Choosing Dog Food for Your Sporting Dog

There’s much more to feeding your gundog right than just kibble in a pan. Here’s a scientific look at what your retriever needs to stay healthy, strong, and working hard for you.
Choosing Dog Food for Your Sporting Dog

dog feedingPuppy Feeding

“The health of your dog in later years is dictated by what he eats in his early years,” said George Hickox, one of the premier upland birddog trainers in the country. “Think about it,” he said, “you don’t want your 16-year-old teenager eating a diet of potato chips, so why would you feed the dog food equivalent of that to your puppy?”

Feed Your Dog Top-Tiered Food

“They’re truly scientifically designed to be balanced with the right amount of protein and fat. That ratio, for working dogs, should be about 28-30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. It’s the too many calories in many puppy foods that are not top-tier foods that make a fat puppy, and that you don’t want. Too many calories accelerate growth and put a strain on bones, plates and joints.”

Key Dog Food Ingredients

“Chicken should be your very first ingredient on your dog food label,” said George. NOT BEEF. “Barring an allergy or a metabolic disorder, chicken is the most digestible [to a dog]. If at all possible, this should be chicken meal.” Dogs digest protein better than carbohydrates. Therefore, a meat source should be listed as the primary ingredient.

Hunt-Day Feeding

“Don’t feed in the morning [before the hunt],” answered George. “You don’t want food in the intestines to cause bleeding and diarrhea as your dog works. That causes dehydration.”

Water, of course, is essential to preventing dehydration (that includes, George noted, retrievers sitting inactive for long periods of time on very cold waterfowl hunts. Because they’re expending energy to try to keep warm, which depletes hydration, make sure you have water available, even on the coldest days).

Dog Supplements

I use Purina’s Pro Plan Performance Bar now,” George commented. “Its big ingredient is maltodextrin, a carbohydrate that absorbs quickly to promote release of glucose into the dog’s bloodstream, which gets converted to glycogen, without producing distress in the GI tract and a giant boost of insulin.” Insulin gives a good initial shot of energy, but will be followed by a “crash” in blood sugar levels, so you’re kind of right back where you started from.

Check out George Hickox's website for more information. George Hickox Bird Dogs


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