It wouldn’t come as a shock to most people to hear that an athlete’s diet is often different from the average Joe. They eat healthier, leaner, and often need significantly more calories to make sure they are taking care of their bodies to optimize performance. When it comes to feeding your hunting dog, it’s no different. However, people commonly have their hunting dogs on the same diet as a house dog, and by doing so are unknowingly putting their dog at a serious disadvantage for both recovery and overall energy levels. So how do you know what your dog needs and when?
The Rib Check
It’s generally a good idea to keep your dog trim, regardless of the season. To determine what is considered "trim", a great place to start is the rib check.
To perform the rib check, stand over your dog and place your thumbs together in the middle of its back - in line with it’s spine. Then extend your fingers down along the ribs. Once your hands are in position, slide them down the dog’s back along the backbone. You should easily be able to feel your hunting dog’s backbone and ribs if the dog is trim. This is a good indication that the dog is a healthy weight and receiving adequate nutrition.
Different Activity Levels Means Different Diets
It should go without saying that your hunting dog is going to burn through more calories during a cold weather / winter hunt than during the offseason when they’re likely just laying around the house in the air conditioning. Studies have shown that an average 50 lb dog will burn through almost 50% more calories during a hunting session than a day of resting. Furthermore, studies from Purina have shown that dogs require about 7.5% more calories for each 10 degree drop in temperature.
Between working hard during a hunt and the likely drop in temperature during hunting seasons, you may need to increase up to 80-90 percent! While it may seem daunting to manage your dog’s nutritional intake (I’ll admit, I keep my dog healthier than I keep myself!), it simply comes down to small adjustments in diet, monitoring your hunting dog’s performance, activity levels, and adjusting from there.
Finally, A Solution
There are additional options to consider beyond simply increasing the amount of food your hunting dog is receiving. Here at Alpha Dog Nutrition, we were frustrated by the fact that the current supplements on the market to “help” boost our hunting dog's health were so cookie-cutter and generic - that there is simply no way they are adequate for hunting dogs.
If we weren't able to find the proper nutrition, that means there are others out there dealing with the same concerns. So we’ve teamed up with a pet nutritionist to create a line of nutritional supplements - specifically for hunting dogs. With a master’s degree in Animal Nutrition and a PHd in Biomedical Sciences, we're confident she will be able to help us design quality nutrition that meets the exact requirements our hunting dogs need. Whether it’s our Free Range Joint Lubrication supplement or Resurgence Recovery supplement for helping your hunting buddy bounce back after a hunt, we’re working towards products that truly make a difference for your dog!