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August means we need to get serious about conditioning…for both the dog owner and the dog.  Depending upon where you live, hunting season may be only one month away.

First, the dog owner.  To enjoy hunting season, your heart, lungs and legs must be conditioned for long walks and, in certain areas, climbing mountains.  If you haven’t been exercising, begin slowly and then work up to longer hikes.  One mile of daily walking is a good start with five miles your goal within 30 days.  If mid-September is your opener, you’ll be ready for serious bird hunting.

Now let’s talk about your dog.  Your loyal companion should be with you on those walks you’ve been taking or are about ready to begin.  Make your exercise program have a dual purpose.  During hunting season, your dog typically runs three times the distance you walk.  That’s for a ruffed grouse dog.  If you’re hunting prairie birds, then it could be four to five times the distance you walk.  Your dog needs to be conditioned also or you’re heading for serious health issues…maybe even death.

On many of the Facebook gun dog groups, a frequent question is what brand dog food do you feed?  Each time that question is asked, there are at least 30 responses…and most are different from the others.  Food is the fuel that fires up everything in your dog’s body.  The quality of that fuel is important.  Put a cheap, poorly processed gasoline in your vehicle and the vehicle will run rough and most likely sustain damage.  The same goes for your dog.  The following are guidelines for selecting a quality dog food.

First, you want to feed your dog a food that has been formulated for the working dog.  That dog food will contain the highest quality natural meats and grains with no corn, wheat or soy or by-products.  Corn, wheat and soy, and meat by-products, are often used as filler to reduce the cost of production.  Corn, wheat and soy are difficult to digest for dogs.  That means that the manufacturer filled the dog food bag with junk which simply passes through the dog with little nutritional value.  Another ingredient to watch for is Brewer’s Rice.  It’s a by-product of brewing and has only 25-33% of its nutritional value when added to dog food.

For the canine athlete, a food with 30% protein and 20% fat is considered ideal for the dog that is worked 3-4 times weekly.  Check the label to ensure your feed meets that requirement.  As mentioned earlier, both the fat and protein content must come from quality ingredients.  Other ingredients that identify a quality food are the addition of natural oxidants to promote longer and healthier life; chelated minerals (mineral combined with amino acids) for better health; prebiotics for better digestion and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to improve the immune system and give your dog that nice glossy coat.

One more key item to check. kCal (calories per cup) is a measurement often used by pro-trainers.  A high quality dog food formulated for the working dog contains about 500 kCals.  Check your current dog food for kCals.

A high quality dog food usually costs more.  However, a well formulated food will mean less food needed for your dog so the end result is about the same as the cost for a junk food.

Your author has fed Native Performance Dog Food for years and has had excellent results.  It meets all the above requirements and also comes in four different protein/fat levels to meet the activity level of your dog.   No other dog food manufacturer provides this flexibility.

Be ready for hunting season; start thinking about conditioning for both you and your dog.  Do both you and your dog a favor; switch to Native Performance Dog Food today.

Paul Fuller is a lifelong sportsman.  He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show ( and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German short-haired pointer in 1961.

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