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Keeping your Bird Dog Fueled on The Rooster Road


Keeping our bird dogs in the game will be a challenge on the 5 states in 5 days Rooster Road Trip

I asked Bob West, a professional dog trainer and Purina dog food guru, for some advice on proper nutrition and hydration for my bird dog while on the 5-day hunt of the Rooster Road Trip.  Here are his top tips.


  • · Rotation.  In a perfect situation, Bob recommends rotating multiple dogs through the consecutive day hunting trip for proper opportunity to rest, feed and rehydrate hard-working bird dogs.  In this perfect scenario, Bob would run one dog in the morning, feed that dog at mid-day and let the dog rest all afternoon and evening before bringing that dog back into the hunt the next morning.  Unfortunately, I have one dog – Trammell – and I have always hunted her all day long.  The key, as Bob warns, is to really know your dog’s capabilities, conditioning and tell-tale signs of fatigue.


  • · Cool Down & Calm Down.  It’s important to wait till your dog has had an opportunity to rest and calm down after a hunt before you serve the food.  A half hour’s rest should be enough to prevent your dog from gulping down that food.  The danger in gulping is swallowing air bubbles which could lead to bloat and other problems. 


  • · Caloric Intake.  It’s common sense that a dog exerting a tremendous amount of energy on a multi-day hunt is going to need additional calories.  What most folks don’t realize; however, is that cooler temperatures also necessitate a need for more calories.  Consequently, a bird dog working hard in the field in 20 degree weather may need nearly double the number of calories in a day compared to a leisurely summer day in the 70s.  Note: each cup of Purina Pro Plan Performance has 493 calories.  All dogs’ needs vary depending upon breed, size, conditioning and activity, but as a baseline, a 40-pound dog needs about 1200 calories in a day of normal activity.


  • · Truck Naps.  The cooler temperatures of hunting season also should be considered with your dog’s food needs depending on where that pup is sleeping.  If that pup is sleeping in the truck, they are going to also need extra calories to stay warm through the night as opposed to the pup that’s sleeping in the hotel room on a hunting trip.


  • · Hydration.  Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting by drawing air across their tongue and back of their throat.  Panting is a dog’s single method to cool down.  As a canine exercises in the heat, mucus forms in their mouth and on their tongue.  As a hunter, you need to give your bird dog just enough water to give them a little hydration and, as important, water to rinse the mucus from their tongue to keep the pup’s heat regulation system operating efficiently.  In cold weather, the air is often dryer, so a dog can actually lose more fluid than even in hot weather when they respire.  Consequently, it’s of equal importance during cold hunting days to keep your dog hydrated in the field.  NOTE: Bob suggests serving your dog’s food in water to help keep that pup hydrated.


  • · Probiotic.  Before extended hunting trips, Bob also puts FortiFlora probiotic on his dog’s Purina Pro Plan Performance food beginning four days prior to an extended hunt and every day during the hunt.  FortiFlora, which is available from any vet, helps prevent upset stomach issues common with bird dogs from the stress of travel and just simply having a deviation from their routine.


  • · Trick or Treat.  It’s not uncommon to see proud dog owners after a great day of hunting ask the waitress of the local steak house for plate scraps for their pooch.  Bob warns against this kind of indulgence.  More often than not, good intentions wind up as loose stools the next morning.  West suggests a spoon of canola oil on the dog’s food as a better treat and source of additional calories for your pup.


Follow Pheasants Forever’s Rooster Road Trip 2011 at www.RoosterRoadTrip.org, on Facebook , YouTube, and Twitter (#rrt11). 


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

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6 Responses to “Keeping your Bird Dog Fueled on The Rooster Road”

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks to Bob West for the information. The two biggest mistakes I see my hunting partners make in cold weather are around caloric intake and hydration. I mix water with food at every feeding all year long. My dogs ride and stay in the truck crates on hunting trips, and also take feeding in the crates sometimes. They seem to take better care not to tip the feeding bowls when there is food. I do not like to water the dogs in the crates…too much of a chance to dump the water in the crate leading to problems with the cold.
    One last thing I would add on hydration is that on long road trips, don’t forget to water your dogs at stops on the road. Depending on the trip, we stop every 3-4 hours, stretch ourselves and the dogs, and we all get some hydration.
    Best of luck out there…Be Safe.

  2. Diane Lueck says:

    I liked Purina’s graphic on under/overweight dogs. Sadly, my vet said my dog is one of the few dogs in his practice that are not overweight. I also DEFINITELY agree with the wait before feeding after a hunt. Dogs don’t necessarily eat with dainty manners, and you are likely to be cleaning up barf if they are allowed to gulp right after a run.

  3. Kelley says:


    All of this info was a helpful reminder, thanks! My real question in getting dogs to last many consecutive days of hunting is about their paws. My GSPs all develop raw (red & bloodied) areas between their toes & around their pads. I generally don’t do booties since they usually get lost in the field. Physically, they are in excellent shape & they tolerate multiple days hunting in tough conditions & we definitely rotate the dogs in & out, but their paws still suffer which shortens our hunting days. We supplement their food with Annamaet Glycocharge which was very helpful this year in SD!

  4. Mike says:

    @kelley– Get a can of bag balm. It’s from Vermont and was developed by farmers for the udders of cows. Sounds a little weird I know, but I rub my pups pads every night we are hunting and even the first night back home. It works wonders, even on my 10 year old lab whose pads now get really beat up as she ages. It comes in a green can.

  5. Bob Doyle says:

    Is it better to give a dog an entire day off from hunting or hunting one in the morning the second dog in the afternoon. How long of a time in the field is enough? My older dog doesn’t seem to pace himself. He just won’t slow down as long as I am in the field with him. His pup will hunt hard for about and hour and then he will give himself a break.

  6. Bob says:

    Half days are better than full off days


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