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Top 5 Questions Gun Dog Owners Should be Asking for Choosing the Proper Dog Food

Important considerations when choosing a kibble blend for your hunting dog to achieve their top performance in the field.

Top 5 Questions Gun Dog Owners Should be Asking for Choosing the Proper Dog Food

Your sporting dog is an athlete and their nutritional intake should match their individual demands in order to yield high-performance in the field. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Gun Dog: What Should We Feed Our Sporting Dogs for Optimal Performance? 

Michael Keith (Senior Vice President of Nutrition and Supply Chain, VICTOR Super Premium Pet Food):

While it would be nice, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the best formula to feed a hunting dog. Much like humans, each dog has a unique metabolism and energy need; however, we do know that active hunting and sporting dogs perform best when eating a high-fat, high-protein diet.

When selecting a kibble for your gun dog, remember that protein and fat percentages are important, but don’t get caught up in the numbers. A good place to start is looking at brands that use high-quality ingredients and then search for a formula that will deliver, at a minimum, 28 percent protein and 20 percent fat, to meet the caloric requirements of your active sporting dog. 

The key to feeding for performance is making sure your dog is getting the calories they need. Again, there’s no universal answer, but a solid reference is (based on a 50-lb. dog): 1,450 calories for a non-active dog, 1,800 calories for a dog with moderate exercise, and 2,200+ calories to support a hard day of hunting. 


VICTOR Super Premium Pet Food Realtree Edge Energy dog food
Unlocking your dog's full genetic potential starts with feeding the right dog food, along with the necessary training and conditioning you provide. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Created specifically for the nutritional needs of hunting and working dogs, VICTOR’s Realtree MAX-5 PRO formula delivers on the desirable 30/20 protein to fat breakdown, but if your hunting dog needs more calories then look into our EDGE ENERGY formula, which is our most calorie-dense formula, at 28/22 protein to fat.

Use the eye test to make sure you’re feeding your dog the right number of calories. Do they look physically healthy? If they’re starting to slim down or get too plump, that will signal that you need to change their caloric intake.

GD: How Often Should We Feed Our Dogs During Hunting Season? 

MK: Research tells us that the answer for canine athletes is very similar to human athletes. It typically takes 10 to 12 hours for food to be completely digested, so if you’re looking to go on a morning hunt, you’ll want to feed the night before to allow the nutrients to be absorbed appropriately.

Think about what it takes for you to perform at a high level. If you eat a very light dinner, then a large feast for breakfast right before jumping into a workout, you probably won’t perform your best. The same goes for our dogs. To get their best performance we want to allow time for their bodies to accept the nutrients they’re getting from their food so it can be properly utilized.


Black Labrador retriever with green-winged teal in mouth
Set your gun dog up for success by fueling them with proper nutrition. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

GD: What Should We Look for in a Dog Food Brand Regarding Safety and Standards?

MK: The basics are important, you want to make sure the brand uses high-quality ingredients, is meeting the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulations, and offers quality food that will help your dog perform. 

But, it’s important to dig a bit deeper into brands and find out more, like where the kibble is made, where the ingredients are sourced from and what kind of safety measures go into manufacturing the product. Ask how often their ingredients are tested and what kind of safety history the brand’s products have.

upland bird hunter with boykin spaniel
Enable your bond to thrive while providing the best nutrition for the companion that is always by your side. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

We share much of this information right on our website, and our customer service team is available by phone to answer your questions. Within a few clicks on our website, you’ll see that VICTOR proudly produces every bag of kibble in our own Texas-based facility using a majority of ingredients that come from ranches, farms, and other trusted suppliers who are within a day’s drive of our plant. We also proudly share that we regularly test our ingredients and finished products to ensure our food is continually meeting our own high standards.

The answers to these questions will help you understand if the values and strengths of the brand you’re looking into align with what you’re looking for in the nutrition that’s fueling your sporting dog.

GD: Does Age Matter When Choosing a Dog Food?

MK: Yes. Puppies have specific nutritional needs, and similarly, older dogs have unique needs of their own. 

When selecting a formula for a puppy, you’ll need to look for a puppy specific formula (sometimes referenced as a growth diet) or choose an all-life stage blend. Then, as your puppy grows, their needs will change, so at about six to 12 months if they were on a puppy food, you’ll need to transition them to an all-life stage formula.

Adult and senior dogs also have specific needs, like joint support. For adult hunting dogs that are highly active, you’ll want to look for a food with added glucosamine and chondroitin to help support their joints. Early inclusion of these supplements in their diet can help keep their joints healthy and prevent long term damage from hard days in the field, season after season.

Remember, when you transition your dog to a new food, even when it’s from the same brand, it’s important to do it over a period of time. We suggest taking one week to 10 days to make the switch. You’ll want to gradually increase the amount of the new formula each day. Not taking the proper time to transition can cause digestive issues, and these issues can sometimes be interpreted as a problem with the new formula, when really your dog is simply reacting to the change in diet being made too abruptly. 

GD: What Are Signs That I Might Not Be Feeding the Right Dog Food?  

MK: What we see on the outside of our dogs is a good indicator for what’s happening on the inside. If you’re noticing things like a dull and flaky coat, digestive issues, lethargy, and weight problems (underweight or overweight), that’s a strong signal they’re missing something in their nutrition. 

pudelpointer running
Keep an eye on your dog's weight, skin/coat health, and energy levels. A change in their digestive health will often manifest itself externally. (Photo By: Chris Ingram)

Weight issues can often be controlled by changing the number of calories your dog is consuming. Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to change formulas during hunting season. You can feed the same formula all year, you’ll just need to adjust the amount you’re feeding so it meets your dog’s increased caloric needs during the hunting season.

There are a lot of options on the market, and it can be overwhelming to find the perfect food for your dog. If you’re looking to find a new food for your gun dog, our customer service team is available to offer personalized recommendations based on your specific dog, their activity level, and other individual needs. 

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