Down south we have a term for men who peddle dogs—we call them “dog jockeys”. The word “jockey” means to deal shrewdly or fraudulently. Obviously, not everyone who has a dog for sale is a crook, but it’s common enough to deserve its open article. I literally despise seeing someone get cheated out of hard-earned money on a useless dog.  

Anyone that’s been in the hound business long enough will be familiar with the things I’m about to share. My aim is to familiarize newer houndsmen with some of the tricks of the trade that dog jockeys employ to deceive others. These are red flags that I’d be cautious about.  


#1 – Dogs Being Advertised to the General Public  


Yes, you read that right. If a dog is being advertised for sale, that’s a red flag. Top dogs are seldom for sale in the big game world. If they do come up for sale, they usually don’t have to be advertised. Really good bear dogs are normally well known and multiple people have already spoken for them just in case they might ever be for sale. The best houndsmen could probably sell 10 good dogs today if they had them for sale. Having said that, there will be good dogs that pop up from time to time and I don’t want to leave the impression that all dogs being advertised are no good. Just move with caution on any dog for sale to the general public. Dog Jockeys will normally have a string of dogs for sale at all times, and that’s always a reason to be suspicious.  


#2 – Dogs Being Advertised at the End of Hunting Season 


This is an ongoing joke of mine. I laugh every year at the end of bear season when the great dog sale begins. When a genuine hunter has hunted a dog for an entire season and wants to get rid of it, that raises a red flag to me. He may have a legitimate reason for selling the dog, but I’d still want to know why.  


#3 – Dogs Being Advertised with No References   


A top dog can’t be hidden. Word of great dogs spreads like wildfire. If the Dog Jockey can’t give you the names of other houndsmen who can vouch for the dog’s ability, please beware. If the seller claims he only hunts by himself, do a double take. Maybe he does hunt alone, but maybe he doesn’t.  


#4 – Dogs Being Advertised Based Primarily on Registration Papers 


The first question you ask about a hound for sale shouldn’t be about its ancestry or registration papers. The dog for sale should stand alone as a functional hunting dog if you’re going to buy it. Ask about the dog for sale and then ask about the ancestry. Dog Jockeys will roll out those multi-generation registration papers and hoodwink the unsuspecting quick as a wink. They sell the dog based on its relatives instead of its ability. If a Dog Jockey can’t tell what a dog is, that’s a red flag.  


#5 – Dogs Being Advertised Because the Owner Has Too Many Dogs 


This is such a weak selling point that I’m not sure why anyone uses it. Every time I see this sales pitch, I immediately balk. The seller is admitting that he has an excessive amount of dogs, he’s evaluated all of them, and this is the one out of them all he wants rid of the most. I would ask, “if you have a lot of dogs, why is this one the one you like least?” 


#6 – Dogs Being Advertised as Pup Trainers 


This potentially means the dog is old and/or slow. In bear hunting, you’re generally hunting a pack of dogs. If an old dog can’t keep up, that’s not good for pup training. You don’t want pups' lollygagging around with an old dog that’s three miles behind the action all day. If someone is starting totally from scratch and needs to jump start some really young pups, then maybe an old slow pup trainer makes sense. Just think through what you're buying and how it’s practically going to work for you in the real world. There are legitimate older dogs that come up for sale, but watch for this particular angle being used by a Dog Jockey.  


#7 – Dogs Being Advertised Exceptionally Cheap 


Yes, it’s possible to get a great dog for free if someone wants to do you a favor. It’s possible to buy a great dog for peanuts for various reasons. Cheap dogs that are also great are an exception to the rule. Dog Jockeys have to move a lot of dogs to make money. They prey on people who hope to get a deal on a great dog.  


#8 – Dogs Advertised Right Before Hunting Season Opens 


Dog food is too expensive for a genuine hunter to feed a dog all Spring and Summer and then sell it just before the season begins. For whatever reason, some men wait until right before the season to scramble for dogs. It makes no sense, but they do it. Men with tip dogs have waited months to get back in the woods with their dogs, and they’re not selling two weeks before the season unless something bad happens.  


This may sound contradictory, but the best time to buy a hound is during the season—that way you can arrange to go see the dog in action. Dog Jockeys with bad motives are going to find a reason not to let you see the dog hunt.  


#9 – Dogs Being Advertised as Pack Dogs 


Unlike some houndsmen, I like a good pack dog. I’ve seen some hounds over the years that were not stand alone hounds but they had an extra something special when blended in with a pack that could make a big difference. However, a Dog Jockey may be using the term pack dog as a cover for the fact that the dog is entirely worthless. Ask what the dog lacks. Ask what makes him worth keeping if he has limitations.  


#10 – Dogs Being Advertised as ???Started Dogs  


There are great buys in started dogs. It’s very possible to get a young hound showing promise from someone legitimate. And it’s also possible this is a trick used by a Dog Jockey for a dog that will never bark at a biscuit. Ask what they mean by this in great detail. A legit houndsmen will tell you exactly what the pup has and hasn’t done in concrete terms.  


This is not an exhaustive list of tricks used by Dog Jockeys; they are a slick and crafty bunch. I’m just hoping that I’ve shined enough light on the subject so you can see that the tree is slick and not talk yourself into seeing a coon in those leaves when nothing is there.