A well-bred hunting dog with strong desire and training is important to succeed in the field. Nutrition is a fundamental part of optimizing or undermining those factors. Savvy owners realize that the food a dog is fed during and between hunting and field trial seasons affects the dog’s endurance and even his mental focus. Ultimately, this may impact training and performance.
During hunting and field trial seasons, a performance dog food provides hardworking dogs with metabolic benefits that promote endurance. Owners who switch to a maintenance food in the off-season may not realize that this essentially reverses that effect by training a dog’s metabolism to do the opposite of what is wanted at a time when the dog already is less active.
Switching dog foods also can impact a dog’s readiness when the next season arrives. The change in diet requires a two- to three-month metabolic transition, meaning that as the dog finally adapts to the maintenance food, it’s time to transition back to performance food. The result may be a suboptimal metabolism and level of endurance when the new hunting and field trial season arrives.
Food does not replace proper training and conditioning, but a feeding strategy that promotes feeding a performance dog food year-round helps to metabolically prime a hardworking dog. It also provides a better starting point once training and conditioning begin for a new season.
Calorie needs, regardless the time of year, are based on a dog’s individual body condition. When dogs consume too many calories for their body condition, they gain weight. When they consume too few, they lose weight. The key is to feed an appropriate amount to maintain a healthy body condition and, thus, a stable body weight.
In the off-season, when a dog is less active, the strategy should be to feed less performance food in order to maintain the dog’s ideal body condition. A veterinarian should be consulted to determine that body condition.
An added benefit of a dog having longer endurance capability and more consistent body conditioning is mental alertness. Fatigue occurs when there is a depletion of blood glucose levels and an excess of lactic acid during exercise. A dog in training, hunting or participating in a field trial derives glucose from body stores of glycogen in muscle and the liver. Glucose released from the liver is critical for brain function. If blood glucose levels start to decline and lactic acid levels elevate above the lactate threshold, fatigue may result and mental alertness may be reduced.
Foods with higher fat content allow the body to store and use less glycogen from the muscles during exercise. This makes the blood glucose from liver glycogen more readily available to support brain function and promote mental stamina. The muscles generate less lactic acid, and the fatty acids from the performance food promote physical endurance.
Performance dog foods give hardworking dogs extra calories during the hunting and field trial seasons and optimal benefits when fed year-round. Importantly, this strategy removes an unnecessary dietary transition between seasons. Consistently feeding a performance diet allows each new season of training and field performance to begin at an optimal level.