regularly, wipe their ears, and cut their nails every once in a while. Interestingly enough, the Feist Dog tends to wear out its nails on its own accord, for the most part, so you won’t have to clip them yourself as you would with almost any other dog.

Feeding & Diet

You can feed a Feist Dog almost anything provided that it doesn’t contain too many artificial additives. In principle, you can feed the dog raw, canned, or dry kibbles which the dog will gobble up rather quickly all things considered. You will most likely find out what type of food the dog prefers after feeding it a wide variety of foods during its first months.

The portion size usually depends on the dog’s age, size, and activity levels, so bear that in mind when setting up the meals. In terms of calories, the Feist Dog requires 400 calories for daily consumption, but you can vary the portions depending on the dog’s activity levels.

Known Health Problems

Considering how well-built these dogs tend to be, it is unlikely that your Feist will suffer from any serious illnesses or medical conditions. They also tend to have one of the longest life spans of any breed, with a life expectancy of up to 18 years or even more in many cases.

That said, the Feist Dog can occasionally suffer from afflictions like hip dysplasia and allergies, but only to a small degree. Overall, the dog’s health will usually be a reflection of how well you take care of it, and this includes exercising and diet.

How To Train A Feist Dog

Because of how energetic these dogs are, you will need to train your Feist thoroughly as a pup if you expect to avoid behavior problems later on.

They are also very agreeable, so you should be able to teach the dog almost anything, because like we said, they are very sharp and quick to learn.

Now, it needs to be said that older dogs have an awful record of disregarding any training attempts, so don’t wait too long to train your Feist. That said, you should include hunting activities during your training as the dog is genetically predisposed to chasing and hunting.

Quick Breed Summary Table

Breed Information
Size 10-18 inches
Weight 15-30 lbs
Lifespan 18+ years
Color White is most common but also brown, black, red, and tan
Coat Smooth coat with short hair
Shedding & Grooming Dog rarely sheds, minimal grooming required
Temperament Very friendly and sociable but tends to hunt small creatures
With Other Pets Quite sociable with other dogs and pets provided they’re not too small
People Skills Great people skills, always looking to please
With Children Perfect dogs for families with children due to their energy levels
Exercise Needs Daily exercise required, around 30 minutes or so
Food Pretty much anything as long as the dog enjoys it
Known Health Problems Sometimes prone to hip dysplasia and allergies

All Things Considered

Far from being the most popular dog in the world, the Feist Dog definitely stands out as one of the most sociable and energetic breeds out there.

Provided that you have the ability to match the dog’s energy levels and exercise needs, you simply cannot go wrong with adopting a Feist.

Very sociable and remarkably sharp, they will quickly adapt to the family dynamics of any household and always look to please its owners as long as they receive a reasonable amount of attention.

All in all, this small feisty dog has both a big bark and a big heart and you should definitely consider getting one as a first dog.

Caroline Jones

Caroline has been a dog lover since she was only 6 years old, when her parents got her a rescue Boxer. Since then her love for dogs has lead her to study Dog Behavior & Welfare. She now educates people on how to properly raise and care for dogs, through her online site, Bark Friend. Now, she's a proud owner of a beautiful German Shepherd.

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