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Keeping your Bird Dog Fueled on The Rooster Road
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.
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