Feeding For Hunting Season

Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

August 2013

This is the most important column of the year. It’s our annual lecture on nutrition for your dog. After having just read a totally mis-informed and mis-guided article on this subject in a very well-known nationally circulated fishing/hunting publication, your author is on the warpath. Readers, this subject is important to the health, well-being and field performance of your canine athlete.

Amongst the poor information provided in the above mentioned article was the statement that you feed “cheap” dog food during the off-season and then switch to a better grade for hunting season. This practice is fine if you care little about the health of your dog.

Cheap dog food is “cheap” for one reason…it contains cheap ingredients. That means the meat ingredient could be from a meat by-product which contains very little protein or fat. It also means that to provide the bulk, it contains unhealthy grains such as corn, wheat or soy. Corn is popular filler for dog food. Corn has been shown to cause many health issues with dogs. Dogs, throughout their evolutionary lives, have never included corn in their diet; why should we? Skin allergies, bloat, joint swelling are just a few ailments linked to corn. Cheap dog food means poor health for your dog.

The two ingredients that must be at the top of the dog food label are protein and fat. Fat provides the calories which provides the carbs which provides the energy for your dog. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle and cell regeneration. Chicken is an excellent source for delivering both protein and fat.

Be aware, however, if the first ingredient is simply “chicken”. This means that the chicken has been weighed before the water has been extracted and before it is cooked. Raw meat contains about 80% water. Once this meat has been cooked and the water taken out to produce dry dog food, you now have only about 20% of the original weight. Look for a label that says “chicken meal” rather than simply “chicken”. Chicken meal is what you have after the water has been removed which means you have more meat…and more protein and fat.

So, how much protein and fat does your dog need? The magic formula typically mentioned is 30% protein and 20% fat. This formula has proven to be sufficient for a dog worked vigorously three to four days per week. If you’re a professional guide or avid hunter, working your dog four to five days per week, then you need a higher level; 35% protein and 25% fat should be adequate.

What is fed in our household? There are several quality dog foods on the market…and they’re typically not found in grocery stores. Our household feeds Native Performance Dog Food. In addition to quality ingredients throughout the label, Native comes in four fat/protein levels to meet the exercise and stress level of your dog. No other dog food provides this flexibility. Other than the change in protein/fat levels, the ingredients remains the same. This means no bowel problems with transitioning from one level to the next. It also means that you do not need to feed “more” dog food to get more protein and fat. Changing the volume of your dog food to obtain more protein and fat is also bad for the bowel system.

Folks, it’s far smarter to pay a little more for a quality dog food than it is to buy cheap food. Dogs will naturally want to eat more of the cheap stuff in an attempt to get more of what they need for nutrition; this means you’re buying more food and your dogs are still not getting what they need. Since there is little nutrition, the cheap dog food passes right through the dog. A quality dog food will provide the required nutrition which means the dog will eat less and poop less since all the ingredients are being used by the dog’s digestive system. And, it means fewer health issues as the dog grows older.

One last note of importance. For your dog to fully benefit from an elevated protein/fat level, made the transition about sixty days before hunting season. Our household switches from Level 2 to Level 3 on August 1st.