When it comes to gundogs, their performance in the field heavily relies on their physical condition and overall health. Proper feeding and nutrition are fundamental aspects of caring for these working canines. A well-balanced diet not only ensures that your gundog maintains an ideal body condition but also supports their stamina, endurance, and overall performance. In this article, we’ll explore the feeding and nutrition requirements for working gundogs to keep them at the top of their game.
Understanding the Needs of Working Gundogs
Gundogs, often bred for retrieving game and assisting in hunting, lead a highly active lifestyle. Their work demands physical strength, agility, and mental sharpness. To meet these demands, their diet should be tailored to their unique requirements.
High Energy Demands
Working gundogs expend a significant amount of energy during their duties. Whether they’re flushing out game or retrieving downed birds, they require a diet rich in calories to sustain their activity levels. High-quality protein, fats, and carbohydrates are key components of their diet.
Muscle strength and endurance are crucial for gundogs. Protein is essential for muscle repair and development. A diet with a good balance of lean meat, poultry, and fish ensures that their muscles stay strong.
The physical demands of their work can be tough on their joints. Nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin can help maintain joint health. Many commercial dog foods include these supplements, or you can consult with a veterinarian for appropriate supplements or diet modifications. There are many natural dog treats such as chicken feet, beef/lamb trachea, bull pizzles and beef/lamb tails which are rich in glucosamine/chondroitin to lubricate the joints and keep active dogs healthy.
Gundogs need to be mentally alert and responsive. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, can help boost cognitive function and maintain a healthy coat. Salmon Oil is a wonderful supplement that can be pumped onto working-dog feed to enhance their Omega 3 profile.
Keeping your gundog well-hydrated is vital. Their active lifestyle means they lose water quickly. Always provide access to fresh, clean water during and after exercise. Water should always be accessible, especially where they spend most of their time whether that’s in a kennel or in the house.
Selecting the Right Food
The right food can make a significant difference in your gundog’s performance and overall health. Here are some tips for selecting the best food for your working gundog:
High-Quality Commercial Dog Food
Look for high-quality dog food that lists meat as the primary ingredient. Avoid foods that use fillers, artificial additives, or excessive grains. Protein content should be between 20% and 30%.
Specialized Working Dog Food
Some brands offer specialized working dog food formulated for working dogs and other active breeds. These foods often contain higher protein and fat content to meet the increased energy demands. In the UK, it’s free of VAT which means it’s 20% cheaper!
Consult with a veterinarian or canine nutritionist if you prefer to prepare homemade meals for your gundog. Homemade diets require careful planning to ensure they meet all nutritional requirements including vitamins, amino-acids and protein content.
While it’s important to meet the energy demands of your gundog, avoid overfeeding. Obesity can lead to health problems, decreased stamina, and poor performance. This isn’t usually a problem in well exercised working dogs as they’re so active, but it’s something to be aware of. Our own working dogs are so active that they consume over 2kg of high quality food per day (plus snacks!) and could still do with adding a bit of weight. Working dogs are highly active and burn-off and insane amount of calories which needs replenishing to keep them satisfied.
The feeding frequency of your working gundog depends on their age, activity level, and individual needs. Puppies require more frequent meals, usually 3-4 times a day, while adult gundogs can be fed 1-2 times daily. Adjust the portion sizes to maintain their ideal body condition.
Monitoring Your Gundog’s Health
Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are crucial to ensure your gundog’s health is in top form. Pay attention to their body condition, coat quality, and energy levels. Any changes in these aspects could be a sign of a nutritional issue or underlying health problem. Working dogs love nothing more than being absolutely filthy and covered in mud, but if your dog’s coat loses its; sheen then it’s well worth looking at their diet and nutritional requirements. The best performing gun dogs are often the best fed with a staple diet of high quality feed with extra nutrition supplemented in the way of natural dog treats.
To keep your working gundog at the peak of their performance, you must provide them with the right nutrition. Tailor their diet to meet their high energy demands, maintain muscle strength, support joint health, and boost mental alertness. Whether you choose high-quality commercial dog food, specialized working dog food, or a home-cooked diet, consult with a veterinarian to ensure you’re meeting all their nutritional requirements. A well-fed and healthy gundog will be your steadfast partner in the field for years to come.
It’s highly recommended that you reward your dog after a hard days work with a long lasting and satisfying chew such as bully sticks which will allow them to relax and wind down of an evening while feeling satisfied and rewarded for their day’s work. Having sampled pizzles in the past from various outlets, we can now only recommend pizzles from PRIMO.
Don’t forget that in the UK, dog food specially prepared for working dogs is VAT-free meaning it’s 20% cheaper to buy than the lower quality feed formulated for non-working dogs. We highly recommend contacting your nearest independent retailer who most likely has an account with a dog food manufacturer and can source you “own brand” dog food with a very high meat and protein content which rivals and often exceeds the best branded feeds on the market for a much lower cost (and in 15kg bags rather than 12kg bags). We have inside knowledge of this and the local independent retailers can often source the same quality dog food as the big brands without the fancy packaging at a much lower cost. It literally comes from the same factory with the same ingredients and formula, but without the expensive label.
If your gun dog is always hungry, this is a good sign that your feed is low quality and contains meat “derivatives” instead of actual meat, which will mean your dog spends time hungry and cannot perform at it’s best. Aim for around 50% meat content in working dog feed to have a calm, eager and rewarding experience with your working gun dog.