When fed a breed-appropriate diet, working dog breeds often become relatively large. Of course, you'll also want to account for those who are more energetic (or less energetic) in addition to breed, weight, and size when considering their portion size.
Working dogs, on average, require 1.5 to 2.5 times the amount of food that a less active dog requires. Working dogs who are exposed to extremes of heat or cold will require even more food to remain healthy and maintain energy levels.
Working dogs also require more water than less active dogs. Because dogs can't sweat, the majority of their water loss occurs from the surface of their tongue or the pads of their paws, and they can lose up to 20 times more water than normal during vigorous exercise.
Active dog food
If you're going to feed your dog a dry kibble diet, look for a high-quality recipe with a protein content of around 24% and a fat content of approximately 14%. All dogs, regardless of type, must have a high-quality protein from an actual meat source (preferably not meat meal or bone meal).
Feeding a meat-based diet with a commercial kibble may come close to the ideal proportions of the primary components, which are high protein, high fat, and low carbohydrate. However, these diets are likely to be deficient in a number of minerals, including calcium, copper, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
When considering kibble, you should also keep in mind that artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or other ingredients in dog diets are unnecessary. These substances offer no additional benefit and, in certain situations, may be harmful to your pet's health.
Another alternative is grain-free kibble, which is high in calories and protein. We say this with caution because some dog breeds appear to have trouble accepting grain-free kibble, resulting in soft, watery feces.
Grain-free dog food is defined as food that is free of wheat, corn, rice, and other grains. Despite the benefits for certain dogs, feeding grain-free dog food has drawbacks. Many people believe that grain-free foods are low in carbs, however this is not always the case.
In fact, some grain-free dog diets contain more alternative carbohydrate sources such as potatoes and peas. It's possible that this will lead to unintentional weight gain. That's why it's critical to collaborate with your family veterinarian, holistic veterinarian, or canine nutritionist to ensure your unique dog is consuming the ingredients he needs for optimal health.
Is raw the best dog food for active dogs?
Raw dog food is significantly better nutrition-wise, and more biologically appropriate, for most breeds. Keep in mind, this diet does come with a bit of controversy. Feel free to do your own research if this is a diet you’re looking into. And, don’t be discouraged if you hear negativity. Kibble is a societal norm whereas feeding raw (biologically appropriate, prey model, ancestral diet) has not yet been fully accepted.
Feeding working dogs a diet rich in natural, whole foods like beef, chicken, lamb, peas, spinach, carrots, and berries can improve their general health and well-being by supporting heart health, increasing energy, making coats shinier and breath smell better, boosting eyesight, and even affecting their stool (healthy bowel movements).
If your dog is new to raw food, start with little amounts at first. The entire shift can usually be completed in a week; but, as with any dietary change, the key is to do it carefully. Puppies' digestive systems are often better than those of adult dogs, so transitioning takes only a few days. The longer you take to transition your dog to the new raw diet, the better.
To begin, you should have your dog fast for a half- to full-day prior to the first meal to ensure a good appetite, and then feed a small amount to watch how he or she reacts to the new raw food. If everything is going well, gradually replace a portion of the original diet with the new raw diet.
Keep an eye on your dog. If your dog's stools are loose, wait until they are firm before continuing the changeover.
Bloat is a serious problem for many working dog breeds (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus). When a dog has bloat, pressure increases as the stomach fills with air, preventing blood from returning to the heart from the hind legs and abdomen. Blood pools in the dog's back end, limiting working blood volume and putting him in shock.
The spleen and pancreas are dragged along with the stomach when it twists as well, shutting off blood flow. The pancreas produces some extremely harmful hormones when it is deprived of oxygen. One of them, in particular, is designed to stop the heart from beating. In reality, a dog's heart can cease beating after a successful treatment and the canine appears to be out of danger.
Even in the most mild cases of bloat, which are relatively rare, dogs die if they are left untreated. But, enough about treatment, we want to talk about prevention altogether.
Although no scientific evidence has been found to link what we feed our dogs to bloat, it is widely accepted that grains and cereal-based meals may contribute to the illness.
Cheap commercial kibble, which is high in carbs and made from grains like corn, wheat, oats, and rice, can generate excess gas in a dog's stomach, causing bloat.
Grain-free kibble recipes, which employ alternative plant-based protein and carbohydrate sources like sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils, may be a safer solution if you can find one that your dog likes.
Transition slowly when switching diet
If you already have a working dog and are looking into switching to a different diet, it’s important to transition to the new diet slowly. This gives your dog’s body a chance to become familiar with the new ingredients (and often detoxing from the old).
It's a good idea to start small and gradually introduce the new food over a period of 2-4 weeks. When it comes to adjusting your dog's food consumption, the same idea applies. Just because your dog gets enough exercise doesn't imply their stomach is ready to eat twice as much food as it regularly does—increasing their food intake overnight could cause digestive problems.
Reduce the amount of food you give your dog by 20% (or less) each day until you've achieved a level that allows them to maintain a healthy weight and energy level, or until the transition has been completed.
Active dog supplements
Many large breed energetic dogs (often the most active dogs) will benefit from a supplemented diet, which will provide further assurance about their overall health and well-being. Look for supplements that contain natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for dog joint health.
Omega-3 fatty acids aid in the control of inflammation, the reduction of arthritis pain, the improvement of mood and trainability, and the health of the heart and kidneys. Omega 3 fatty acids help dogs keep a healthy skin and coat while also assisting them in fighting illnesses.
The bottom line: What to feed a working dog
Feeding a high-quality diet to working dogs is critical to their health and performance. Look at the labels. Not all premium dog food brands genuinely provide premium nutrients for your dog. Before you buy dog food for active working dogs, read the label to be sure you're getting food that's prepared with high-quality ingredients and contains the nutrients your dog needs.
Beef, deer, boar, chicken, turkey, and fish should all be listed as the first ingredient in dog food. You may also consider raw dog food to ensure your dog is receiving the best nutrition possible (and it allows you to be in full control).
Regardless of which option you choose, ensuring your dog is receiving top-notch nutrition is critical for a long, happy, and healthy life. If you are unsure of which option to choose, seek the assistance of a veterinarian or canine nutritionist.