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Nutrition & Training Tips

Friday, October 28, 2011

Transitioning To A New Dog Food

By Steve Ries

Changing To A New Food
As we talk to people about Native® performance dog food, one question we are often asked is how to safely switch your dog to a new food. The answer is particularly important due to the nature of a high performance food. Performance foods are very nutrient dense since they don't contain “filler” type ingredients like corn, wheat, soy and by-products. They are formulated to enhance the performance of a very active dog, but they leave a smaller margin for error with regard to feeding quantity. The following are a few important points to keep in mind when considering a switch to a performance food.

Change Should Be Gradual
Because dogs are consistently fed the same diet, it can be hard on their digestive system to change foods too suddenly. When you make a change to your dog's diet, you should do it gradually by mixing progressively smaller quantities of the current food with larger quantities of the new food. We generally recommend a schedule like the following:

•    Days 1-3:    Mix 20% of the new food with 80% of the old food
•    Days 4-6:    Mix 40% of the new food with 60% of the old food
•    Days 7-9:    Mix 60% of the new food with 40% of the old food
•    Days 10-12:    Mix 80% of the new food with 20% of the old food
•    Day 13:    Feed 100% of the new food

This type of schedule should allow your dog to adjust to the new diet without indigestion. Keep in mind that you'll need to have six days worth of the old food on hand to get you through the transition.

Don't Overfeed

Many dogs have large appetites and will eat all you feed them so you need to be careful not to overfeed. Obesity, particularly at a young age, can cause serious health issues later in life. We recommend a performance food because your dog will be healthier and perform better, but they do have higher calories so you'll want to limit feed. While all foods have feeding guidelines on the package, these are really just a starting point. The best way to determine how much food your dog needs is to keep a close eye on body condition. If he looks too thin, feed him a little more. If he looks like he is carrying too much weight, scale him back a little bit at a time. He may act hungry but his body condition will tell you different.

Wait For The Payoff
One final thing to keep in mind is that it usually takes 4-8 weeks to see the full benefit of a new food. Normal signs of improvement like smaller, firmer stools should happen pretty quickly but improvements in skin, coat and endurance take a little longer. You'll want to give your new food at least a couple months before you evaluate the full effects. A bird dog with more energy and endurance means better hunting and more birds so the end result definitely makes a change worthwhile.

To learn more about Steve Ries and his training methods, visit

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pre-Season Conditioning

By Steve Ries

Health & More Birds
With the hunting season just around the corner, now is a good time to start thinking about conditioning your canine athlete for early season performance. We wouldn’t think about going out and running ten miles one day without some prior physical training and it doesn’t make any more sense to expect it from our dogs. By getting our dogs in shape before the season, we go a long way toward ensuring a healthier and more effective hunting companion.

A high level of physical fitness contributes to a dog’s mental fitness because a tired dog will focus less on commands and finding birds. Risk of injury is also reduced during both training and hunting when muscles and tendons are strong and joints well lubricated. Training the body to recover from a work out will prepare your dog for longer hunts and more days hunting.

Before You Start
Before you get to work, it is important to consider three factors that can have a tremendous impact on your dog’s ability to function at a high level. We recommend you think of the following before starting any conditioning program.
  1. See Your Vet – A good overall examination will ensure that your dog is fit for training and free from clinical problems and parasites that could adversely affect health and performance.
  2. Choose A Quality Food – Rather than focus on a specific brand let’s just agree that nutrition is very important. Your dog must consume high quality protein to build and repair muscle tissue. Its diet must also support the immune system and overall health with high quality vitamins and trace minerals.
  3. Replenish Fluids – Making sure that your dog stays hydrated may be the single greatest factor in health during hunting. If your dog won’t drink water, find a good hydration supplement that encourages it to drink.

3 Steps To Fitness
Now we’ll get into the meat of the conditioning program. We base our conditioning program around three basic areas that compliment one another for a complete workout of the entire body and organs. You don’t need to do everything every day, but you should try to do something each day.
  1. Roadwork – We road our dogs on gravel early in the morning when traffic is sparse. We hook four dogs to a harness to pull a four-wheeler three miles with the engine off. This helps build endurance and strength while conditioning the paws for the rigors of hunting. This should be done at least three days per week.
  2. Fieldwork – During the heat of the afternoon, we “free lance” our dogs by letting them run and hunt in large pastured areas at a slow but steady pace. This allows the dog to improve lung capacity and scenting abilities at the same time. It is important to condition a dog in the same heat of the day that they will be exposed to during hunting. We “free lance” our dogs only on days that we don’t do roadwork and for no more than 45 minutes.
  3. Swimming – We swim our dogs several nights a week to work different muscle groups while creating less stress on joints and tendons. We have noticed a big improvement in performance since introducing this to our program. We limit this to no more than an hour and often swim with them.
Developing a solid conditioning program is very important to the health and longevity of our canine friends. Make sure that you work into conditioning over a 30-45 day period before the start of the season. In the end, a fit dog is a better hunter and you’ll see better overall health and more birds in your freezer.

To learn more about Steve Ries and his training methods, visit