Keeping gundogs working at their best requires a balance of feeding them the right food at the right times and in the right quantities. Do this and they’ll hunt strong all day long. Get it wrong, however, and the dog will power out or worse, get sick or injured. Here’s how to give dogs what they need.
A diet high in protein and fat provides both energy and the building blocks for muscle repair. Commercial dietary supplements can be used (doggie energy bars, anyone?), or simply augment your pup’s lunch with a few handfuls of cooked white rice mixed with corn syrup for an easy-to-digest energy boost.
Provide a full meal for breakfast and again after the hunt. A little food at midday, along with periodic treats, will help keep the dog’s blood sugar at an optimal level. Smaller portions reduce the risk of life-threatening gastric torsion (twisted stomach).
Serving sizes should be based on the dog’s activity level. During a hunt, as well as in cold weather, helpings can be generous—up to twice as much as usual. During the off-season or between hunts, when your dog has much lower energy requirements, use the dog-food maker’s feeding guidelines as a starting point. If your dog frantically eat its food along with the bowl, however, increase the serving size. Watch closely. If you notice extra fat on the dog’s back and ribs after a few weeks, scale back the food. It’s better to run your dog lean, as extra weight is hard on the joints.
Dogs need water to digest their food, and to perform at their optimum level. Train your dog to drink small amounts throughout the day, even when it’s excited about hunting.