What is a Treeing Dog?

A Treeing Walker Coonhound dog outdoors.
© Mary Swift/Shutterstock.com

Written by Em Casalena

Updated: April 13, 2023

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Although the word “treeing” in reference to dogs may seem strange, dogs and trees have a close relationship. Some dogs enjoy barking at small animals that hide in trees. Others enjoy peeing on trees. Treeing takes the art of dogs barking at trees to a whole new level.

So what does treeing have to do with dogs? The concept may seem strange at first, but treeing is a pretty old practice. Treeing dogs function as working partners when it comes to this method of hunting. It turns out that not all canines are suited for the job. Treeing requires a certain aptitude and even specific dog breeds. Several canine breeds have undergone selective breeding with the goal of creating good tree climbers and treeing dogs.

In this guide, we’ll break down the art of treeing, what treeing dogs are, and what treeing entails. We’ll also take a look at some common treeing dog breeds that are available in the pet market today.

What is Treeing?

In the practice of treeing, dogs are employed to coerce prey into climbing up trees. This is done so that hunters may examine them or kill them. This hunting technique is the source of the term “Barking up the wrong tree.” Although some hunters today utilize radio direction-finding devices to locate their prey, historically, hunters would follow the dogs on foot while listening to their barks.

Using dogs, the treeing technique forces naturally climbing animals into trees so that hunters may spot them, capture them, or shoot them. With the help of treeing, hunters may observe their target and determine if it should be killed or left alone. The practice makes it easier to get a cleaner kill. It is also particularly helpful for hunting cougars because they are famously elusive and hard to catch without the help of dogs.

For scientific research purposes, the quarry can be monitored or tagged using the treeing method. For objectives like radio-tagging or for fun, treeing is occasionally done without the aim to kill the target.

A few states in the United States, including California, Montana, Washington, New Mexico, and Oregon, have banned treeing. Law enforcement officials in natural areas in these states have advised hunters and outdoor lovers to report any treeing activities.

What Do Treeing Dogs Do?

As the name suggests, treeing involves both dogs and trees. As was already noted, treeing is a hunting technique where the dog’s primary responsibility is following prey up a tree so that hunters can readily detect and kill them. However, the job isn’t done with just barking animals up trees. The dogs must be willing to bark nonstop even after the animal has climbed the tree in order to make successful treeing dogs. The barking is what helps foot hunters find the dogs and effectively kill the animal in the tree.

Treeing dogs are chosen for their tendency to continue barking at an animal even after it has retreated into a tree, making them particularly useful for coonhunting. As mentioned earlier, bears and cougars are also hunted using this technique.

Treeing dogs are trained to bark rather than charge the quarry. However, it has happened that the quarry has killed a few dogs or that the dogs have killed the quarry. Because of this, it is vital to only used specially trained treeing dogs for this form of hunting. Generally, after being chased and harassed for a while, the prey will climb a tree to get away from the dogs but may become defensive and lash out.

Treeing Dog Breeds

Some dogs are bred specifically for treeing and similar types of hunting. Foxhounds were found to be ineffective in hunting creatures that climbed trees, such as raccoons, opossums, and bobcats. They were also not particularly great at hunting huge prey like bears and cougars, even if they were excellent at tracking prey. As the foxhounds were unable to maintain their scent when these animals fled to the trees, they would be left confused and unable to continue barking. As a result, a particular breed of scent hound was required for the job, and the first treeing dogs were created to fill the need.

Because of their sharp sense of smell, excellent tracking abilities, and independent nature, these dogs were able to hunt alone and independently of their handlers at a distance. Let’s take a look at a few of these treeing dog breeds that are great at their jobs.

Treeing Walker Coonhound

The Treeing Walker Coonhound is an energetic, perceptive, and affectionate dog who loves to spend time with family but never passes up the chance to go on a trek or a long walk. Despite their reputation for being difficult, Treeing Walker Coonhounds typically outweigh their intransigence with a playful and tolerant demeanor. Treeing Walker Coonhounds are adaptable in that they may hunt independently or alongside a group. They may also be used to hunt larger animals like bobcats, cougars, and even small bears that hide in trees.

The Treeing Walker Coonhound, also known as the Tree Walker Coonhound, was developed specifically to find and catch raccoons via treeing. These canines will be useful to farmers and hunters since they have a strong prey drive. But if they receive enough exercise and have a fenced yard to play in during the day, they may also live peacefully in a family environment.

Treeing Walker Coonhounds as Non-Hunting Pets

Unless they have had significant training, these dogs are hunting dogs who are likely to become agitated while outdoors and should always be leashed, even during hikes. On the other hand, these dogs would adore nothing more than to play with children while being allowed to run free in the yard.

Treeing Walker Coonhounds are calm and rarely get aggressive unless they are in danger. These dogs are delightful to be around and are easy to groom. This unusual dog breed has a lot to appreciate about it. But, as a potential owner, you must be ready to have a lot of obligations.

For busy families, the Treeing Walker Coonhound is a terrific choice. They’ll like having lots of room to run around and participate in outside activities with their families to use up all of their energy. As this dog breed has a high hunting drive and may see tiny creatures like cats or rabbits as prey without adequate socialization, early socialization and training are crucial. If you plan on using this breed for treeing where legal, specific training is mandatory.

Treeing Walker Coonhound dog lying down on bed with quilt.

The Treeing Walker Coonhound (pictured) is considered the best dog to use for treeing due to its genetics and trainability.

©Lindsay Helms/Shutterstock.com

Treeing Tennessee Brindle

Treeing Tennessee Brindles are skilled at finding game that seeks cover in trees. The American Kennel Club has a program called Foundation Stock Services to maintain breeding and lineage data for new and unrecognized dog breeds. Treeing Tennessee Brindles are listed as curs and have records in this program.

The word “cur” has several meanings. In current usage, it is used to refer to canine breeds that are similar to hunting hounds and were originally created for working and hunting. One of the most sought-after breeds, Treeing Tennessee Brindles thrive in farming and forestry jobs. We’ll break down what curs are in more detail in the next section.

Always Ask for Certification for Treeing Tennessee Brindles

Be sure to ask for paperwork and certifications when looking for Treeing Tennessee Brindle pups. This is done to make sure the hound you’re purchasing is indeed a treeing dog and not a brindle-colored hound mix. There are enough skilled breeders around the United States to locate a legitimate Treeing Tennessee Brindle puppy. This is even so if they aren’t exactly a recognized breed. An animal shelter is another place to try your luck. Finding Treeing Tennessee Brindles at shelters may not be common. However, adopting will help you save a ton of money while also positively impacting the life of a dog.

Although Treeing Tennessee Brindles are renowned for their loud bark when they have cornered their prey, they can be extremely boisterous indoors when not hunting as well. If they need help, especially if they aren’t getting enough activity, they may growl and bark constantly. Treeing Tennessee Brindles are capable of different types of jobs outside of treeing, such as herding animals. They are incredibly intelligent and easy to train, making them excellent candidates for manual labor professions like farming.

treeing tennessee brindle jumping for a frisbee

The Treeing Tennessee Brindle (pictured) is a popular breed for treeing, as they have a very loud bark.

©Michael O’Keene/Shutterstock.com

Curs

The treeing cur is one of the numerous cur breeds that were created in the southern United States as an all-purpose farm and hunting dog breed. They are able to defend property, herd sheep and cattle, and hunt both large and small wildlife. Although they are skilled and brave hunters, they also normally make wonderful and devoted friends in the home, and if socialized, they are typically friendly toward other dogs. Cur dogs like the treeing cur, a cross of hound dogs, terriers, and feist breeds, were developed for their skills rather than for their beauty and often vary greatly in size and color.

Curs are similar to feists, although feists are little treeing dogs, whereas curs are large treeing dogs. They have a reputation for being multifunctional farm dogs that can herd, hunt, and tree both small and large animals.

Curs are renowned for their ability to tree bears, mountain lions, bobcats, wild boars, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and wild cats. The United Kennel Club now recognizes the treeing cur as a distinct mixed type of dog.

Mountain Cur running on beach

Curs can include a wide range of mixed breeds, such as the mountain cur (pictured), the black mouth cur, the Stephen cur, and more.

©Villiers Steyn/Shutterstock.com

Feists

The feist is a tiny, low-maintenance hunting dog. It is employed in rural southern areas of the United States to locate, pursue, and tree squirrels. The term “feist” referred to the fact that these dogs are small and quite noisy when they’ve treed their prey.

Once the squirrel is treed, they will circle the tree like coonhounds and bark furiously. They track more quietly than coonhounds, though, and only begin to bark once the animal has been successfully treed. These dogs chase small animals with a lot of ferocity. They will dash over highways and fields, jump over logs, and wade through streams while doing so.

Feists are crossbreeds of several hunting breeds that are sometimes mistaken for Jack Russells. The United Kennel Club asserts that hunting hounds and terriers have been crossed for many generations to produce hunting feists.

Beautiful Feist dog standing under a tree on autumn leaves.

Feists (pictured) come in many mixed breeds, shapes, and sizes, though they mostly stay small.

©Atomic Feist / CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Even if you’re not particularly interested in hunting or treeing, these treeing dog breeds make excellent pets. If you’re in the market for a new furry friend, it might be worth considering any of these lovely treeing dog breeds.

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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