September and October signal the opening of the hunting season, and a gun dog’s short, intense work period. Upland game, waterfowl shooting, rabbit and fox hunting can run quickly through Indian Summer and early winter. Just as quickly, the seasons close, and the dogs are brought home for a well-earned rest.
Hunting dogs require an average daily feeding of a complete and balanced commercial dog food to keep in good kennel condition during the off-season, so it is really important to know how to feed hunting dogs. During hunting season, however, cereal-based diets need something extra, and that something extra is meat fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Field dogs and hounds cover long distances in the field during a day’s hunt. And, although retrievers enjoy a rest between birds, they may swim several miles a day in icy water bringing in duck and geese. It is all hard work, and the dogs should be prepared for it with a good summer conditioning program, coupled with well planned diets for top performance.
The best way to feed hunting dogs and increase the energy content of cereal-based diets is to add meat. Meat contains protein and fat building blocks of a high energy diet. Fat alone contains twice the energy of an equal amount of carbohydrates. And, by adding meat we increase energy intake without overloading the stomach. Fortified canned meat dog foods work out as the perfect addition.
Experienced hunters take themselves, and their dogs, out in the fields, along the hedge rows, to scout for game well before the hunting season. Kenneled dogs are retrained to quarter a field, well within gunshot range, and hunting instincts are refreshed through shooting and retrieving pen-reared birds. Hunters run their dogs over to high protein and fat diets to get them in trim for the season.
The hunting dog, should be switched onto a high energy diet by feeding one part fortified canned dog food to four parts dry meal for the first week. During the second week, increase the diet to two parts canned dog food along with three parts dry meal. Complete the switch on the third week by feeding three parts canned, dog food to one part dry meal. Use that dietary mixture to feed your hunting dog throughout the hunting season.
At the end of a long day’s hunt, fortified canned meat diets stimulate appetites and tired dogs will eat canned meat more readily than equal amounts of dry meal needed to maintain stamina. Some dogs work best when fed a heavy meal at night, and alight meal in the morning. And, on days when dogs have worked hard in the morning, plan a midday break for hunter and dog.
A can of dog food will provide needed protein and energy for the afternoon hunt. Once into the hunting season, it is up to the hunter to watch his dog work, judge how he eats, watch for the right covering of fat over the rib cage, and increase or decrease the diet accordingly. You must know how to feed hunting dogs if you want to keep them in top condition.