Energy for Hunting Dogs
Northland Outdoors

Diet and nutritional supplements are crucial to keeping a dog from running out of gas during lengthy hunting trips

Most dogs, no matter how fit, will run out of gas on those three- and four- day hunting trips- if their diet isn’t properly supplemented with something that’s high in fat and protein.

Sabin, Minn., dog trainer Carl Altenbernd has had hunters tell him all sorts of ways in which they try to keep their dogs full of energy during those long hunts. “As a trainer, I’ve heard all kinds of gimmicks to supplement dog food in the field,” Altenbernd says. “I’ve read and tried some of them myself.” Altenbernd says it’s no secret that a dog needs more carbohydrates when in the field. “We’ve all seen a dog break down from heat exhaustion or just plain overwork,” Altenbernd says. “With three or four days of hunting and all of its wear and tear, a dog can lose 20 percent to 30 percent of its body weight and all you’ve got left is skin and bones. “Some like to use boiled rice added to a meat broth,” Altenbernd says. “That’s a mess, but it works. But there are better ways to do it.”

Quality is key

What’s most important, he says, is that the dog’s regular food provides a good nutritional base. That means having a good dry dog food, one that is 30 percent to 34 percent in meat protein and 16 percent to 20 percent in fat.

“The idea behind that is if you feed them quality food, you have to feed them less,” Altenbernd says. “And you get less stool volume. More importantly, it’s a good foundation. A dog needs a good nutrition base for stamina in the field.”

Altenbernd says it’s not unusual for a dog to need a 25 percent increase in its food consumption when in the field. He says some may need even more, so each dog has to be looked at individually.

Altenbernd says some hunters supplement their dog’s regular food with canned or moist, packaged dog food. “This can be a problem because it gives the dog a loose stool,” he says. “And because of the lack of nutritional content, they don’t get the extra bump that they need.”

A favored supplement

The supplement Altenbernd has found to work best is Energy Pak, a high-energy powder developed by National Dog Food in New Holstein, Wis.

Altenbernd says Energy Pak originally was designed for sled dogs. “Sled dog racers have the same problem we have in the field- when dogs are working hard, they don’t eat or drink.

“What first caught my eye,” Altenbernd says, is that it serves as a water bait. Put it in water, and the dogs will just lap it up. It minimizes dehydration, and more importantly, its high fat and protein content acts as an energy booster.” Energy Pak is a 21 percent protein and 44 percent fat and does not cause loose stools, Altenbernd says.

When sprinkled on food, Altenbernd says dogs will eat their food during difficult times of stress, when they normally wouldn’t eat. He also puts it in their water at midday for an extra energy boost. He’s been using it for 10 years.

“You don’t have to give a dog a lot of it,” Altenbernd says. “Maybe 1/4th cup all day. A 4-pound bag will last my four dogs a whole season. It goes a long ways.”

In raising pups, Altenbernd also likes Energy Pak. He feeds his bitches one fourth cup a day before the birth of pups and equal amounts when they’re nursing. He says normally a nursing mother will lose hair because of a nutritional drain. He’s supplemented the food of five females that had litters with the product and all came out of it with their coats intact.

Avoid the chocolate

Probably the biggest mistake a hunter can make is giving a dog a midday chocolate snack, Altenbernd says.

“It may seem like a nice approach, but a dog may react badly to chocolate,” Altenbernd says. “Too much chocolate can be fatal to a dog.”

For more information, contact Altenbernd at Gun Dog Kennels (218) 789-7134.

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