9 Best Performance Dog Foods for Hunting Dogs (Bird Dogs)

Hunting dogs like Labradors and beagles are special breeds that requires specific nutrition to thrive and hunt in the manner they are meant to. These are generally known as sweet dogs who can be very energetic and affectionate with their human families. Labs especially are known for their sweet nature and eagerness to please. As you read through the guide below, you will discover some key differences between the nutritional needs of this type of dog versus any other dog you may be familiar with.

Most Popular

American Journey Salmon

  • Grain-free formula
  • Gluten free ingredients

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Best Overall

Taste Of The Wild High Prairie

  • Grain-free recipe
  • Main ingredient: real buffalo

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Most Affordable

True Acre Foods Chicken

  • USA-raised chicken
  • EXTREMELY affordable
  • Free of any grains

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5 Key Nutritional Needs of Hunting Dogs

  • Fat – Hunting dogs receive most of their energy from fat – year-round, whether they are participating in active, vigorous hunting activities or slowing down to moderate levels of activity. They benefit from fat to maintain consistent energy.
  • Protein – Protein assists with lean muscle mass, which hunting dogs require given their generally active lifestyles.
  • Digestible Carbohydrates – Carefully fed digestible carbs will benefit your pup – they should be supplied within an hour of exercise for their best use, which includes renewal and recovery.
  • Water – Water, as you can imagine, is of vital importance for your hard-working hunting dog so be sure to keep him hydrated. Some dogs will not drink enough water for their optimal hydration, so you may need to entice them with a little bone broth mixed in with their water.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – Don’t forget to be sure your dog’s food includes vitamins and minerals introduced through fruits and vegetables to keep their digestive and immune systems healthy.

6 Special Dietary and Nutritional Considerations for Hunting Dogs

  • Activity Level Determines Calorie Consumption – Extremely active dogs will need significantly more calories compared to a dog that runs around the property but isn’t in full hunting mode all the time. Check your dog food feeding instructions and consult your vet to be sure your pup is getting adequate calories for his activity levels.
  • Spay/Neuter Affects Calorie Needs – Whether a dog is intact will also affect calorie consumption so be sure to communicate openly with your vet about what to expect and how best to supply your pup with the nutrition he or she needs.
  • Less Carbohydrates – Must be Digestible – Humans tend to “carb-up” for performance but this is not the case for dogs. Digestible carbs will assist with recovery immediately following a tough training or hunting day.
  • More Fat than Protein – Fat is the primary source of energy for your hunting dog so be sure to supply enough fat, even more than protein.
  • Feed Once a Day – Your hunting dog’s endurance is best on an empty stomach. Feed after hunting and let your dog’s body rest and process foods consumed.
  • Sensitive Tummies – Try to feed only natural ingredients and avoid fillers to prevent uncomfortable bloating.

Overall Best Food for Hunting Dogs in 2019

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Key Features:

  • Grain-free recipe
  • Main ingredient: real buffalo
  • Added vitamins and antioxidants
  • Zero corn, wheat, and artificial flavors and preservatives

Overall Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs – This Taste of the Wild dry dog food offers balanced nutrition that includes high-quality protein, including real buffalo, bison, and roasted venison. The grain-free recipe means your pup can easily digest the nutrients included which also include yummy sweet potatoes and peas. Dried chicory root swoops in with prebiotic support to further assist with your hunting dog’s digestive tract.

This dry dog food option is appropriate for breeds of all sizes, ranging from small to large breeds. Omega fatty acids encourage a lustrous coat and keep your dog’s skin free of dryness and discomfort. This specific formula incorporates an exclusive probiotic blend that keeps food moving along through your pup in a natural, easy way. You have several bag size options when purchasing: 5-lbs, 14-lbs, and 28-lbs.

Pros:

  • Grain-free formula
  • Excellent to support healthy digestion
  • Appropriate for small, medium, and large breeds

Cons:

  • Not certified organic
  • Not free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)

American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Key Features:

  • Grain-free recipe
  • Zero, corn, wheat, or soy
  • Gluten Free
  • Formulated for adult dogs

Runner Up – American Journey dry dog food is packed with nutrition that keeps your hunting dog energetic and active. Its main protein source is deboned salmon that provides a delicious treat for your pup while supporting the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass through associated amino acids.

Vegetables and fruits like carrots, blueberries, and dried kelp feed your dog the fiber it needs to keep healthy stools and Omega fatty acids support good skin and a flourishing coat. If your hunting dog has a sensitive tummy or is susceptible to allergic reactions, this is a great option to try because it is grain-free, gluten free, and omits all corn, wheat, and soy products.

Pros:

  • Formulated with sensitive tummies in mind
  • Appropriate for all size breeds
  • Delicious and healthful

Cons:

  • Not guaranteed to be free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)

True Acre Foods Chicken & Vegetable Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Key Features:

  • Main ingredient: chicken raised in the U.S.A.
  • Grain-free formula
  • Added vegetables and fruits
  • Zero corn, wheat, or artificial coloring and flavors

Most Affordable – This grain-free dry dog food by True Acre Foods fills your hunting buddy’s tummy with quality ingredients, including chicken, carrots, peas, and even cranberries. His diet will be balanced with a delicious meal that delivers the nutrition he requires to encourage a healthy digestive tract and sustain a strong immune system.

This dry dog food is meant for the adult stage of your hunting dog and is appropriate for small, medium, and large breeds. The gluten free recipe helps to prevent pesky allergic reactions and the Omegas included in the formula will keep a shiny coat and good-looking and good-feeling skin.

Pros:

  • Affordable product
  • Grain-free and gluten free
  • No artificial ingredients

Cons:

  • Not appropriate for dogs that are allergic to chicken products

Wellness Ninety-Five Percent Chicken Grain-Free Canned Dog Food, 13.2-oz, case of 12

Key Features:

  • Includes 95% premium chicken for high protein content
  • Grain-free recipe
  • Zero meat by-products
  • Zero corn, wheat, soy, or artificial ingredients
  • Tasty wet food dogs love

Best Canned Food for Hunting Dogs – This Wellness canned wet food is a real treat for your dog who will likely drool over just the smell. It contains a high protein content to encourage the development of lean muscle mass and is appropriate for different breed sizes, ranging from small to large. The recipe is free of corn, wheat, soy, and peas so your pup can devour the delicious meal without experiencing uncomfortable tummy troubles after.

This is food meant for an adult dog and can be used as a special treat to reward good behavior or as a topper to regular dry dog food to bring a little extra moisture and flavor into the mix. Each can comes with natural ingredients and because it’s wet food, it will also help to hydrate your hunting dog.

Pros:

  • Grain-free
  • No artificial ingredients
  • A delicious treat your dog will love

Cons:

  • Not meant to be provided as a full meal, only as a supplemental snack to a regular diet

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Fish Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Key Features:

  • Grain-free formula
  • Limited carbohydrates
  • No artificial coloring or flavors
  • Single animal protein source
  • Limited ingredients for sensitive tummies

Best Limited Ingredient Food for Hunting Dogs – This grain-free dry dog food developed by Natural Balance has a limited set of ingredients for dogs whose digestive systems require a little extra care. There is no corn, wheat, soy, grains, or even peas in the recipe so your pup can have a positive eating experience both during and after his meal.

The food is meant for small, medium, and large breeds in the adult stage of their lives. The single animal protein source comes from salmon which is easy to digest and is accompanied by sweet potatoes to provide both potassium and quality carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

Pros:

  • Limited ingredients to support easy digestion
  • Grain-free
  • Zero artificial ingredients
  • Available in a 4.5-lb, 13-lb, and 26-lb bag

Cons:

  • Not certified organic
  • Not free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)

American Journey Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Puppy Dry Dog Food

Key Features:

  • Grain-free recipe
  • Added fruits and vegetables
  • High-protein with real lamb
  • Salmon oil and flaxseed included

Best Hunting Dog Puppy Food – This American Journey dry dog food is specially formulated for growing puppies and includes a combination of nutritious ingredients that provide the required sustenance for your fur baby. The main ingredient is deboned lamb that’s packed with protein and amino acids so your hunting dog’s puppy muscles can grow into big boy muscles while maintaining lean composition.

The flavor will be adored by your pup while giving him long-lasting energy so he can remain active and thriving. This recipe was also made attentively with sensitive stomachs in mind and omits corn, wheat, soy, and even gluten so if your growing puppy has some food sensitivities, you won’t have to worry about the ingredients in this dry dog food kibbles.

Pros:

  • Special puppy formula
  • Designed for sensitive tummies
  • Appropriate for small, medium, and large breeds

Cons:

  • Ingredients not guaranteed to be free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)

3 More Top Rated Hunting Dogs Foods:

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

This Blue Buffalo Wilderness dry dog food comes in several bag sizes including a 4.5-lbs bag, an 11-lb bag, and a 24-lb bag. It has been created to mirror the nutritional needs of ancestral wolves, which means it is packed with protein, a balanced amount of carbohydrates, and lots of antioxidants delivered through added fruit ingredients like blueberries and cranberries. Essential vitamins, including phosphorus and calcium have also been added to this formula to encourage the health of your pup’s bones and teeth. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids accompany the recipe for the ever-important health of your hunting dog’s coat and skin.  The protein and carbohydrate mix offer your pup sustained energy so he can remain active and spirited. You can also breathe easy knowing this chicken recipe does not include any grains, corn, wheat, or soy – so if your pup has some tummy sensitivities, the ingredients in this food will help to prevent any uncomfortable bloating or allergic reactions.

VICTOR Performance Formula Dry Dog Food

This Victor dry dog food is appropriate for small, medium, and large breeds who are in the adult stage of life. Their formula includes high protein at 81% with premium ingredients that include beef, chicken, and pork. Since this formula is designed for performance, it’s perfect for hunting dogs who have lots of physical demands. The recipe includes chondroitin and glucosamine to keep their joints functioning optimally, thereby ensuring their mobility as they exercise their energetic nature. The ingredients included in this food encourage optimal digestive tract function and support immune system wellness.

Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food

This Merrick dry dog food is available in a 4-lb bag, a 12-lb bag, and a 25-lb bag and is formulated to suit small, medium, and large breeds. It is for the adult stage of life and is free of corn, soy, wheat, gluten, and grains! The primary protein source is deboned beef and is closely followed by fruits and vegetables like potatoes, peas, blueberries, and apples. Merrick has a facility in Texas where they proudly use locally-sourced ingredients from farmers they have come to build relationships with and trust wholeheartedly.

Our 2019 Hunting Dog Feeding Guide

Puppy Hunting Dog

Puppyhood is an adorable time for a new pet parent as they watch their small ones grow into their full size over the course of a year. They can be playful and energetic, and you begin to discover their individual personalities. Puppyhood also comes with two main stages: the sleeping stage and the active stage. This is because your growing pup needs to use the energy he has and needs rest to rebuild and promote the growth of his little body. Therefore, feeding the right nutrients is of utmost importance during this very critical stage. This is why the best suggestion is to always purchase food that is labeled specifically for puppies.

This vital stage of life shapes his adult health and as a loyal pet parent, the responsibility falls on you to ensure his optimal nutrition. During puppyhood, their brains and eyesight begin to develop, as well as their immune health. It is also the time when you discover if perhaps your pup has any food sensitivities.
Keep a look out for any allergic reactions – this can come in the form of unusual stools, dry, irritated skin, or a number of other odd behaviors that will alert you something is off. Your puppy will require extra calories and extra protein so he can grow into a strong adult. He will also need plenty of nutrients like phosphorus and calcium to support the development of his skeletal system, including bones and joints. Healthy fats will also benefit your little pup to protect his skin and keep his coat healthy while also providing a great source of energy. Although some brands with higher-quality ingredients may cost a pretty penny, it is a worthwhile investment into the overall health of your pup. Feeding low quality foods will hinder his optimal development and you will be reaping the consequences of early decisions later with veterinarian bills. Love and nurture your puppy early on and you will enjoy watching him thrive as an adult later! At this stage, your hunting dog should weigh somewhere between 17 lbs. and 24 lbs. and should be fed three to four times a day. Give him about a 15-minute window to chow down based on the feeding instructions provided by the dog food you have chosen. Be sure to always have water available as well – puppies need plenty of hydration!

Adult Hunting Dog

Your adult hunting dog will require similar nutrition as when he was a puppy but at different ratios. You will want to keep a consistent feeding schedule following his training or hunting sessions while also providing sufficient time for his body to digest the food he has just consumed. A healthy adult hunting dog will not typically suffer from low blood sugar so once a day feeding can be incorporated, even with his active lifestyle. Once your adult dog reaches 50 – 60 lbs. and he leads an extremely active lifestyle or resides outside in colder temperatures, you may want to feed somewhere between seven and eight cups of food; however, always review feeding instructions of your preferred dog food and consult with your veterinarian to ensure your feeding habits are optimized for your hunting companion. These dogs are comparable to human elite athletes and should be fed as such with only the highest quality proteins and a balanced set of nutrients including fruits, vegetables, fats, and vitamins.

Senior Hunting Dog

When your hunting dog eventually reaches his senior stage of life, you will notice he is not quite as active and strong as he used to be. This will affect his nutritional needs as he will not be exerting as much energy as he did in his younger years. This means less fat and less calorie dense foods to prevent needless weight gain that will only trouble his joints and therefore his mobility. Senior years can become uncomfortable as health begins to deteriorate; however, you can provide your beloved canine companion with dignity as he reaches the end of his life by continuing to ensure his diet is high-quality, nutrient dense, and delicious for his enjoyment. You will also want to keep a close eye on his reactions to food to make sure what he is consuming is easy to digest and doesn’t cause any internal bloating or outward allergic reactions. As dogs age and their habits change, their bodies may develop food sensitivities so be sure to remain watchful and careful with your elderly pup as he’ll need your assistance more than ever during his final years of life. Read food labels thoroughly and make sure your hunting dog maintains a steady weight to avoid obesity. Regular visits to the veterinarian will help assure you that you are on the right track with weight and nutrition so make time to keep a professional apprised of your dog’s overall health. With your loving care and attention, you can help to show your appreciation for your hunting dog after he has dedicated his life to being your faithful companion and fulfilling your needs.

FAQ

  • Should a Hunting Dog eat dry or canned food? Canned wet food has some benefits in that it provides water content with each meal. This could be especially helpful if you have a dog that does not like drinking out of his water bowl. However, wet food is generally significantly more expensive and may just break your budget if you use it as a sole source of food for your pup. Wet food can also come in handy if your pup has developed any kind of jaw or teeth issues which may make chewing hard kibbles difficult, lessening the amount of nutrition he is getting. Although wet food satisfies both the palate and sense of smell of your dog, there are also plenty of benefits of dry dog food. For one, it can be really convenient for you as a pet parent to measure out feeding portions and leave out before heading off to work without having to worry that it will spoil. Dry dog food will also generally be more cost-effective and can be packed with nutrition, so your pup doesn’t go without meeting his dietary needs. The kibble also has an added benefit of tartar removal as your dog chews through kibbles. Many pet parents opt to keep dry dog food as the main source of food while using wet canned food as a topper or as a treat to reward positive behavior or for other special occasions. Either way you go, the benefits remain.
  • Should my Hunting Dog eat a grain free diet? Yes. Grains are usually used as just a filler in dog food that does nothing for your pup’s nutrition but has the potential of creating an upset stomach, bloating, and even allergic reactions. Since dogs didn’t evolve consuming grains, their bodies didn’t develop a strong tolerance for them. There are some exceptions as each dog is different but if you would like to avoid the test-and-see aspect of feeding your pup a new food, the suggestion would be to skip grains altogether. They don’t need them, they won’t miss them, and you won’t have to deal with the stress of an upset, sick pup.
  • How many calories should I feed my Hunting Dog? Calorie consumption will vary depending on a hunting dog’s activity level. For example, a sedentary senior dog will require many less calories than an active dog in the prime of his life who is out hunting every day – if he is just lounging around the house, you’ll want to feed him approximately 1,450 calories. In the case of an adult dog who vigorously exercises via hunting daily, you will want him to consume about 2,200+ calories a day. However, if your adult dog is only engaging in moderate activity, 1,800 calories per day will be an appropriate amount for consumption.
  • Should you feed a dog before hunting? No. A hunting dog should be fed once per day, after the hunt is over. This is assuming a healthy adult dog without any health issues that require extra care. Feeding after hunting allows your hunting dog’s body to fully process the foods that have been consumed and will also allow the needed time to expel waste without the task of running around and hunting getting in the way of his body’s natural processes.

Conclusion

The American Kennel Club refers to labs as “friendly, active, and outgoing.” These dogs definitely fill the active role, same as beagles, who have the energy to hunt along with you day in and day out. Their diets must consist primarily of high fat, moderate protein, and limited digestible carbohydrates. These pups, even with their high activity levels, may not hydrate properly so be sure to lure them toward water with a little bone broth or some wet canned food that contains high water content. Whether you are picking up a puppy hunting dog or rescuing an adult hunting companion, you are now well-informed about the nutritional and dietary needs of these types of dogs and can best care for them to ensure their lives are fulfilled with sufficient activity, high-quality foods, and their lifetime, loyal companion: you!

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