Feeding an appropriate diet is a key factor in supporting your dog’s health, welfare and performance. At Skinner’s we have over 50 years of nutritional know-how and have been fuelling generations of gundogs from weaning, through their working days, and into retirement. With a range of quality, trusted diets, we know what it takes to keep your dog performing at their best. 

Key nutrients

When it comes to nutrition, there are several important nutrients required to support health, welfare and performance. Firstly, protein is an essential nutrient required for growth, repair and regeneration in the body. It can also be used as a source of energy and is important for puppies, pregnant and lactating bitches, and active working dogs. Secondly, we have fat, which is essentially a concentrated source of energy that supplies fatty acids (such as omega-3) and certain vitamins to support functions like immune health. Although carbohydrates aren’t essential as they can be made in the body, they have a protein-sparing role and can be beneficial for digestive health and for highly active dogs. Last (but certainly not least) we have vitamins, minerals and water which are required for normal day-to-day functioning in the body. 

Choosing the right diet

At Skinner’s we have a range of quality diets, which are all formulated to be complete and balanced, meaning they provide all the nutrients a healthy dog needs. To name just a few, diets such as Field & Trial Muesli or Working 23 may be suitable for dogs working at a moderate energy output. These diets provide a moderate level of protein (21-23%) and fat (9-10%) to support muscle repair and recovery, as well as energy output. While for dogs outside of the working season, we have the Field & Trial Maintenance, which has been developed with lower levels of key nutrients such as protein to support lower energy demands and to help minimise the likelihood of weight gain.

As well as a healthy diet, dogs should always have access to fresh, clean water.

How much should I feed?

We usually suggest starting off by following the guidelines on the back of the carton or bag. These can be a good, general starting point and are designed to suit a range of breeds, ages and activity levels. However, you may need to adjust the portion to suit your dog’s requirements, so if you find your dog is dropping weight during the working season, or lacks stamina, increase their portion in 10% increments. After each increase, monitor their weight and condition, then increase again if necessary. However, if you need to feed significantly above the feeding guidelines to keep the weight on during the working season, or their stools loosen the more you feed, that’s when you may need to ‘step-up’ to a more nutrient-dense diet, such as Field & Trial Working 26 or Working 30.

Accuracy is key!

It’s not uncommon to hear of owners using scoops or cups to measure and serve their dogs food. Although convenient, they can be highly inaccurate tools for measuring and may lead to over-feeding, or even under-feeding. For this reason, we suggest using accurate, calibrated kitchen scales to weigh your dog’s daily meals- these can be picked up cheaply and easily from many home stores and online retailers. 

Measure, monitor manage

It’s important to regularly weigh your dog and keep a close eye on their overall body condition. Body condition scoring involves a visual and physical assessment of your dog, by running your hands over them and asking yourself questions such as ‘‘can I feel their ribs?’’, ‘’can I see their waist?’’ or ‘‘do they have an abdominal tuck?’’.  If you are unsure of how to body condition score your dog, UK Pet Food have a handy, free guide which can be found here. In addition, your vet should be able to advise what your dog’s ideal, current weight should be (essentially the weight they would like them to be right now). This is a useful piece of information, as we usually suggest following our feeding guidelines for a dog’s ideal, current weight. It also means you can regularly weigh them and keep track of where they should be.

How many meals per day should I feed?

The general advice for adult dogs is to feed two meals per day, as this works with most people’s daily routines, it ensures a more consistent level of nutrients in the bloodstream and can help fuel your dog throughout the working day. However, if your dog is prone to dropping off in the field, or lacks stamina, then the Field & Trial Energy Bar can be fed in between meals, to give them a ‘boost’. It’s a safer alternative to traditional working-day snacks and can be easily slipped into pockets and broken into squares when needed. It provides a good source of fat which dogs preferentially use as a source of energy, as well as protein for muscle integrity and digestible carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen stores. 

Skinner’s are here to help 

If you would like to contact us regarding your dog’s diet, then our nutrition team would be more than happy to help. Contact us at [email protected] or drop us a call on 01379 384247.

Written by Zoe Russell, BSc (Hons), ANutr, 

Nutrition Officer, Skinner’s