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Tag: Belgian Malinois

Feeding Tips for Working Dogs

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Schutzhund USA Magazine.

We all know that active working dogs have higher nutritional requirements than the typical house dog. These dogs are athletes with the corresponding caloric requirements that go along with the elevated energy and activity levels. For the high performance dog, though, it’s not only about meeting nutritional requirements. When and how you feed can have a significant impact on the performance level of your working dog. Here are a few key feeding and management tips for hard working dogs.

Feeding Before Work

One of the most frequent discussions to come up with regard to feeding working dogs is how long to before extensive work it’s best to feed your dog. Regardless of how you might view working out yourself on an empty stomach, a dog that has fasted is likely to perform far better than a dog that’s been fed too recently. As dogs will store energy, feeding 6-12 hours before an extended work period is going to give you the best results. This allows for full digestion so your dog can store energy and also helps reduce the risk of physical issues like twist, or bloat.

Feeding After WorkFeeding Working Dogs

Since your dog fasted before work you don’t want to make them fast too long after. You do want to make sure they have a sufficient cooling off period, though, before introducing food after the workout. Water soon after work followed by a 30-60 minute cooling off period should be sufficient for your dog to adjust. After that, feed when they’re ready and make sure to continue to offer plenty of fresh, clean water.

What to Feed

This one is pretty simple. For working dogs, you get the best results by feeding fat at higher levels than you would think is healthy. Optimally, your working dog should be getting a diet with 40-50% of the calories coming from fat. Dogs burn fat far more efficiently than we humans do and you’ll get far more endurance from a high fat diet. They still make use of protein and carbohydrates, but a high fat diet, combined with a fasting period before heavy work, allows your working dog to function at peak efficiency.

It’s also important to note that keeping your dog on a fairly high fat diet year round is likely to shorten the adjustment periods from lower activity needs to higher ones. Basically, feed a performance diet year round even if you need to feed a bit less when the dog isn’t working as hard. Decreasing the fat levels in the diet just to decrease the calories can actually be counterproductive to maintaining the desired fitness level.

Feeding and Management

Feeding a quality food is an essential component of working dog health and performance. It’s what we do here at Kinetic and we’re extremely passionate about it. Still, we recognize that there’s more to a feeding program than just the food. Proper feeding and management practices together can help you get the best performance from your working dogs as well as setting them up for optimal long term health.

Feeding the Working K9

Working Dog Challenges

It’s a pretty rare event to see an active working K9 carrying excess weight. In fact, the opposite is generally the more likely situation. The combination of breed and drive in working K9s often results in a dog that burns a ton of energy and has a great deal of difficulty maintaining weight. This can jeopardize the health and performance of a valuable canine team member who serves on the front line of protection; whether police, private security or military.

Feeding Working K9 DogsWorking K9 Breeds

Breed certainly plays a role in the performance of working dogs and it also contributes to the feeding and management challenges. In a K9 workforce made up of a large percentage of German Shepherd (GSD) and Belgian Malinois dogs, many years of breed refinement have created high performance canine athletes that burn fuel at higher than normal levels.

It’s not unusual to have a Mal or GSD burn more energy during “inactive” periods in a kennel than most dogs might use at work or play. Their drive is both genetic and reinforced by training which makes it very difficult to just flip a switch and turn off the motor. In addition, an athlete bred for lean muscle mass is going to have more difficulty maintaining weight under the most relaxing of circumstances. Under the constant stress of high level focus and performance expectations, maintaining proper body condition and overall health becomes an even greater challenge.

Dog Food Needs to Match Performance

Working dogs are required to perform at elite levels and many of them simply cannot be properly fueled by the same diet as a household companion. Even under the same conditions, genetics and drive will force them to burn more energy and require more nutrients to maintain condition and overall health.

Foods created with large amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables with limited, at best, digestibility are simply not going to be sufficient. To maintain peak health and performance, a high energy diet made with plenty of meat, fat and digestible starch is a base requirement. Add in the best quality vitamins, chelated minerals and prebiotics and you’re well on your way to a very healthy dog performing at peak efficiency.

High performance athletes don’t train and compete on snacks and salads. They load up on protein, fat and digestible carbohydrates to fuel extreme performance. While your working K9 needs more of the first two than his human counterparts, the general idea is the same. You don’t win the prize with burgers and fries.