Feeding bird dogs

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.

Feeding for ideal body condition

Your dog depends on you for the necessities of life—food, water and shelter. In addition, though, a key responsibility is to stay abreast of your dog’s medical condition and to keep your dog as healthy as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure good health is by maintaining a proper weight. Studies have shown that a complete and balanced ration fed in amounts to sustain a dog’s ideal body condition can help extend its life. For hunters and field trialers, that means more productive years in the field with your dogs.

Ideal body condition is not an indicator of whether your dog is in top shape muscularly but more a gauge of your dog’s overall health and well-being. While an underweight dog presents its own set of issues, a far more common sight is an overweight dog. Just as with people, excess weight increases the risk of blood sugar levels, blood pressure and heart rate. Also, an overweight dog in the field tires more easily and is more likely to overheat on a warm day—both of which lead to inability to stay focused.

How to determine your dog’s body condition.
Nestle Purina Pet Care Center developed a system, the Body Condition System, that examines specific areas of the dog’s body such as ribs, waist and abdominal tuck. Based on observations of those areas, a body condition score is assigned. The scores range from 1 (Emaciated) to 9 (Grossly Obese) with the ideal condition being 4 or 5. To view the Nestle Purina Body Condition chart, click here.

Feeding for ideal body condition.
To keep your dog in ideal body condition, follow these simple guidelines.

  • Choose a high-quality dog food. We feed and recommend ProPlan Performance.
  • Feed the proper amount. To determine the correct ration, start with the suggested serving amount on the dog food bag. Use a measuring cup–don’t guess! Because the feeding amounts are merely suggestions based on an average, monitor your dog’s body condition. It might need more or less.
  • Don’t supplement with vitamins, minerals or table scraps. Too many supplements or too many high calorie treats can dilute the nutritional value of a dog’s diet, predispose them to obesity or cause a finicky eater.
  • Feed your dog at the same time each day.

By establishing a feeding routine and feeding the proper amounts, your dog should be eager to eat its food. (Also, if a normally good eater fails to eat, it could be an early sign of a health-related issue.)

Monitoring your dog’s weight and using the Purina Body Condition System will help you keep your dog in ideal body condition.  This will take effort and observation on your part but will pay big dividends in the long run—both for your dog’s health and for more rewarding days afield.

For more information on the Purina Body Condition System as well as other dog health and feeding related topics, visit the Purina website at www.purina.com/dogs.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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