7 Best Foods To Feed a Hunting Dog in 2018

Hunting dogs have different dietary requirements to dogs of the same breed. The information in this article is not going to be breed specific and should be used in conjunction with the recommended nutritional advice for your breed.

Most of our feeding guides on this site are about specific breeds and their dietary requirements, but with this article, we’re going to do something a little different. Hunting dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common – a very active lifestyle. All this extra activity and energy expenditure brings with it a different set of nutritional requirements compared to what a standard pet would need.

With that in mind today we are going to provide you with a general overview of what you should (and shouldn’t) be feeding a hunting dog compared to a traditional pet of the same breed. We’ll discuss nutrients, quantities, and schedules before finishing off with several food recommendations perfect for hunting dogs.

Let’s get started.

What To Look For In A Good Hunting Dog Food

Calories

Compared to traditional pets, hunting dogs obviously expend much more energy. Due to this, they need to consume more calories than normal. If your dog is going to be hunting with you reasonably regularly it’s often a good idea to ensure you’re feeding them high energy, high-calorie foods. Otherwise, they’re going to need to eat huge portions, which could be an issue for some breeds.

Fat

Fat is the best energy source for endurance in hunting dogs. This can sound a little strange to us humans who are familiar with associating carbohydrates and long-lasting, slow-burning energy. However, dogs metabolize carbohydrates and fat in a different way to humans (as they’re strictly carnivores genetically). Providing your pooch with a diet rich in fat will help them perform stronger for longer.

Carbohydrates

Carrying on nicely from the point above we want to mention a little bit about carbohydrates.

They’re not bad for a hunting dog, and there’s nothing wrong with some complex carbs in a balanced diet. It’s all to do with blood sugar spikes (and dips) and to be honest, it’s incredibly dry reading – so we’re not going to get all technical on you. Just try and get a food that contains brown rice or sweet potato as a carbohydrate source, and avoid grains wherever possible.

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How Often Should You Feed A Hunting Dog

Feeding a hunting dog is a much bigger and more complex task than feeding a normal pet. Here are some of the most important factors that you need to remember.

Calories

As we mentioned above hunting dogs need many more calories than traditional pets of the same breed. In an article like this that is not breed specific, we cannot accurately give you a recommended amount of calories. We suggest you look at the recommended calorific intake for a working dog of your breed.

The most important thing to remember is that they’re going to need much more than a normal pet.

Feeding Schedules

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to the feeding schedules of hunting dogs. Many people feel that feeding them the traditional 2 meals per day is the best way to go. It ensures that your pooch has got some energy to expend from breakfast, and gives them fuel to recover with at the end of the day.

There’s certainly some merit to this argument, and it’s not the end of the world if you do feed a hunting dog twice a day – but there’s another (and we’d argue better) way.

It takes around 20 to 24 hours for a dog to fully digest the contents of their stomach, which allows you to feed them an entire day’s food in a single sitting.

There are several health issues commonly associated with working or hunting dogs being extremely active over long periods of time on a full stomach. Intestinal irritation can lead to pain and bloody stools, which needless to say is not ideal.

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Some of the world’s most respected trainers and canine nutritionists recommend that hunting dogs should be fed a super large meal once per day (in the evening after the activity has been completed). This allows them to start the next working day on an empty stomach and will make them perform better for you (it also removes the health issues we mentioned above).

While this sounds quite uncomfortable to us humans, because dogs digest their food over such a long period of time it’s completely safe for your pooch. Dogs don’t get hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) like us humans either, which means it’s going to be far more comfortable for your dog than it sounds to our human ears.

This being said, if they are currently used to eating two meals a day it might take them a week or so to get fully comfortable with the new feeding schedule.

You should aim to feed your dog within an hour of their day’s activity being completed. Ensure that their breathing has returned to normal and that you have provided them with lots of water before giving them their hard earned dinner.

Weather

A very important variable that needs to be taken into account when calculating the daily calorific requirements of a hunting dog is quite surprisingly, the weather. It takes much more effort to be active over long periods of time in the cold, heat is sapped from the body and needs to be replaced – by burning calories.

A study by dog food manufacturer Purina suggests that for every 10 degrees drop in temperature your dog requires 7.5% more calories than it otherwise would. If you live in an area that has a wide seasonal temperature variation, you should really pay attention to this. You could otherwise be underfeeding your pooch leaving them hungry after completing a hard day’s work with you.

Activity Levels

It’s also important to remember that all of the information on this page should be seen as a general overview, you need to apply a little common sense to use the information correctly for your dog. Aside from the breed, the amount of activity (and the intensity of the activity) are large variables that will determine how much more you should feed your pooch.

For example, if you’re only going out hunting with your dog once a month, then you don’t really need to do much different compared to what you’d do for a non-hunting pet of the same breed. Treat hunting days as you’d treat a day with them on a long walk, and provide them with a little more food than normal.

On the other hand, if you’re out 5 days a week hunting with your dog then you need to use all of the information in this article almost religiously and be 100% sure about quantities and schedules. It’s darn hard work to run around all day this frequently, so ensure you’re looking after your pooch and giving them a big enough meal for the hard work they’re putting in.

Best Value Food For A Hunting Dog

So now we know what you should be feeding (and how often you should be feeding) your hunting dog. Below we’re going to recommend several excellent foods geared towards the needs of an active hunting dog.

The first product we’re going to recommend is a little bit of a legend on this site, the American Journey salmon & sweet potato mix.

The protein source in this food is what makes it such a good choice for hunting dogs. Salmon is packed full of fat, which as we learned earlier is critical for optimal canine performance. The carbohydrates mainly come from sweet potato, which again is awesome.

It’s a high-calorie food that’s going to provide your pooch with the energy they need to complete a day’s work, and at around $30 for a big bag – it’s going to be easy on the bank balance too.

The Best Foods For An Adult Hunting Dog

Let’s take a look at some of the best foods on the market formulated for adult hunting dogs.

Victor Active Dog & Puppy Formula Grain-Free Dry

Victor Active Dog & Puppy Formula Grain-Free Dry

This product from Victor provides all an active hunting could possibly need in a balanced formula. It’s packed full of protein to aid recovery and boost performance (33% of the total recipe is protein). It’s a tri-protein mix using beef, pork, chicken and their associated fats for endurance performance. The carbohydrates that make up much of the calories in the product come from sweet potato, and a variety of vegetables provide natural vitamins and antioxidants.

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Pros And Cons

  • Pro – 3 Protein sources
  • Pro – Complex carbohydrates
  • Pro – 33% Protein
  • Pro – Grain free
  • Con – None

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry

This is another completely grain free product that’s packed full of the fats and proteins that active hunting dogs require. Again 3 protein sources are used to provide a wide variety of oils and amino acids (bison, beef, and venison). There are tomatoes and raspberries in the mix to provide antioxidants, and peas and sweet potatoes provide your pooch with high-quality carbohydrates.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – High-quality carbohydrates
  • Pro – 3 Protein sources
  • Pro – Great brand
  • Pro – High in calories
  • Con – None

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free

Blue Buffalo is one of the world’s most famous and respected dog food manufacturers, and this excellent product is a prime example of why. It’s a high-calorie food that gets the bulk of its protein from real chicken. Its got added calcium to promote healthy bones and joints and it’s a grain free formula using peas and sweet potato for carbohydrates.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Chicken protein
  • Pro – Added calcium
  • Pro – Grain free
  • Con – Little bit more expensive than other options

Nutro Wild Frontier Adult Cold Water Recipe Grain-Free Salmon

Nutro Wild Frontier Adult Cold Water Recipe Grain-Free Salmon

Here’s another product that has opted to use salmon (and cod) for its protein sources. Again you’re getting all the essential fat content that comes with the fish. Chickpeas make up the bulk of the carbohydrates (another excellent source), and it’s completely grain free too. There’s currently a 50% off your first bag promotion running on this product, which can help keep costs low too.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – High protein content
  • Pro – Salmon, and cod protein
  • Pro – Chickpeas for carbohydrates
  • Pro – Grain free
  • Con – None

Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe

Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Recipe

We love recommending this excellent food from Merrick, it sounds so tasty that we almost want to eat it ourselves. It’s made from real roasted Texas beef (and they leave all the fat in). The carbohydrates come from sweet potatoes, and vegetables such as carrot and tomato provide plenty of minerals. Combine this with the added omega oils and amino acids, and you’ve got a great food for a hunting dog.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Great brand
  • Pro – Beef protein (and fat)
  • Pro – Very tasty
  • Pro – High in calories
  • Con – Could be a little cheaper

Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe

Nature's Recipe Grain-Free Chicken, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe

Another great product that’s worthy of your consideration is this offering from Nature’s Recipe. It’s packed full of protein (from real chicken) and it’s super high in calories too. The sweet potato and pumpkin in the mix provide the bulk of the energy and both are excellent carbohydrate sources. It’s also a super easy to digest product, which means if you’re feeding your pooch twice a day while working, it’s going to cause them fewer issues and help them provide better performance.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Easy to digest
  • Pro – Chicken protein
  • Pro – Complex carbohydrates
  • Pro – Grain free
  • Pro – Well priced
  • Con – None

Victor Hi-Pro Plus Formula Dry

The final product we’re going to recommend today is the excellent Hi-Pro from Victor. It’s a super high protein product that is only made up of 30% carbohydrates. There are several protein sources in this food coming from a variety of meat, poultry, and fish (which means lots of amino acids, oils, and fats). It’s not grain free, but there’s no corn or wheat which are often the worst offenders.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Low carbohydrate content
  • Pro – Several protein sources
  • Pro – High in calories
  • Pro – Great brand
  • Con – Not grain free

Conclusion

So there you have it, all you ever needed to know about feeding an active hunting dog.

Any of the products above will be more than capable of providing your pooch with the energy and nutrition they need to sustain a happy and active working life. They are all more than worthy of your consideration.

Sean Green

Sean Green, a leading developer of several pet-related websites and devoted pet owner. Sean is supported by a knowledgeable team of pet-loving writers who work together to provide you with a wealth of information about training and caring for your pets.

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