Working Dog Nutritional Needs – Sustaining Their Health While Working

There is a big competition of commercially available dog foods in the market today. Generally, most sedentary household dogs consume these types of dog foods. But, working dogs nutritional requirements is the number one priority. Working dogs, such as service dogs and even show dogs, generally have higher nutritional needs than those who have just live a sedentary life.

This simply means that all working dogs which require nutritious and healthy dog foods. Dog foods in the market should reach the established quality and nutritional values of working dogs. Here we will discuss at some of these special needs that suite the needs of those working dogs. This will give you information in details and everything you need to know about working dog nutritional requirements.


Typically, working dogs are dog strain with huge body built that undergo special training to do specific tasks. Generally, their particular works are:

  • Law execution
  • Agricultural work and flocking
  • Animal, people or thing searching
  • Flexibility contest
  • Battling

Their huge and firm built are the well-known traits of working dogs. However, these dogs have various body built and body measurement. Thus, these working dog breeds include:

  • Akita
  • Alaskan malamute
  • Boxer
  • Bull mastiff
  • Doberman pinsetter
  • Giant schnauzer
  • Great Dane
  • Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Portuguese water dog
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Siberian husky
  • Swiss mountain dog

The classification of a working dog is more for dogs that are truly working, such as sled dogs. However, there is a defined working group that includes the likes of Boxers, Bull mastiffs and more. Thus, having a working dog group may not indicate that all dog members of the group will work as a working dog.

It only means that your dog doesn’t have to be part of that working group list to have working dog nutrition needs. Moreover,

A dog engaging in a physically active job is known as working dog. Make sure to level up the activity of your doggy to make him a working dog.

It’s important to work with your vet and have thorough checkups if you are considering getting your dog started as a working dog. This way you can make sure what program is right for your dog.


Working dogs are also laborers that usually get a workout every day. They need more calories to operate their peak performance as a result of their active lifestyle. Depending on their activity, working dogs require foods higher as much as 1.5 to 2.5 than the amount taken by the household pet dogs. Moreover, if the dogs are working in extreme temperatures, the amount of food needed increases even more.

Additional fat is a great source of these calories. Also, fat is a long-burning nutritional source to keep your dog moving all day long. A high fat diet can also give numerous benefits even to nonworking dogs and inactive dogs.

An extreme amount of protein is very vital for this type of dog. Being a pet-parent, your main accountability is to keep an eye on them. Also, better to give and cope with the adjustment of the right food for them.


Water is the top nutrient needed by all dogs. Sweating for them is not a norm because it helps them to keep their body temperature. Rather, they refreshes their bodies by elimination water by panting. Also, via their foot pads, water inside them evaporates. Because of this, monitoring dehydration is crucial as it can become a serious issue.

While exercising vigorously, your dog makes an extreme amount of heat. Because of this, the water loss through respiration goes up to 10 to 20 times. Remember, it is important to always provide ready access to water, especially during long periods of exercise. This is more typical with working dogs; otherwise, dehydration may occur. And this may cause unstable blood flow, decreased strength, and reduced work capacity.

In order to avoid dehydration, offer water continuously during exercise. Pet dogs or sedentary household dogs on average need 50 ml/kg per day. This is equivalent to 2-5 pints per day for a 45-100 lb working dog. Thus, working dogs may need 4 or 5 times that amount or 1-3 gallons per day. Better add three level tablespoons of table sugar to a liter of water. This may help water absorption and will increase the recuperation of dogs at rest stops.

Special Needs

Daily energy requirements of dogs depend to dog breed, level of training, exercise type, and weather. Extremely active canines require nutrient-rich and calorie-rich diets. The energy needed for their activity is directly related the most to how long they traveled, rather than their velocity during travelling. Example is an sled dogs which need more energy in running a road with several kilometers. Compared to racing dogs that race for only 500 meters.

Extremely high and low temperatures can also demand for higher extra calorie requirement of a working dog. The working dogs need at least 1.5 to 2.5 of energy compared to those pet dogs. Moreover, this value can get higher through additional 50 percent in case the animal is having an activity in extremely low or high places.

From all the three macro nutrients – fat, carbohydrate, and protein, the fat is the most packed source of energy. Which is essentially good for working dogs. An ideal dog diet for an actively performing dog has crude fat with 50 to 65 percent. However, an average dog only requires about 8-18 percent of this fat.

Usually, they positively correlate the dog’s performance with increased fat intake. Few strains of dogs metabolizes particular fats as compared to others. Better to deeply understand this need and to ask advise from a vet prior to inclusion of fat in a working dog’s diet.


Another crucial thing in a working dog nutritional requirement is the carbohydrates. Greyhound, which is an example of sprinting and racing dog, commonly do not require more total calories as that of a moderately active dog, like golden retrievers. Further, the Greyhound needs energy quickly and in short bursts.

Fat do not suffice this need. That’s why carbohydrates are on its way to cater an energy source in a fastest way. This energy is from glycogen stores in the body. Glycogen is only has a certain amount in the body that is usually stack up inside the muscles.

Greyhounds need a diet that has 25-45 percent carbohydrate. Meanwhile, non-sprinting working dogs need a 10-15 percent carbohydrate-based diet. However, dogs poorly digest some carbohydrates. And in meeting the working dog nutritional requirements, digestibility and absorption are critical to ensure adequate nutrition.

Therefore, it is always important to research the diet ingredients before feeding. Some debate has been done over whether dogs use glycogen as successfully as humans. Moreover, they thought that the most efficient nutrients at providing energy for working dogs are still high carbohydrate and high fat diets.


All dogs, whether working or not, need protein as part of their diet. Highly active dogs use protein’s essential amino acids. These amino acids are valine, histidine, tryptophan, and methionine. Functions of these amino acids focus on muscle condition, tissue repair, and hormone synthesis.

The National Research Council recommends a diet containing an approximate crude protein of 30 to 35 percent to working dogs. These proteins are for endurance exercise to prevent anemia. A moderately active dog only needs about 21 to 26 percent crude protein. However, dogs do not require more than 24 percent energy as protein for sprint exercise.

Ensure that the foods you select contain proteins digested by dogs easily. Most of the proteins found in non-animal based or grain-based dog food are more difficult for a dog to digest. Because of this, these dogs provide more gastrointestinal (GI) fill and result in a less productive working animal.

Salt and other Electrolytes

Part of the nutritional needs of a working dog is enough salt and electrolytes. The salt may improve water absorption in dehydrated animals. However, if a dog becomes dehydrated, this combination showed no benefit of such a solution compare to plain water in working dogs. Moreover, giving sodium bicarbonate before exercise also shown not to be beneficial in dogs.


In choosing a dog food for a sedentary household dog needs some points to take into account. More so, with choosing the dog food for a working dog. There are some key things to keep in mind a s well. The good food for dogs must have the right combinations of carbs, fats, and proteins. Also, with the inclusion of minerals, vitamins, and water.

The best dog foods contain a real animal protein as the first ingredient. The sources of this protein are boar, venison, turkey, whitefish, or another meat, poultry, or fish. Having the right blend of ingredients, expect that a working dog can have a nutritious and enjoyable life. But, it is always the bright choice to consult with your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of food and nutrients you need to feed to a working dog.


The proper mixes of nutrients is a vital component in the nutritional needs of a working dog. However, palatability is even a crucial one. Having food that does not look good, your dog might not want to eat it or not to eat it at all.


Dry foods

This type of dog food is formed by an extruder and is mostly low in fat. It contains less than 25 percent energy as fat. This is because the extruder requires a low fat mixture. These nutritional values are fine for dogs that are household dogs. However, it does not contain enough fat for working dogs undertaking endurance exercise.

The fat sprayed on after extrusion is a more expensive dry diet. It contain more fat as high as 40 percent energy as fat. Generally, their package is in bags that are grease resistant. These should provide the staple diet for a working dog. However, it is enough on its own if the dog is not working. Thus, if the dog is a large breed, it is not necessary to give this diet.

Canned foods

The moisture content of a canned dog food is around 75 percent and is more expensive. And, it usually contains more fat and protein. Compared to that of the dry food, the amount of water is greater in canned food. It is better to give canned food to dogs when they are working, when they normally eat dry food. A food that has an increased protein and fat is good for growing dogs.

Soft-moist and soft-dry

Examples of this type of food are Kibbles and Bits. They are intermediate but mostly low in fat and are not suitable for working dogs. A semi-moist dog food contains greater than 13 percent fat.


Better to learn the nutrient needs of a working dog especially when your dog is exercising or started to work. Keep in mind that a dog having an extreme activity needs higher nutritional requirements. Before starting to feed working dogs, remember that keeping them hydrated is one of the most important aspects of working dog nutritional requirement. Always have an abundance amount of water when your dog is exercising. This way, you can continuously keep hydration.

It is always better to ask your veterinarian about the amount of water your dog needs. Be mindful that every dog has different nutritional needs. Remember, enough water intake and focusing on your dog’s requirement is the most important. Establish a feeding plan with your vet to verify that your dog meets the needed requirements of nutritional value.

In working dogs eating habit, it’s very crucial to search for dog food that offers energy and has high caloric content. Remember these dogs as much as three times the energy of household pet dogs! Meaning, finding food that is high in fat and protein is important. Ensure that you slowly give the food to a working dog, whatever the chosen diet is.

A better thing also is that you should always consult with your veterinarian when it comes to feeding frequency for your working dog. It may be easiest to feed your dog 2 to 3 meals a day.  Sometimes the amount of work a dog does depends on the time of year.

How much to feed

To ensure that you are giving the right amount of nutrition to your dog, first adjust food intake. The reason for this is to maintain optimum body weight and condition. Do not feed too much.

It is important to weigh your dog every two weeks and keep a record. Better to always use the same scale. It is good to do it before a meal but after urinating and defecating at the same time each day and not after exercise.

Also take note of the sudden changes in your dog’s body weight as these are an indication of dehydration. Slow changes will give some indication of whether you are feeding too little or too much. Also keep a record of body condition score.

Take a photo of your dog regularly for comparison so you can see how things change over time. Based on Purina scale, the body condition of a dog must have an score of 5 to get a 9 point in the scale. A working dog needs almost twice as much food as a pet dog. A racing sled dog undergoes an strenuous workout most of the time and need higher than that.

When and how often to feed

The following are a guide on the proper feeding of a working dog:

  • Dogs that are racing that start at 4 up to 6 hours and have a rest for 2 hours to 4 hours is given a high fat and protein snack. Afterwards, the dog will go back to race for an additional 4 up to 6 hours before taking a complete meal.
  • Engaging in exercise have an impact on stomach and intestine. It is advisable, therefore, not to workout for 2 up to 4 hours after a eating a full meal.

Working Dog Nutritional Needs – Sustaining Their Health While Working

by Mr Bigs Mom time to read: 9 min