Proper Nutrition Is Essential for your Retriever During Hunting Season
October 30, 2014
With duck season starting up this weekend in Texas are we providing our favorite hunting companion the proper nutrition for the demands that will be placed on her? A presentation by Purina nutritionists at the Sporting Dog Summit recently appeared in Sporting Classics. I summarized some of the key findings for you.
Feed a performance diet—28 percent protein and 18 percent fat are the minimums—throughout the year. Switching to a “maintenance” diet in the off-season essentially de-trains your dog’s exercise metabolism to efficiently utilize fat, which is its primary source of fuel.
The best time to feed is as soon as possible after your dog has cooled down from hunting or other strenuous exercise, and as long as possible—up to 24 hours—before the next serious exercise. And unless there’s an overriding reason to feed more frequently—for example, if you feel that your dog is at risk for bloat—one meal a day is optimal.
Feeding in the morning prior to a hunt does more harm than good—a lot more. There’s a litany of reasons for this but the bottom line is that dogs, unlike humans, do better without breakfast.
There’s really no good snack you can give your dog for a quick, mid-hunt energy boost. Most of the products touted for this purpose will, in fact, have just the opposite effect, triggering an insulin spike that causes your dog’s fat-burning “engine” to shut down.
Instead of adopting a traditional conditioning program that builds in a uniform linear progression, try to mix it up so that the line resembles a series of peaks and valleys, with each successive peak a little higher and each valley a little lower. It’s important to schedule rest periods into the program, too, say every three weeks or so. Canine athletes, just like human ones, are susceptible to burn-out.
Don’t wait until your dog’s thirsty to give him water. Smaller amounts given more frequently (every 15 minutes or so) are preferable to larger amounts given less often.