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energy density and digestibility of the food. As noted above, performance diets have increased levels of fat compared to maintenance diets. When doing strenuous work, dogs perform best when fed a diet that supplies a large portion of its energy as fat.

Contrary to popular belief among many trainers and handlers, feeding a high fat diet does not predispose dogs to heat stress. This is supported in this study by the continued high performance of the dogs on the performance diet even during days of elevated environmental heat stress. Other research has also shown a lower core body temperature in exercising dogs fed a high fat diet compared to exercising dogs fed a lower fat diet. Increased activity also increases a dogís need for protein. In this study, the performance diet had a higher protein level then the maintenance diet.

There are several important points for the hunting dog owner to glean from this study. Most notably, if you want your dog to perform at its highest possible level, feed a high quality food. Most hunting dogs have a definite seasonal change in their activity level. It is advisable to keep them on a quality maintenance diet during the off season. Switch to a performance diet (higher in fat, protein, and kcal/kg) starting 2-3 weeks before the hunting season. Then feed the performance diet throughout the hunting season. For dogs that are hunted only occasionally during the season, increased amounts of the maintenance diet during times of increased activity should suffice. For dogs that are trained or trialed intensely throughout the year, a performance diet could be fed the entire year with the amount increased or decreased as dictated by the dogís activity level.

"Most notably, if you want your dog to perform at its highest possible level, feed a high quality food."

During a week long hunt last fall my dog and my hunting partnerís dog were both fed a performance diet. Neither dog lost body condition during the hunting trip, and both seemed to tolerate the heat better. This is in comparison to three previous trips when the dogs were fed increased amounts (two to three times) of their normal maintenance diets. On the previous trips, these dogs came home thin and looked rough. After this trip, they had no change in body condition and seemed to regain their pre-hunt energy level more quickly than after the previous hunts. This is just a personal observation and purely anecdotal, but this year for the entire hunting season I plan on feeding my dog varying amounts of the performance diet. I really think it made a difference.

A final point of comparison between these two diets: a 40# bag of each food costs the same amount. However, when feeding the performance diet I feed my dog 30% less food than with the maintenance diet to get the same calories per day. Feeding the performance diet will lower my feed costs.

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