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.
As a trainer, I’ve heard all kinds of gimmicks to supplement dog food in the field. I’ve read and tried some of them myself.
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. With three of four days of hunting and all of its wear and tear, a dog can lose 20 percent to 30 percent of it’s body weight and all you’ve got left is skin and bones.
Some like to use boiled rice added to a meat broth, that’s a mess, but it works. There are better ways to do it.
What’s most important 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, and you get less stool volume.
More importantly, it’s a good foundation. A dog needs a good nutritional base for stamina in the field.
It’s not unusual for a dog to need a 25 percent increase in its food consumption when in the field. Some may need even more, so each dog has to be looked at individually.
Some hunters supplement their dogs’ regular food with canned or moist, packaged dog food. This can be a problem because it gives dogs a loose stool and because of the lack of nutritional content, they don’t get the extra bump that they need.
The supplement I have found to work best is Energy Pak, a high-energy powder developed by National Dog Food in New Holstein, Wis. 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 is that is 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 32 percent protein and 38 percent fat and does not cause loose stools.
When sprinkled on food, dogs will eat their food during difficult times of stress, when they normally wouldn’t eat. I also put it in their water midday for an extra energy boost. I have been using it for three years.
You don’t have to give a dog a lot of it, maybe a third of a cup all day. A 4-pound bag will last my three dogs a whole season. It’s goes a long way.
Avoid the chocolate Probably the biggest mistake a hunter can make is giving the dog a midday chocolate snack.
It may seem like a nice approach, but a dog may react badly to chocolate. Too much chocolate can be fatal to a dog.