Betsy and I get many inquiries about how we feed dogs to keep them healthy and in good shape. Feeding properly requires attention throughout the year but, especially now with the fall hunting season looming, a healthy dog is imperative. If your dog is overweight, the physical exercise will be hard on bones and joints and will cause premature fatigue. An underweight dog, on the other hand, will not have necessary reserves for endurance and will lack resistance to fight off maladies.
Feeding your hunting dog properly takes time and effort. Betsy and I practice what we preach and manage our dogs’ feeding programs as described below. This has worked exceptionally well for us for more than 15 years and we’re certain it will work for you, too.
Feed a premium quality food.
Reams have been written about various dog foods and it all boils down to one simple statement. Your dog is what it eats. Good dog food is balanced and nutritionally complete and is made with high-quality ingredients. Companies such as Nestle-Purina have done decades of study and research in formulating their foods and the price is worth it.
Feed the right amount at the right time.
Determining how much to feed your dog is an art that will take time and attention. Recommended feeding amounts on dog food bags are good places to start but are merely guidelines. Find out your dog’s body condition and then take into account its current activity level. Then, it’s simple: if your dog is too heavy, reduce the portion; too light, increase it.
This brings me to another important point: Your dog should eat when you feed it. If your dog is a finicky eater and needs some enticement, try these two tricks. Add warm water and stir until a thin gravy forms. Or mix a spoonful or two of canned dog food into the bowl but then reduce the amount of dry food accordingly.
As with most things in life, timing is crucial. Nestle-Purina has conducted thorough research and their most up-to-date information on when to feed your dog is once per day. Studies show that dogs fed 24 hours before exercise had almost twice the endurance as dogs fed just 12 hours before. Nestle-Purina recommends these guidelines:
— Feed your dog 24 hours before hunting for optimum performance. Minimum time is 12 hours before.
— Feed your dog 40 – 60 minutes after it is done hunting for the day.
Use a glycogen replacement when working your dog hard.
Glycogen is one of the first forms of energy used by the working dog. Studies have shown that glycogen stores cannot be replaced in a short period of time and, further, loss of glycogen can have a negative impact on a dog’s performance. Dr. Ben J. Character, a veterinarian specializing in sporting dog issues has an excellent article on this topic called Power up: The Role of Glycogen Replacement
We have used glycogen replenishment for years. In addition, many field trial competitors use glycogen supplements for both multiple day trials and consecutive days of hard training. We buy Annamaet Glycocharge from Lion Country Supply.
Lily was one of four females out of the Blue Riptide x Blue Ghost litter this summer. She was the spitfire of the group—and the most dominant—and wasn’t a match for any of our puppy buyers so Jerry and I kept her.
As a tiny puppy, she was the first to wake up in the whelping nest, pop her head up and look around. She was also precocious and was the first one to crawl out of the whelping nest.
She is a little spark plug and so we named her Tiger Lily.
Now, at 4 months of age, she has matured into quite a puppy. She gets along extremely well with other puppies her age: three pointers, Cleo, Tut and Zeus, and another setter, Black-eyed Susan. Lily is calm in the kennel, freezes when we touch her and never barks—wonderful qualities and much like her grand-dam, Blue Silk. But out in the field, she reminds us of her great grand-dam and one of our best dogs ever, Blue Streak.
Jerry and I have been flocking these five puppies with May, our Labrador retriever, leading the way. Lily is fast, flashy and always in front. May generally escorts the group to ponds and Lily has learned to love to swim.
Plus, as you can see, she’s pretty darn cute.
"Scout is doing well since we brought him home. He’s all paws, legs, and ears at this age, but he has a nose for birds as well. I attached two pictures of him pointing liberated Chukars at 10 weeks old and this morning at 13 weeks. He also loves to retrieve.
"I forgot how much work puppies are at 8 -12 weeks old. Luckily he’s very patient and quiet in his crate, staked out in the yard, and in the outdoor kennel so we get some relief from the mischief. He and our eight year old setter have pretty well sorted things out between themselves already, so that concern is over.
"So overall he’s adjusted quickly and is progressing nicely with his training."
"We hope you are staying cool amidst the muggy, tropical assault August has unleashed on us. Although you are probably not losing any sleep worrying about Piper, we thought an update was in order..
"In short, she is doing extremely well. She loves her kennel and riding in the car. We have taken her to multiple places, including visiting emotionally disturbed children at a therapy center, Game Fair, the beach, dog parks and many visits with my niece and nephew (7 and 5 years old). She has gone swimming in the Mississippi, Kinnikinnic, Willow and St.Croix rivers, and loves wading along the shore.
"She makes eye contact and wants to be w us – her temperament is sweet and well-balanced and bomb-proof. As Roberta proclaims on a regular basis "she is basically and unequivocally and undisputedly the very best dog in the entire world and she couldn’t be more loved."
"When she is not sleeping in her crate or eating, her days are spent playing with the other dogs and going for multiple walks. Each 20-30 minute walk usually begins heading up the driveway, with much time spent chasing and pointing butterflies in the adjacent pasture."
A fundamental part of comfortable footwear is socks. I have tried many brands over the years and I can personally vouch for socks made by Smartwool.
The Smartwool Company, based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, takes the design, comfort and performance of socks seriously. My style is their Hunting Socks (mid-calf height with light cushion) made with 68% merino wool which doesn’t have any of the scratchiness normally associated with wool. This fabric wicks moisture and has “an uncanny, inherent ability to control odor.” Plus, my socks are extremely comfortable with plenty of cushion and specially sewn elasticity at the stress points.
I’m pretty tough on my clothes but Smartwool socks last very well. I wear these socks all day, everyday, all year long (even during the summer) and I usually go through about 12 pairs a year. The socks are expensive but I’ve found several online sources that sell “seconds” or “slightly blemished” socks at substantial savings. Google Smartwool Socks and you’ll find these retailers.
One last thing about the Smartwool Company? Their business philosophy focuses on sustainability and “doing the right thing” in both business and life. I like those values.