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The Hardcore Hunting Dog Diet

Written by Eukanuba Staff

Think of sporting dogs as Olympic athletes. One athlete might be a marathon runner than needs to gut it out for over two hours, while a sprinter packs all their energy and effort into a few seconds. There is no question they are both world-class athletes, but their nutritional needs are undeniably different. The same applies to our dogs.

Yellow Lab running through corn field

Every sporting dog owner thinks their dog is a step above the rest. Words like elite, die-hard, and hardcore get thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean to be in the upper echelon of canine athletes? There is a reason professional athletes count calories, analyze nutrients, and nourish their bodies with high quality food—their diet supports an elevated level of performance not otherwise attainable. The same applies to our dogs. Looking at some of the top trainers and handlers in the country, it’s easy to see why leading hunting dogs have distinct nutritional needs. Here’s why Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20 SPORT formula is suited for hardcore hunting dogs of all breeds.

In it for the Long Haul: Stephen Faust of Stoneybrook Outfitters

Starting in Minnesota and eventually ending in his home state of North Carolina, Stephen Faust and his fleet of Gordon setters are the definition of hardcore. Running covers every day, week after week, Faust knows that hardcore canine athletes need premium nutrition.

“From early season’s heat and thick green cover to the mid-October snow and early onset winter, we went every day this season,” says Faust speaking about his time guiding in Minnesota. “My dogs had almost 2,000 flushes in 48 days of hunting. That makes pups into bird dogs.”

A nearly 40-year obsession with wild birds and the quest for a once-in-a-lifetime bird dog has led Faust to establish a breeding program that produces world-class Gordon setters trained and finished exclusively on wild birds. After nearly 50 days straight in the grouse woods, Faust’s dogs see more birds in a single season than some will in a lifetime. Thankfully, Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20 SPORT is specifically formulated for the duration and intensity of hard-working gundogs like Faust’s line of setters.

“Eukanuba’s 30/20 SPORT formula is performance based,” says Dr. Joe Spoo, a Team Eukanuba veterinarian. “The amino acid composition and the blend of [nutrients] is well suited for hard-working dogs because of its higher fat content. Fat is a better source of energy for the type of sustained activity commonly needed with bird dogs.”

Eukanuba Premium Performance formulas also contain varying blends of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E, lutein, and taurine to help combat oxidative stress and the buildup of free radicals caused by daily work. For hard-working grouse dogs like Faust’s Gordon setters, the antioxidant cocktails included in their diets support post-exercise recovery, helping them to perform at their full potential throughout the season.

Jeremy Criscoe’s Legendary British Labradors

For nearly 20 years, Jeremy Criscoe has been professionally breeding and training Labrador Retrievers for some of the top gundog programs in the country. Criscoe brings the intensity and commitment he learned as a US Navy rescue swimmer to his dog training and his highly regarded dogs are the result of that process. Most notable is Gus, a dog Field & Stream Magazine included in their list of “11 Legendary Hunting Dogs” alongside other all-time performers such as King Buck and Snakefoot.

“Nutrition is important for a high-performing dog,” says Criscoe. “Eukanuba’s 30/20 SPORT formula is what we feed our dogs and they excel because of it. The breakdown of fat, protein, and carbohydrates is ideal for the work our dogs do. We pride ourselves on having the best genetics so that means feeding a top-quality diet. I really think nutrition is just as important as genetics, environment, and training.”

Trainers like Criscoe know how crucially important nutrition is because they have seen its effects first hand. For example, Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20 SPORT formula is scientifically formulated to help nourish the whole dog. Cognitive health isn’t something many hunters talk about, but for labs like Gus that perform multiple blind retrieves, it’s important. The fatty acids included in the 30/20 SPORT formula support healthy brain function.

Different Nutrition for Different Athletes

Many hunters aspire to hunt and train as much as dedicated dogmen like Faust and Criscoe, but other facets of life often come first. However, that doesn’t mean passionate hunters limited on time can’t enjoy the same nutritional benefits of a complete dog food like Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20 SPORT.

“30/20 is what a lot of people have always hung their hat on as the performance formula,” says Dr. Spoo. “But with [Eukanuba’s] new lineup of formulas that vary depending on a dog’s duration of performance, there is a formula for every dog that has the same benefits in terms of joint health, digestion, post-exercise recovery, and the other benefits the 30/20 formula has.”

Think of sporting dogs as Olympic athletes. One athlete might be a marathon runner than needs to gut it out for over two hours, while a sprinter packs all their energy and effort into a few seconds. There is no question they are both world-class athletes, but their nutritional needs are undeniably different. That’s why Eukanuba’s Premium Performance line has a variety of formulas catered to everything from sled dogs to flushing Boykin spaniels.

“Everyone wants to think their dog needs a more intense formula, but we need to be honest with ourselves,” suggests Dr. Spoo. “We can have dogs that mostly hunt on the weekend, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t good hunting dogs, but [they] just don’t need the same nutrition as a dog getting hunted the majority of the week.”

With Eukanuba’s new line of Premium Performance diets, your sporting dog can get the same benefits of a hardcore hunting dog diet—antioxidants to support post-exercise recovery, fatty acids to help promote healthy brain function, glucosamine and chondroitin to support joints, and protein to aid muscle recovery—with a blend of nutrients suited to their individual needs.


Explore the Eukanuba™ range of performance diets formulated to fuel different activity levels, support post-exercise recovery and optimize nutrient delivery.