Feeding Working Dogs
If your dog exercises often, or if you’d like to get your dog started as a working dog, it is important to understand the proper nutritional requirements. Just like any athlete needs a specialized nutrition plan to help them perform, any dog that engages in strenuous physical activity needs proper working dog nutrition.
This article will talk about what qualifies a dog to have the need for high-protein dog food, and discusses ways to ensure you are meeting your dog’s nutritional needs.
What Qualifies a Dog as a Working Dog?
While there is a defined working group that includes the likes of Boxers, Bullmastiffs and more, determining if your dog is a working dog takes more than checking online to see if your dog has made the working group list. Even though “there is a working dog group, that doesn’t mean every dog that is part of that group is going to be a working dog,” explains Dr. Melissa Brookshire, DVM, a pet foods category expert. A working dog classification is “more for dogs that are truly working,” such as “sled dogs,” adds Brookshire. This means that your dog doesn’t have to be part of that working group list to have working dog nutrition needs. “Any dog that is doing an extreme level of exercise” can be classified as a working dog, notes Brookshire.
If you’d like to get your dog started as a working dog, be sure “to gradually increase the level of work” your dog is doing, advises Brookshire. Brookshire continues by explaining that, “If someone wanted to run a marathon, they wouldn’t start by running a marathon. Just because a dog is an athletic type of breed, it doesn’t mean they can go from a sedentary lifestyle to doing lots.” Getting your dog working can also be a great way for you to get some exercise too. You can both do physical activities together, such as going on daily runs. If you are considering getting your dog started as a working dog, Dr. Brookshire expresses that it’s “important to work with your vet and have thorough checkups,” to make sure that there’s a program that’s right for your dog.
Proper Working Dog Nutrition
While having the right nutrients in food, such as high-protein levels, is important for working dogs, a big part of working dog nutrition is “being in tune with your dog and being able to adjust feeding appropriately,” says Brookshire.
Before getting to feeding working dogs, one of the most important aspects of working dog nutrition is preventing dehydration. Always have an abundance of water when your dog is exercising that you can continuously offer to prevent dehydration. Be sure to ask your vet about the amount of water your dog should be drinking because every dog has different nutritional needs.
When it comes to feeding working dogs, it’s important to find dog food that can provide your dog with energy and is high in calories because working dogs can require up to three times the energy of non-working dogs! This means finding food that is high in fat and protein. If you’re looking for a high-protein dog food to feed your working dog, consider trying Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Formula Dry Dog Food. This food is formulated with optimal levels of protein (32%) and fat (25%), and contains glucosamine and chondroitin for hip and joint health. Regardless of your choice for feeding working dogs, make sure that you “introduce the food gradually because it is such a significant change in the nutrient content,” cautions Brookshire.
Though you should always consult with your veterinarian when it comes to feeding frequency for your working dog, Brookshire notes that it “may be easiest to feed your dog 2-3 meals a day.” She reasons that, “If your dog has a high calorie requirement, too much at once can overwhelm your dog and create problems with digestion.”
Sometimes the amount of work a dog does depends on the time of year. For instance, “Hunting dogs may do a lot of work in the fall and winter and less work in the spring and summer,” says Brookshire. “If going from a period of extreme work to a period of much less work, there are formulas for your dog with less protein” for those periods of less work, advises Brookshire. One option to try during these periods is Diamond Naturals Chicken & Rice Formula All Life Stages Dry Dog Food. This dry dog food has less protein than Extreme Athlete, and uses real chicken as the first ingredient to continue providing your dog proper nutrition and taste.
Remember, that an abundance of water and being in tune with your dog’s specific needs is a must throughout the process. Contact your veterinarian to come up with a working dog feeding plan that meets your dog’s unique nutritional requirements.