Contrary to popular belief, travel is not rest, especially for bird dogs that require a high level of athleticism for optimal performance. These important considerations, though small, can add up to a significant total effect when traveling to a field trial or hunt test with your team of high-performance canine athletes.
Practice Makes Perfect
The more accustomed a dog is to traveling, the better. Thus, you should train your dogs to travel well and how to handle the stress of travel. Introduce puppies to travel by taking them on short rides in your truck one to two times a week, such as when you run errands. You should teach young dogs things they will encounter at an event by getting them used to being around other dogs and new places, acquainting them with the procedure. Practice feeding them in the box on the truck or on a tie-out chain. This training helps you identify dogs that don’t travel well and devise strategies for them to cope.
Take Time Out for a Tie-Out
After six to eight hours of travel, a dog needs to recover from bouncing in a vehicle. Remember, traveling in a truck is not rest. Dogs also need to air out. If you use a tie-out for this purpose, make sure the stake is secure and has a swivel on top to reduce the risk of the chain twisting. The chain should be 3 to 4 feet long to allow a dog to stand comfortably, air out and move to the other side. A tie-out chain should be used temporarily from minutes to an hour. It should not touch the vehicle or nearby dogs. In the summer, be sure the tie-out is in a cool, shady location. Never put a tie-out on the main access road. Instead, find a quiet place to help reduce stress.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
Find a quiet place to rest your dogs for the night. If your dogs will sleep in dog boxes in your truck, you should park in an area free of distractions. Try to park away from other trucks where it is not busy. Find a spot that will maximize rest and minimize stress. Make sure your dogs have soft, dry bedding so they rest comfortably.
Keep Dogs Hydrated
Dehydration can occur after multiple days of travel combined with competition. In extreme heat, cold and humidity, water turnover increases several times. Some dogs will have problems consuming enough water, so you should monitor their hydration.
On the road, you can encourage dogs to drink by soaking their food with water, creating a light soup, giving ice cubes after exercise, and baiting water with low-sodium chicken broth. During an event, offer water from a squirt bottle. Giving frequent small amounts of water throughout an event are better than a large volume. Hunting dogs that do not have the opportunity to drink while they are working should be given water after they run, but it is important to monitor their consumption to ensure they do not consume a large volume until their panting slows down. Never give ice cold water, as it could cause vascular constriction.
Most Important Meal of the Day
Healthy performance dogs, not at risk for bloat, should be fed once a day. Eating creates an insulin spike that inhibits its ability to use fat, the most important energy fuel. Hardworking gun dogs should not be fed before exercise, as complete digestion takes from 20 to 24 hours and doing so could result in the retention of fecal matter in the colon that could compromise performance by adding extra weight. Exercise alters the gastrointestinal transit time and can change nutrient digestion and absorption resulting in a decrease of blood flow, and therefore oxygen, to the gut.
Sporting dogs should be fed a minimum of 10 to 12 hours before exercise, such as the night before a trial. When a dog is fed six hours or sooner before exercise, the body’s fat-burning metabolism is not optimized, which contributes to reduced endurance and energy generation. If a trial is a multiple-day event, dogs should be fed as soon as possible after exercise, allowing adequate time for cooling down, so they have the maximum time to digest the meal before the next day’s competition.
Fighting Bugs with Healthy Immunity
Field trials and hunt tests often bring together dogs from around the country that carry bacteria and viruses, thus creating a “petri dish” of bugs. Dogs may return home sick after being exposed to these bugs. To help promote a healthy immune system, dogs can be given Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora canine nutritional supplement. Containing a special strain of probiotic that has been proven to promote intestinal health and balance, Enterococcus faecium SF68, FortiFlora may help nutritionally manage diarrhea from stressful situations such as traveling and unfamiliar environments.
Another way to improve immune function in bird dogs is by feeding a complete and balanced high-performance dog food, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT
Performance 30/20 Formula, to sustain a dog’s energy needs. Visit proplan.com/dogs/platforms/sport
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