Proper nutrition is just as important as training and conditioning when it comes to hardworking bird dogs. A dog’s diet and feeding regimen are critical for success in the field. Follow these nutrition tips to help ensure your dog is primed and ready for performance.
Feed the Same Food Year-Round …
“Hardworking bird dogs have an increased metabolism due to their physical activity, increasing their need for energy,” says Purina Research Nutritionist Brian Zanghi, PhD. “Environmental conditions also impact a dog’s energy requirements.”
Feeding a high-protein/high-fat diet year-round, reducing the amount fed in the off-season, will maximize training and conditioning. It allows your dog to have a higher fat metabolism and higher oxygen capacity, helping to increase his or her metabolic capacity and thus generating energy. A quality performance food, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula
, is recommended for bird dogs. In fact, feeding dogs less of a nutrient-dense food helps them maintain ideal body condition.
“The ultimate goal is to optimize performance,” Zanghi says. “This means feeding a food containing key nutrients in an optimal balance to provide optimal benefits, enabling dogs to work longer and perform better. Food can metabolically prime our dogs to promote optimal endurance.”
… Adjusting the Amount to Maintain Ideal Body Condition
Dogs should be fed for ideal body condition, and the amount of food fed should be adjusted to maintain ideal body condition. To determine your dog’s body condition, start by feeling his or her ribs. Place both thumbs on the dog’s backbone and spread your hands across the rib cage. You should be able to easily feel the ribs and view the dog’s waist behind the ribs. Additionally, an abdominal tuck should be apparent from the side.
Feed One Meal a Day …
Bird dogs should be fed once a day and as many hours prior to exercise as possible. Otherwise, you could compromise his or her performance.
“Feeding close to performance results in an increase in insulin secretion. Insulin slows the breakdown of fat into the bloodstream and impairs the availability of the most important fuel for muscular work,” Zanghi explains. “It also increases the uptake of glucose, or sugar, from the blood into the muscles, which can cause fatigue from low blood sugar.”
Your bird dog will perform best on an empty stomach. Also be sure to give your dog time to empty his or her bowels before work to help make the dog more comfortable.
… Providing H2O Round the Clock
Because water is the most essential nutrient for a dog, it’s crucial to make sure your dog stays hydrated. Maintaining hydration in hardworking dogs is critical to prolonged endurance and thermoregulation. Exercise is a heat-producing activity, and water is required to help dissipate heat. About 60 percent of heat dissipated by dogs during exercise is through water evaporation in the respiratory tract.
Your dog should always have access to fresh water. Keep several gallons of water with you as a consistent water source to keep him or her hydrated, offering water from a squirt bottle every 10 to 15 minutes while working. Afterward, wait for his or her panting to slow before allowing the dog to drink a large volume.