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Pre-Season Preparation

Feeding & Nutrition

Guide

Active Dogs

Skinner’s in-house Nutritional Team

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When the shooting season is just around the corner, if your gundog has had the summer off, it’s important to carefully manage the transition back into the field. We’re frequently asked about nutrition – specifically what to feed a gundog – which is great, as food plays an all-important role in ensuring your dog is in peak condition.

Nutrition – the best gundog food

The best diet for a gundog will vary depending on their activity levels. For example, it’s common for gundogs to be fed a maintenance food during the close season – Skinner’s Maintenance or Maintenance Plus are good examples.

These foods are lower in protein and fat than the food you’d traditionally feed a dog that is working because when a dog’s activity levels are reduced dramatically the nutrients they need also come down. This will help avoid weight gain or, even worse, obesity.

Once energy levels and activity are ramped up, it’s important to make the change ahead of the new season. Feeding a working gundog food pays dividends. Skinner’s Working 23 or Muesli Mix provide the perfect nutritional profile for all gundog breeds.

You’ll need to introduce the change in diet gradually – mixing the current food in with the new one – for around a week. This will allow your dog’s digestive system to adapt and ensure there are no stomach upsets. As your dog’s energy levels increase in the run-up to the start of the season, gradually increase the amount fed, putting it in at least two meals per day.

If your dog has been super-active during the close season, you won’t need to make any dietary changes and some scientists argue that keeping the nutritional profile consistent, especially when it comes to fat, can help a dog maintain their metabolism.

The amount you feed your dog and the frequency will depend very much on the breed and the individual, which is why we have created a bespoke online feeding guide to ensure you get it just right. The calculator provides an estimated daily feeding amount based on your dog’s age, sex, breed, daily activity levels, weight, and any medical issues that may apply.

Gundog training

The end of the close season is a great time to brush up on some gundog training for all gundog breeds. Brushing up on the basics – such as steadiness, recall and heelwork – will get your dog back into the swing of things and will stand you in good stead for the season ahead.

This year has been particularly tricky as lockdown has seen us having to spend more time closer to home, but luckily these are all exercises that can be done even when space is limited.

Exercise and fitness

Exercise is vital to maintain your dog’s physical condition. Focusing on the duration, intensity and frequency of exercise can help condition your dog for both the stamina required for long days in the field and occasional sprints, such as when being sent out after a ‘runner’. 

Such activities can include walking on lead, trotting beside you while you are cycling, hunting up areas of cover, long and short retrieves (with gradually increasing weights of dummies), free running and more regimented training. All these will help condition different parts of your dog’s physiology – and you’ll reap the health benefits too.

Finally, make sure you challenge your dog mentally, too, by including training exercises designed to brush up on elements of obedience and training that may have become a little rusty out of season. Mental exercise will ensure your dog is alert and mentally agile.

Upping your dog’s exercise levels and therefore their fitness is all an all-important element of pre-season preparation. If activity levels in the close season have been more akin to those of a pet dog, it’s important to get your dog moving more now. 

Dogs use dietary fat as a source of energy, so it’s important to include a moderate to high level of fat in the diet of a dog who is now more active. The Skinner’s Field & Trial range includes foods tailored for specific activity levels. The best working gundog food fuels both mental and physical activity and will support dogs coming back up to peak fitness.

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