Diet and exercise go hand in hand. Without the right diet, your dog won’t perform as well as he could. When you are training your dog for endurance, it’s important to keep an eye on what he is eating. This doesn’t just mean ensuring he consumes the right foods, but also making sure that he eats at the appropriate time.
If your dog is in good health prior to racing, there shouldn’t be any need to change his diet too much. Just keep an eye on his body condition and if he’s burning up too many calories and is looking a bit lean, you may need to switch him to an “active dog” formula.
It’s easiest to feed your canine athlete a nutritionally balanced commercial diet, so you know he’s getting the right nutrients in the right balance. This is particularly true when his energy needs increase with exercise. Don’t just feed him more food, this will certainly give him more calories but it will also give him more of everything else which he may not need. An “active dog” recipe will have extra fat content for energy but still contain the right balance of other nutrients.
If you want to create a home-made diet, consult your veterinary nutritionist beforehand to make sure it’s going to support his exercise levels. It’s not easy to formulate a balanced home cooked meal plan, especially when your dog needs to not only maintain his body during exercise but to help it recover afterwards.
The meal you feed your dog before the endurance activity begins should be small. This should in turn be followed by a larger meal around 2 hours after exercising. Studies have shown that feeding time doesn’t have any impact on the risk of bloat but I feel that exercising on a full tummy isn’t comfortable for dogs or for us.
Throughout the endurance session and during intense training efforts, you can offer some small amounts of carbohydrate. Dogs don’t metabolise glucose for energy except for extremely short events such as a round of agility so technically they don’t need this. However I’ve found with my own dogs during a half marathon that a glucose hit half way through gives them a bit of a boost.
Adequate hydration is also very important. When you are running, make sure you carry water with you or choose a route with frequent taps. Stop at regular intervals to ensure your dog is hydrated. If he isn’t interested in drinking, add a little energy drink to his water. The flavour appeals a bit more than plain water and most dogs will then have a drink.
It’s important to keep an eye your dog’s energy requirements. If he needs more energy, change to a higher calorie formula and feed more frequent meals. Making sure he gets the right nutrients in the right quantities is a crucial element in getting the most from him and allowing him to recover well between sessions.