How are you hunting tomorrow? The answer to that question should determine how you’re feeding your hunting buddy the night before an adventure.
Dogs burn energy differently than we do, so you have to plan ~12 hours ahead of time so they’re properly fueled. Maybe you’re hunting the uplands and your dog will cover 30 miles throughout the day; well, they’ll need enough calories to run hard that whole time. If not, they’ll be exhausted, huffing and puffing and unable to use their nose properly.
Or let’s say you’re hunting a marsh for Woodies and your dog might shiver on a dog stand for 3 hours. Yes, they’re still burning tons of calories sitting and watching, so plan ahead and feed the dog enough so they can (safely) hunt hard all morning with you. [Note: Bob, the author of this post, personally feeds Eukanuba’s Performance blend in the Lone Duck kennel and notes he has seen good results. Do your own research and choose a food that’s right for your dog.]
Most dogs do not consume enough water each day and if you mix some water into their food bowl, it’ll help sneak more water into their diet. It’ll also help make the kibble easier to digest, so this is a real handy trick.
Your dog needs to hydrate during the hunt. You can read about various supplements to boost your dog’s electrolytes and yada yada – and while these may help your dog isn’t a person, it’s a dog. Your dog still needs clean water before, during and after strenuous exercise to perform at their best.
Carry around a squirt bottle or plan to hunt near a potable water source and make sure they’re drinking. This is especially important for those hunting in warmer temperatures where dogs are generally more likely to encounter heat exhaustion. I say “generally” because you typically read about this occurring on a hot southern dove hunt but don’t be naive and think your early season hunt in Vermont can’t get toasty enough for dangerous hunting.
“Dangerous water” can be different from dog to dog. However, in my experience, I’d keep your dog away from drinking salt water (if they’re unaccustomed to it), or there will be quite the mess to clean. You should also know what blue green algae looks like and never let your dog ingest any because it is deadly.
Much like when you go to the gym and need to refuel your body after the workout with nutritious foods, your dog needs to refuel after their hunt. Make sure to give your dog some time to let their breathing and heart rate slow to a normal pace. If you feed your dog right after a workout when they’re still cranked up, they’ll be more likely to eat too much too quickly and it can increase the likelihood of bloat, or twisted stomach. Not only is this super painful for the dog but it can also be fatal. Give your dog some time to relax, then refuel.
Don’t forget that your dog is an athlete so their nutrition and hydration should reflect that. Remember, the most important piece of gear you have is your dog, so take care of them first with healthy food and clean water.
Lone Duck Outfitters is a professional gun dog training outfit that provides a community for all who share a passion for The Unspoken Bond. Learn more about the Owens brothers’ operation here.
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