Friday, September 26, 2014

Dog Food, the Dilemma! Updated 9/26/2014 Update #3

I think it is important to say this:  I am not advertising for RC.  I'm not endorsed or compensated in any way.  In fact, I only know who the regional rep is because I got a blanket email from her saying thanks for using RC. I am a member of the Breeder's Club, which enables me to get the product at a slightly reduced price delivered to my door.  I was a member of a similar "club" at Purina, as well. 

Original Post:

Here's the rub.  I know of a great dog food that does everything I want it to do.  It's high energy, low stool volume, super for the coat and the dogs attack the dry kibble.  The problem is the price.  I pay $46/37.5# bag.  I can drive 50 miles and pay $36, but if I'm going to feed this product, I will buy it at my local feed store.  I've tried Loyal Performance, by Nutrena.  The price is better, the dogs love it and the energy level is high, but their coats are dull. I tried Black Gold.  Price is good and the dogs like it, but the stool volume is large and the quantity to feed is much more than the premium feed.

So, I went to the Internet and Googled "the best dog food", that was a lesson!  Every brand had a DVM testifying to the greatness of the product.  Every page had do's and don't's in feeding dogs.  Every site said to beware of all the other guys! Chicken meal ain't real chicken, only diseased animal innards are sent to dog food, dogs need meat and offal and... fresh is best!

C'mon my friends, in all the vet schools we have in this country, someone  has researched the best way to feed hunting dogs. What is the answer?  I guess the fact that it is a multi-Billion dollar industry doesn't help the flow of usable information......

What do you feed?  Are you happy with it?  Would you recommend it?

Update 12/29/2012

After much research and trials and first hand investigation, after being satisfied with one brand and then seriously disappointed with yet another recall on that brand, I've settled on a brand I think incorporates all the features I think are important.  Royal Canin.  For my dogs, Brittanies, I feed Royal Canin Medium. I've had them on this feed for the last two hunting trips and all the field trials this year.  I put them on the high powered feed RC Endurance (I think) for one hunting trip, but for the cost and hassle of getting it, I went back to the Medium, which I can get a the local PetSafe Store.  None of the stuff is cheap, but with my four main dogs, I think it is OK.  The result is healthy dogs with healthy, shiny coats, less tartar on the teeth, small stools.  And, I'm only feeding them between 2 and 3 cups, depending on size....per day!

Update 2/17/2013

Now, having put a full year of travel, hunting, trialing and training on my dogs while feeding Royal Canin Medium, I can say with affirmation this is an excellent kibble.  I did notice the coat sheen, the endurance and the small stools.  For my dogs, I feed between 2 and 3 cups per day- a little more on trips. I travelled nearly 15,000 miles on hunting trips and perhaps half that for field trials.  Through it all, they loved the kibble and it kept them going- with no additive. I say all that to say this: Royal Canin may not be the best fit for you, but don't settle for the cheapest stuff.  Do the homework and find them a good quality feed that will keep them energized and add years to their life!

Update 9/26/2014

It's been two years with my dogs solely on the RC Medium Adult.  The results are the same- great energy level (for competition and hunting), coats are glossy, endurance is excellent.  I have changed my formula somewhat, in that on hunting trips where the dogs are running hard 2-3 hours per day in heat, snow, rain and over rough and vertical terrain, I will feed them the Puppy Blend for medium dogs.  "Medium" doesn't mean anything other than the size of the grown dog.  The Puppy formula is 30/20 blend, which I think has more energy available.  Interestingly, I think the RC vets would challenge me and say the RC medium has everything they need and the Puppy kibble may not have the best balance of minerals and vitamins, etc. (I went to a meeting with the RC development team and vets, and that was the message.  The feed is specific and complete.)  However, I wanted the extra energy and I didn't want to use any additives and my dogs are only on the puppy kibble for the duration of the hunting trip- usually 2-3 weeks- and then they are back on the Adult.  I don't feed any additives.  I don't water the feed.  I wait 20 minutes after feeding and then give them all the fresh, clean water they want.  (Apparently, that is the best method for the dogs to obtain all nutrients.  Actually, research has shown that if the dog is fed within 30 of completion of exercise, he will get 90% of the nutrients in the feed.  The numbers may be off some, but you get the drift. That is not practical for me as I feed at the end of the day- 5 dogs at once, but it is the best way.)

I've also learned this.  There are MANY good dog foods out there.  This one works for me.  If anyone tells you there is only one way to feed your dog, be skeptical.  A very good, not too expensive, feed is Purina.  They also are one of the only companies with their own research and development department.  They can afford it.  A lot of the research in to athletic dogs and their nutrition comes from Purina.  I have 8 dogs- 5 are athletes.  I can afford to feed whatever I want, so I'm willing to pay more.  Many, not all, times you get what you pay for.  I'm watching the price of feed skyrocket.  I'm convinced a lot of that price increase is due to increased demand due to increased awareness by the consumer. In other words, if it's trendy and a "hot" item, the cost per pound will increase. Notice I said "cost per pound". Purina and RC started inching the price up AND decreasing the size of their bags.  Originally, with Purina, at least, they were using a 50# bag.  It's down to 37.5# now. RC is down to a 30# bag (35# for the Breeder's Club).  Like I said though, if you find a good feed that does what you want and your dogs THRIVE on it, go ahead and get it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Do You Journal? Or: Have we hunted here before?

I started keeping a journal pretty soon after my first bird hunt. I fell into it easily since I was keeping a running journal everyday, so I was used to the routine. My wife bought me this fancy one a few years ago, but I've used notebooks, pads, pen and paper, pencil...anything I can write on.
The thing I really like is the way I can open to any page, any book, read a few lines and suddenly, I'm there again. The smells, weather, dogs, hunting partners. The good stuff, the mundane stuff and even a little bad stuff- all of it daily and duly recorded for posterity. 

At a minimum, I like to know where I was, what dogs, who I was with, how the dogs did, the weather. Now, due to technology advances, I like to put down the distance the dogs ran, the number of birds they point/flush/retrieve. I will put down the motel and phone number, any names I can remember of people I met and phones numbers. Also, any comments I had during the hunt with a particular dog. Remember, a diary should contain all the information you need to relive the days- good and other. I've found, that over time, I pretty much remember the good and forget the other stuff! 

By looking at these few pages, I'll be able to remember when I ran my puppies for their first, long cast in the grouse woods!  

Get ready for some fireside reading now, while you are still logging entries. The day will come when you will be unable to follow a bird dog up the coulees, across the prairie, through the grouse woods. Consider it like a retirement account. Invest now and reap the benefits later!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Scenes from the hunt. Montana Sharptails and Hungarian Partridge.

Me and Pearl

Ace retrieving a Hun

Ace with a Sharptail

Shack cooling off

Cool rock

Cap and Ruby (lying down)

Big sky country. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Secret Recipe for Sharptail Fritters

Always start with a sterile work place.  The tailgate will work just fine. 

Thin slice the breast meat and add jalapeño pepper jack cheese. 

A slice of hot jalapeño pepper. The heat will disapate during cooking. 

Wrap with bacon. Yep, this ain't for pasty-faced vegetarians. 

Hold it all together with some responsibly grown toothpicks. 

Cook over coals next to a stream in Montana. 

Go get more Sharptail Grouse for tomorrow's lunch in the field. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The reason for the season. Or: Playing or Hunting, it's your choice.

Years of planning and thought go into breeding for bird dogs.  My small program has, so far, produced two puppies for me. One, Pearl (below), is a product of that work. Smallish, at 31# of solid muscle, she's a thinker, and, at times, exeedingly bold.  This is her first bird hunt and first exposure to anything but pen-raised quail. The first cast out of the truck, I teamed her with her mother, Ruby, a fast, big running girl, who's very solid and forgiving of mistakes in her bracemates.  Pearl ran with Ruby for the first 30 minutes, at times out of sight, gaining some sense of how to hunt, where to look, what obstacles there were, etc.   After a bit, she came back to me and started quartering 40-80 yards in front with an occasional cast to check out interesting stuff, just like we practiced at home.  

About an hour into the cast, she whipped her head up turned left and started moving slowly deeper into the alfalfa. Finally, she locked up, tail high, head high.  "Whoa!" I said quietly.  She took a few steps and locked again. She was about 50 yards away and I was moving quickly through the alfalfa to get to her, keeping an eye on her, one for the birds, and a third eye on where I was stepping (!). "Whoa, girl!" I chided. Another step.....4 Sharptail Grouse jumped up 20 yards in front of her.  She froze, then stepped again, and another 5 Sharpies took to the air!  She broke and off she went. "I'll get one for you, daddy!" She yelled over her shoulder. I didn't shoot. 

A few minutes later, a very fired-up Brittany puppy rolled up to me with lots of wonder in her eyes and a sense of purpose in her heart.  It was 38 degrees, overcast and 10-20 mph wind from the north. It was a perfect day. 


We worked out of the alfalfa and in to the CRP grass, headed back to the truck. The boy in me wanted find those Sharpies and have another go at them. The tired legs said time for a break. It was another type of cover for Pearl, and she watched Ruby for a while before tackling it on her own. We moved along slowly, just enjoying the day. Suddenly, Pearl swapped ends and locked up, again!  This time, Ruby was 10 yards behind her and back her point, as well.  Thinking she might creep in again, I told her Whoa, but she didn't move a muscle.  I came in from the front right at her (the best set up) and had the bird trapped and Pearl could see me the whole time. About 20 feet in front of Pearl, a single Sharp got up and I dropped it. Pearl was on it when it hit, and Ruby was right there, too!  Jealousy took over and momma let Pearl take the bird. She picked it up and ran to me and put it in my hand!  Right there, in a CRP field on the Montana prairie, we had us a little "love-in", as I grabbed her and told her how special she was, and how proud I was of her.  True to form, she took it for about 10 seconds and looked at me and said, "There's more birds out here. Are we going to play or hunt?"

Ace, with Sharptail Grouse

Ace, cooling down after a long cast and The Beast of Birdin'

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The first hunt of the season. Scenes from a good time...

Walking in over a nice point.  Nothing can approximate the anticipation of the flush, to the truly addicted. 

The end result of the years of training and bonding is a harvested game bird. Of course, that is merely the physical outcome. The psychological result and benefits, for the dog and gunner, are incalculable. 

My 9.5 year old main man, Ace, retrieving a Sharptail Grouse to hand. Things only get better with age. 

Shack, 12 months old, (right), is getting a lesson from Pepper over a Sharptail Grouse, on the prairie of Montana. 

This was a cold, wet day and a hunters dream. Lots of birds, easy access and good dogs, young dogs. Today, it will still be cold, but perhaps not so wet. My other dogs issued the ultimatum, "Play Us or Trade Us, Boss!"   I'm starting to hear the rumblings of discontent from the back of the truck. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hey! Are you looking for this? A puppy does the job.

We arrived at our eastern Montana destination so early, we had time to put the dogs out for a quick run. The weather was perfect!  From the 90's earlier in the week, it was now 45 and drizzle.  Scenting conditions were never better and the wind made it even easier for my "first timers". 

This old bridge is one the mental landmarks I use to realize I'm really in hunting country!  

Ruby isn't pointed, she's winding something interesting. It turns out, a large group of Sharptails fed through this area. We went on to get them up a few minutes later. 

This is Shack. This blurry photo (I was so excited, I'm guess I'm lucky I even got a picture at all!) is his first ever retrieve.  Of any wild bird. He was on the ground working with me, by himself, getting his sea legs, when I noticed he suddenly locked up, then moved, looked around, looked at me, locked up again, then dropped his head- as 15 Hungarian Partridge  got up 10 yards in front of him!  I dropped one into the alfalfa and called him back to look for it. He made a pass by, doing 100 mph, and headed back out. I loved to see the excitement, but I wanted to find the bird, as well. After a minute or so, I looked up and noticed him nosing around about 50 yards away, then he jumped in, picked up the wounded bird and retrieved it to me!  Not bad, Shack!  That's a lot of good stuff happening in one cast for a pup!