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Food For Working Dogs – Feeding Through The Winter Months

Skinner’s in-house Nutritional Team

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The advent of the winter months can be the ideal time to take stock of your working dog’s condition and performance at the midway point of the season. Dogs working several days a week, whether beating or picking up, could be covering many miles of ground each week and their bodies will be starting to show the results. Hopefully they will be looking like lean, mean machines with clear muscle definition and a working attitude to match. But the weather now can be colder and wetter and working gundogs might benefit from some changes to their nutrition intake to keep them going strong and in top-notch condition. After all we all want the answer to the age-old question, how much should I feed my dog?

How fat can help sustain energy levels

When it’s cold and wet, your gun dog will use a huge amount of energy simply to keep warm so they’ll need a good working dog food to support the activity. Water work, in particular, has its own set of challenges and will increase even further your dog’s energy consumption. 

A good start is to feed a highly digestible, high energy food and the fat content as a key ingredient is important. Fat not only provides a preferred source of energy, but stored fat can also be a great insulator against the cold. This is not to say that your working dog should be carrying excess weight in the form of fat, but rather that a ‘good covering’ is certainly one way to help combat the effects of cold and wet.

If your gun dog has lost a little weight, look at either increasing the amount fed or moving towards an energy dense feed with an increased fat level, such as Skinner’s Field & Trial Superior at 20% fat. Fat is a highly energy dense component of food, with more than double the calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate. This means that a much smaller volume of fat-rich food needs to be fed in comparison to a more energy dilute protein and/or carbohydrate rich food. This can be especially handy for lunchtime/break snacks or for those dogs who actually reduce their food intake as they get fitter, a not uncommon phenomenon.

Look after your dog’s coat too

As well as ensuring good underlying body condition, think about your dog’s coat and skin condition. Some breeds – such as the Labrador – have insulating double coats, while others, such as many of the Spaniel breeds have much thinner, finer coats. Some dogs have coats like sponges while others can shake once and be dry. Good nutrition and optimum fat levels in the diet can help enhance coat and skin condition, with the omega fatty acids – including Omega 3 – found in the Field & Trial diets particularly valuable. That’s why ensuring you’ve chosen the best food for working dogs is a good start.

It may not be your thing, but it’s sometimes useful to consider the use of waterproof coats for your dog and drying coats for them at the end of the day. Waterproof dog coats are like mini horse rugs and can be a great benefit if your dog is spending long periods of time standing or waiting around. They can help keep them drier and warmer for longer, but also keep those hard-working muscles warm too. Drying coats are especially useful at the end of the day or over lunch, so your dog isn’t sitting cold and shivering and essentially wasting energy keeping themselves warm.
Giving your dog a thorough wash at the end of the working day is good practice, especially in light of illnesses like Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) and cases of Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV, also known as Alabama Rot), the causes of which we still don’t fully understand. A good wash off at the end of the day will also give you the chance to check for injury and to remove the inevitable thorns and burrs.

Choosing Skinner’s Field & Trial –  a British made dog food – means you can be certain you have a diet designed to provide the best food for working dogs and you can easily adapt your dog’s routine to ensure they are getting the correct nutrients whatever the season.

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