In a recent webinar hosted by the AKC Detection Dog Task Force, Dr. Erin Perry enlightened working dog enthusiasts and professional handlers on the importance of careful diet selection, tactical nutrition and GI health for our valued working dogs.
There is a distinction between companion animals and the dogs that are working daily to secure our nation’s security in many different roles. Therefore, she noted, their diet is a significant decision that should be made to maximize health and performance.
Nutritional adequacy should be considered during a dog’s three stages of life: Maintenance, gestation/lactation and growth. When making the important decision on what to feed your canine(s), Dr. Perry recommends taking several factors into consideration:
- Who makes it?
- Published scientific research
- PhD nutritionists
- Feeding trials
- Don’t be fooled by clever marketing slang
Another important dietary consideration is the intensity level of work:
- Low intensity/high duration
- Moderate intensity/moderate to high duration
- High intensity/short duration
Tactical nutrition can be described as field conditions, unpredictable situations, and exposure hazards. Field conditions include stressful situations, and the correlation of stress from handler to dog. Stress can cause disruptions in diet, hydration, and exertion.
When selecting dietary ingredients, always consider:
- The energy sources used, which include:
- Lipids (primary source for high duration),
- Carbohydrates (used with lipids for moderate duration), and
- Nutrient delivery through:
- Ingredients utilized;
- Amino acid content;
- Fatty acid content; and
- Water content (meal vs. flesh).
An important consideration is to “feed your working canine for the job they are doing”.
She recommended offering a snack to your working partner whenever you are having a snack while working. Like human athletes, a number of small meals or snacks are better than fewer large meals for keeping up energy levels.
Other factors for working dog handlers to consider include environmental & ingestion exposure and hygiene. Search and rescue dogs in particular can encounter a wide variety of potentially harmful environmental hazards such as sewage and chemical exposures. Dr. Perry offered a number of specific considerations, remedies, and methods related to the environment for keeping working dogs in the best possible condition so they can continue to do their important work.
*Click here to view a recording of the webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4181903834771374856
The next webinar in the AKC Detection Dog Task Force webinar series will be a continuation of panel discussions on raising puppies for future careers as working dogs. “6 - 9 Month Puppies, Getting Started Right for Detection Work"; is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2022 at 7:30pm ET. Panelists: Tim Baird, Bart Rogers and Stacey West. Stay tuned for more information and registration details.