Thanks to Paul Fuller of Bird Dogs Afield for allowing us to reprint this article.
To fully enjoy your day in the woods, you need to be in good physical condition. Your heart, lungs, and legs must be healthy and exercised daily for the strenuous walking you do this fall. You need to be religious about monitoring your carbohydrate and caloric intake. Combine your exercise with your dog’s exercise and both of you will benefit. Your scribe heads to the woods between 6 and 6:30 every morning and walks a minimum of one mile with the dogs … most often two miles. You can take care of yourself so that’s all the print you’re going to get. Your dog, however, totally depends upon your good judgment so let’s talk about his well-being.
The long-respected formula is that your dog covers three times the distance you walk in a day during hunting season. If you walk five miles, he’s done 15 miles. And he’s doing it at a faster pace. How do we prepare our best friend for the hunting season? There are four ingredients: conditioning (those morning walks), hydration (water), a quality dog food and healthy supplements. We’ve covered exercise, and water is obvious, so let’s talk dog food and supplements.
Personally, I want a year-round system for feeding my dogs. I want to easily switch from a maintenance diet (January through July) to a performance diet (August through December). The key difference between a maintenance diet and performance diet is fat content. Fat produces fatty acids and fatty acids are the key nutrient for energy. The most efficient producer of fatty acids is chicken … specifically chicken meal.
Let’s address the maintenance diet first. This is a diet that provides adequate nutrition for a somewhat vigorous exercise two to three days per week. With maintenance level feeding, we’re looking for consistent weight. Typically, there is about 16% fat content in a maintenance level food. If you’re just a weekend hunter, then the maintenance level is all your dog needs.
The performance diet has a higher fat content. The higher fat content provides more fatty acids and that produces more energy. The most common performance diet fat content is 20%. For 90% of hard working sporting dogs, the 20% fat content is correct. This means your dog is getting a vigorous workout three to four days per week. I start my dogs on the 20% level on August 1st for an October 1st opening day. Dog food scientists say you need eight weeks for the “metabolic transition” to take effect and provide the additional nutrition. Last year we started hunting in Montana on September 1st so the switch was made on July 1st.
For truly hard working dogs, there is yet another step to be considered. That step is elevating to a 25% fat content. And that’s exactly what I feed my senior dog (six years old). He works almost every day during hunting season, and I’ve found that his energy level and weight maintenance are at their optimum at the 25% level.
There are additional considerations when selecting your dog food. Avoid foods with fillers such as corn, wheat, or soy. They can create digestive problems. A food with natural antioxidants is good also. There are several premium dog foods on the market that meet most of the above requirements. Eukanuba (www.eukanuba.com), California Natural and Evo (www.nuturapet.com) are all good foods. In my research, there is only one food that meets all of the above requirements and that’s Native Performance Dog Food. Why have I selected Native? Because it’s the only food that provides four different levels of fat/protein content. I can switch from a 16% to a 20% to a 25% fat content without ever changing my basic food recipe … and by maintaining the same volume of food. There is no other dog food that offers this system of food/fat control. Changing the volume of food you feed your dog to achieve higher fat levels creates digestive issues. These issues do not exist with Native (www.nativedogfood.com).
Now let’s talk supplements. I recommend CanineActiv High Performance Breeds. CanineActiv HP was created for dogs that exercise vigorously over long periods of time. These daily capsules promote endurance, muscle strength, mobility, and recovery. They reduce lactic acid buildup and prevent/treat inflammation and pain. They will help you get the most out of your dog and help keep your dog feeling great.
Both you and your dog eat wisely and exercise religiously and you’ll be primed for an outstanding bird season.
Paul Fuller is host of Bird Dogs Afield TV, which may be seen on several broadcast TV stations in New England and the Midwest October through December. Previous TV broadcasts, dozens of training and hunting videos and Paul’s previous Sporting Journal columns may be seen or read on Paul’s website www.birddogsafield.com. Paul may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.