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The Good Gundog Feeding Guide Part 1 – Pre-season Preparation




Dr Jacqueline Boyd, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, PGCHE, CHES, FHEA, MRSB

Nutritional Consultant, Skinner’s Pet Foods

The Good Gundog Feeding Guide Part 1 – Pre-season Preparation

The nights have started drawing in. There is an early morning chill. Pheasants are exploring ever further afield, and wellies are once again the staple dog walking gear… to many of us, this means one thing – the shoot season is almost here.

With the transition to cooler, wetter temperatures and the expectation of long working days, we need to consider how best to get our canine companions fit and ready for the season. Whether you have beating dogs, picking up dogs, peg dogs or “jack of all” dogs, preparation is key to ensuring you and your dog(s) have a fruitful, enjoyable and hassle-free season as possible.

 

The Good Gundog Feeding Guide Part 1 – Pre-season Preparation

 

Conditioning and Training

Many gundogs have an off season. For some, that is total kennel rest and then being brought back to fitness before the season starts. For others, it is a chance to recharge but perhaps partaking in other disciplines, tests, scurries and so on. Some dogs revert to being 100% pet out of season and then become a single-minded gundog on their first day out. Others however, will continue to work daily, perhaps on different, management tasks. Whatever your dog does, thinking about preparing their body (and mind) for the season is important. Indeed, the better the fitness and condition your dog enters the season with, the more likely it is that your dog will perform well for the entire season.

 

Exercise

An easy and important way to train and condition is exercise. Mixing the types, duration, intensity and frequency of exercise will also be useful to train and condition your dog for both stamina and those occasional sprints, after a runner for example. Walking on lead, trotting along beside a bike, hunting up areas, long and short retrieves (with gradually increasing weights of dummies!), free running and more regimented training will all help condition different parts of your dog’s physiology – done regularly and well, you’ll also reap the benefits too!  As well as training the body, you can incorporate those critical training exercises to brush up on all those mental skills that may have got a little rusty out of season – mental exercise also being useful to keep our gundogs alert and mentally (as well as physically!) agile!

The Good Gundog Feeding Guide Part 1 – Pre-season Preparation

 

Nutrition

Traditionally, out of season, gundogs are swapped onto a maintenance ration (for example, Skinner’s Maintenance or Maintenance Plus) which is typically lower in nutrients (especially protein and fat) than provided in season. Indeed, if the activity level of a dog is dramatically reduced, this is a sensible move to avoid the perils of weight gain and obesity in extreme cases.  In the run up to the start of the new season, it’s useful to start making nutritional changes onto a higher nutritional profile (for example, Skinner’s Working 23 or Muesli Mix) in advance of the first day – ideally gradually introducing a more nutrient dense/rich food about a month before. When introducing the new food, do so gradually, ideally over 5-7 days to allow the digestive system (and all the microbes that live in it!) to adapt and hopefully avoid any digestive upset. As your dog’s energy requirements increase in the run up to the start of the season, gradually increase the amount fed, ideally in at least two meals a day to ensure maximal digestion.

For some dogs however, especially those who have continued with different activities out of season, there might have been very little dietary alteration. Indeed, science is increasingly suggesting that keeping your dog on the same nutrient profile (especially fat levels in their diet) out of season, can help maintain their metabolism to deal with those nutrients in season!  Worth thinking about next year perhaps!

    

 

 

In Part 2 of this series, we will consider how to manage your gundog as the season starts and on those first few days!

Field & Trial Working 23

Field & Trial Working 23 is ideal for working dogs taking regular exercise or undertaking moderate to hard work. It contains everything needed to keep your working dog in the peak of health.

More information

Analytical Constituents

  • Crude Protein:

    Essential for healthy growth and repair and an important energy source

    23%

  • Crude Fibres:

    Helps to produce firm stools, maintains intestinal health and aids digestion

    3%

  • Crude Oils & Fats:

    Maintains healthy skin and coat and provides energy for your dog

    10%

  • Crude Ash:

    Mineral content of the food determined chemically by burning the product

    8.5%

Benefits for your dog

Maintains healthy teeth & bones

Builds strong muscles

Helps improve stamina

Helps maintain a healthy, glossy coat

Field & Trial Muesli Mix

Field & Trial Muesli Mix is an appetising mix of meat, cooked peas, steam cooked flaked cereals and crunchy biscuits all coated in wheat glucose syrup which gives the food added natural flavour and a distinctive texture.

More information

Analytical Constituents

  • Crude Protein:

    Essential for healthy growth and repair and an important energy source

    21%

  • Crude Fibres:

    Helps to produce firm stools, maintains intestinal health and aids digestion

    3%

  • Crude Oils & Fats:

    Maintains healthy skin and coat and provides energy for your dog

    8%

  • Crude Ash:

    Mineral content of the food determined chemically by burning the product

    9%

Benefits for your dog

Maintains healthy teeth & bones

Builds strong muscles

Helps improve stamina

Helps maintain a healthy, glossy coat