Written by: Dr Jacqueline Boyd, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, PGCHE, CHES, FHEA, MRSB
Nutritional Consultant, Skinner’s Pet Foods
Autumn is here, and winter is coming! Now is a good time to review how our gundogs are looking and performing. You may be able to make a few amendments to keep the season a successful one! Our Nutritional Consultant, Dr Jacqueline Boyd, uses the analogy of driving a car to fuelling the gundog, “My truck does pretty much the same mileage from week to week. I know what amount of fuel to pop in. If at the weekend I decide to go further afield, I need to add more fuel, otherwise my truck will run out of fuel and I either won’t get to where I intend to go OR come Monday, there will be no fuel left. I think of my dogs in the same way. Weeks where we are out several days, I’m fuelling them as standard for that level of activity. The weeks where it might be a solitary Saturday, I must amend their diet accordingly during the week when their activity levels aren’t as high; I don’t want them starting to pop on any extra weight.”
What are you monitoring?
It is often too easy for a dog working several days a week, or even a couple of back-to-back days, to start dropping condition, especially as the weather becomes colder and wetter. It is a great idea to keep track of your dog’s weight, ideally weekly, as well as how their overall physical condition both looks and feels. This makes it much easier to make small nutritional alternations (either up or down) to help keep your dog in prime condition.
Which strategy do you follow?
Meal strategies differ with each dog and handler, ultimately, it comes down to what best suits your dog. Whether you choose to feed twice a day or a single meal a day, here are some top tips from Dr Jacqueline Boyd.
• On a shoot day, try to ensure your dog’s morning meal has been fed at least an hour (ideally longer!) before they start to exercise. This helps overall digestion and absorption of nutrients.
• Consider the actual volume being fed in each meal, especially for those deep-chested breeds that might be predisposed to bloat and gastric torsion.
• If you feed a single meal a day – make sure this is fed once your dog is fully settled for the night and again is not of a size that might lead to reduced digestibility or digestive issues.
It’s time to get the scales out!
Remember, feed to fuel the activity. For the best results weigh every meal! This will make it easier to make any amends required to compensate for changes in your dog’s body weight.
If you find that you are feeding a large volume of a particular food and your dog is perhaps losing condition or performance is dropping, consider a more energy dense food. This means you can feed either slightly less volume or the same amount but actually get more “fuel” and key nutrients into your dog. Field & Trial Superior is a nice example of an energy dense feed (at 30% protein and 20% fat) that may help maintain condition and performance for the hardest working dogs. It can also be a useful “step-up” as the season proceeds from something like Field & Trial Muesli Mix, Working 23 or Crunchy.
A shoot day often pushes gundogs conditioning and fitness capabilities, especially at the start of the season. Coupled with this, is some neat science about the benefits of providing a digestible snack during an intense work session to maintain performance.
This is where snacks can be useful as a way of “refuelling” and supporting your dog – providing a small meal at lunchtime can help fuel your dog for the afternoon, support their recovery after the day, help maintain blood glucose levels and aid replenishment of muscle glycogen stores at the end of the day too!
A handful of their normal food is ideal or even consider using a more energy dense kibble (such as Superior) for this purpose. Field & Trial Muesli Mix is also a great choice here – soak a handful in some water (warm if you like!), allow to soak for a couple of minutes and give to your dog. Muesli Mix is coated in wheat glucose syrup so is an accessible source of almost instant glucose energy, is typically very palatable and by mixing with water, you will be aiding the hydration status of your dog too. Small “snacks” like this can be invaluable.
Food For Top Performance
With the shooting season underway, choosing the right working dog food for your dog is an important decision.
Here is Dr Jacqueline Boyd, Skinner’s Nutritional Consultant’s quick guide and top tips for 4 of Skinner’s working dog diets. These complete diets have been specially developed and formulated to provide your active dog all they need to be fit, happy and healthy.
Field & Trial Working 23
• ACTIVITY LEVEL – moderate to high.
• TYPE OF DOG –those with a consistent activity level of moderate to high intensity e.g. working gundogs, herding dogs, agility dogs, active pet dogs
• POPULAR with many working dog handlers.
Top Tip – Ideally, split your dog’s daily ration of Working 23 into a minimum of two meals. This improves the overall digestibility of the food, meaning your dog may gain more nutritional benefit from their meals. Learn more…
Formulated for highly active working dogs.
£6.49 – £21.79
Field & Trial Crunchy
• ACTIVITY LEVEL – regularly working at a moderate to high activity intensity
• TYPE OF DOG – Active, working dogs who require a moderate level of protein and fat to support shorter, intense periods of activity of moderate to high intensity than other working dog food formulations e.g. Peg dogs, picking up dogs, trial herding dogs, sight-hounds, agility dogs, flyball dogs
• POPULAR for dogs who might be prone to losing condition during periods of growth or high activity output
Top Tip – Crunchy offers a slightly larger kibble than other formulations – a good choice to slow down greedy eaters. Learn more…
Digestible carbohydrate for short periods of intense activity.
£6.49 – £24.99
Field & Trial Muesli Mix
A “traditional” style dog food that remains popular with both dogs and their people!
• ACTIVITY LEVEL – Active, working
• TYPE OF DOG – Any dog who might benefit from a mixed source of energy supplying nutrients e.g. herding dogs, working gundogs, sporting dogs.
• POPULAR for dogs that prefer a mixed ration or who are fussy feeders and tend to get bored of a single kibble shape and size
Top tip – For working gundogs (and indeed any dog with a high activity level) that might be prone to fatigue towards the end of the day, provide a lunchtime “snack”. You can even add some warm water to the mix to help the hydration status of your dog and make the meal even more tempting! This helps provide your dog with a nutritious fuel that he needs to remain active and can help maintain performance. Learn more…
Perfect to tempt fussy eaters and maintain energy levels.
£6.49 – £21.79
Field & Trial Superior
• ACTIVITY LEVEL – highly active dogs regularly working at a high intensity
• TYPE OF DOG – hard-working gundogs, highly active herding dogs. Great for those with a sensitivity or intolerance to wheat gluten.
• SENSITIVITIES – Wheat gluten free
• POPULAR for the repair and regeneration of tissues in hard working and highly active dogs thanks to the highly digestible source of protein.
• OTHER USES – Bitches in whelp (typically after week 5 of pregnancy) and lactating bitches. Dogs recovering from illness that require provision of quality, energy dense nutrition
Top tip for using Field & Trial Superior
This is highly energy dense, meaning a small amount can pack a powerful nutritional punch! This means that Superior can either be used as a great base daily diet for hard working and highly active dogs or can be a useful addition (perhaps as a midday snack) for dogs doing a little bit more than usual. Learn more…