Sporting enthusiasts know the value of having a healthy, well-bred dog, one with strong hunting desire. These traits, combined with training, contribute to the overall performance of the dog in the field. One underlying factor that can help optimize performance is food – or the nutrients a dog receives.
The ultimate goal with any hunting dog is to optimize performance. This can mean learning faster, hunting longer, finding more game, or many other things that lead to hunting success. Training and conditioning are intricately linked to hunting success as hunting dogs are essentially elite canine athletes.
During a hunt, dogs typically run long distances. They run up, down and across difficult terrain and over and under obstacles. They periodically sprint and swim and occasionally carry something in their mouth while running. Strenuous exercise is inherent in hunting. Likewise, training can be physically and mentally challenging. One strategy for addressing these physical and mental challenges is to “optimize nutrition,” which can optimize endurance and ultimately promote “optimal performance.”
The six basic nutrient groups are: water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. They can be found in any dog food, but the optimal levels and balance of these nutrient groups are what separate different types of dog food for targeted applications.
Four Key Points to Consider:
- Performance dog foods contain from 28 to 30 percent protein and from 18 to 20 percent fat. In comparison, a maintenance food has from 24 to 26 percent protein and from 12 to 16 percent fat. A dog can adequately hunt and live an active, healthy lifestyle with a maintenance food, but the key is to provide optimal performance. Performance foods contain protein and fat levels that optimize endurance, which ultimately optimizes mental alertness and promotes optimal body condition
- Nutrition studies with dogs have shown that feeding a food with higher levels of fat result in more fatty acids being present in the blood before exercise. These levels will increase more after exercise compared to a food with lower fat and higher carbohydrates. Fatty acids are important for hardworking and hunting dogs because these are the nutrients that are critical for endurance-based exercise. Ultimately, more fatty acids in the blood will mean more nutrients to promote endurance metabolism
- Elevated dietary protein complements the benefits associated with increased fat metabolism. A greater abundance of protein building blocks - amino acids - from the food promotes a state of muscle growth increases vascular capacity
- For prolonged endurance, efficient use of oxygen is critical. A performance dog food can deliver more fat and protein nutrients to a hardworking dog, which, in turn, promotes an increase in capacity to metabolize the fat and a higher oxygen use capacity. All this helps to increase metabolic capacity and energy generation. In short, this means that food can “metabolically prime” dogs to promote optimal endurance