Do you struggle to find the ideal balance of food for your hunting dog? Not all dog foods are made equal, so is it a better option to use homemade dog food and move away from store-bought foods or vice versa?
In this article, we will explore the best way to feed your hunting dog off and on the season, as both seasons will require different strategies for your hunting dogs to have the best nutritional health.
Some information was taken from the hunting dog german shorthaired pointer article on gspowners.com.
Let’s get into it.
How many calories does a hunting dog need?
There are two main factors to this question, is it off-season or in-season? Clearly, during the off-season, your hunting dog will be less active and will require fewer calories, much like a human with a sedentary job needs fewer calories than, say, a construction worker.
A school of thought suggests that a medium sized hunting dog, say 50 lbs off-season, should be fed 3% of their body weight split into two equal meal portions each day.
While other dog owners have a specific calorie count for the day during off and on the season.
For off-season feed, it’s thought that approximately 1,460 calories are the optimal amount for your hunting dog per day. This can be split into two meals depending on your dog’s eating habits.
What should a hunting dog’s diet consist of?
It varies slightly depending on your dog’s age, and younger dogs need more carbs to cope with the increased energy levels, whereas old dogs need fewer carbs to manage the dog’s weight.
Essentially the make-up of hunting dogs’ food should be 20% protein to help maintain bone health and a healthy coat, and 30% fat for sustained energy release during the hunting day, with the rest of the food made up of fiber and carbs in the form of kibble or vegetables.
How many calories do bird dogs burn?
It’s a frequently asked question, and the answer is during a hunt, your dog will be burning around 100 calories every ten minutes during intense activity.
It’s a lot of calories, and if you think a stressed dog will not eat after being transported for hours, then you will realize the importance of good nutrition for your hunting dog.
What’s the best food to feed a hunting dog?
Many dog owners are moving away from commercial foods. It’s impossible to know exactly what food your dog is receiving and if the food is nutritionally balanced for the dog’s needs.
However, if you think preparing your dog’s food is a cheaper alternative, you may be in for a surprise. Your dog needs quality foods to thrive and to be able to perform while working.
You will need to give your hunting dog quality proteins such as:
- Beef, beef liver
- Poultry organ meats like liver, hearts and gizzards
- Chicken, turkey and duck
- Salmon, trout, cod.
Add animal fats for a sustained release of energy.
Carbs are going to form a league percentage of your dog’s available energy, and this will come from:
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice.
You can prepare the dog food in batches, and if you use the amount of food as a percentage of body weight for a 50lb dog, the weight of food per day is roughly 1.6lbs per day, split into two meals.
Of course, during the hunting season, you will need to up the measure of food significantly to double the off-season diet.
If you do prepare your dog food yourself from raw ingredients, you need to be switched on, and if your dog’s weight is increasing, then you need to balance the diet accordingly.
When preparing your own dog food, you know precisely what food your dog is consuming compared to commercial dog food brands.
When should you feed a dog before a hunt?
Feed your dog a minimum of 6 hours before the hunt. Think of it this way, if you were going to run a marathon, when would your last meal be before you started running? It certainly would not be ten minutes before the race starts.
If you feed your dog closer to intense activity, your dog will not be able to perform and possibly vomit, making the dog feel off color for the rest of the day.
Nutrition during a hunt
If you are hunting for extended periods, you may find your dog is losing weight. You must address this issue by increasing your dog’s calorie intake with nutritious food. Feeding a hunting dog is a delicate balance; overdo it, and your dog becomes obese and stodgy, causing it to underperform.
Be careful of the amount of fat you introduce into your dog’s diet, it may give a slow release of energy, but if it’s out of balance with the dog’s diet, you may find your dog will develop interstitial problems along the way.
Raw Vs Cooked
Dogs have their foods cooked because that’s what humans eat, but dogs are not humans, and by cooking their food, you are ruining the nutrients and minerals a dog needs for their food.
Dogs love to eat raw meat, liver, beef, chicken, and even fish. Your dog will eat it raw every time and get all the benefits from the name.
Ok, cooking the veggies and rice is a wise food. Your dog will not entertain this food if it is not cooked.
Beware of dog-grade meat sold in pet shops, which can contain meat you may not wish your dog to consume, like meat that has been on the floor all day and walked through before being scraped up for your dog.
Best dog food?
Dog food that uses high-quality ingredients from your butcher or the meat department in your grocery store. Dogs love offal, and it’s cheap, so mix it in with the food.
Keep the nutrient balance correct for your dog, 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbs for the extra energy your dog requires while working intensely.