With the waterfowling season underway, as a duck hunter, you want your hunting partner to have the proper energy needed to sustain long swims and retrieves. It's imperative not to feed your retriever too soon before going to the duck blind; otherwise, you could hinder his or her performance. Thus, it is best to feed retrievers once a day during training and when duck hunting.

Hunting retrievers should be fed a minimum of 10 to 12 hours before exercise, such as the night before a duck hunt. When a dog is fed six hours or sooner before exercise, the body's fat-burning metabolism is not optimized, which contributes to reduced endurance and energy generation. If it is a multiple-day hunt, retrievers should be fed as soon as possible after exercise, allowing adequate time for cooling down, so they have the maximum time to digest the meal before the next day's hunt. If your retriever has lost weight from a multiple-day hunt, the portion fed of a quality performance dog food should be increased.

Purina Senior Research Scientist Arleigh Reynolds, DVM, PhD, DACVN, says, "When dogs run within a couple of hours of the time they are fed, we cause several mechanical and metabolic problems that could impair performance."

Eating creates an insulin spike that inhibits a dog's ability to use fat, the most important energy fuel. Hard-charging retrievers should not be fed before going out to the duck blind, as complete digestion takes from 20 to 24 hours and doing so could result in the retention of fecal matter in the colon that could compromise performance by adding extra weight. Exercise alters the gastrointestinal transit time and can change nutrient digestion and absorption resulting in a decrease of blood flow, and therefore oxygen, to the gut.

"The mechanical load induced by carrying food in the intestines during work may cause problems during performance," says Reynolds. "Dogs should have time to empty their bowels before work. This helps make them more comfortable."

In addition to feeding one meal per day, it's important to choose a complete and balanced dog food. A high-protein, high-fat performance food, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula, will provide your hardworking retriever with the correct nutrients needed for optimal strength, speed and endurance in the marshes.

"Ideally, sporting dogs should be fed a performance food that provides from 28 to 30 percent protein and from 18 to 20 percent fat to sustain their high-energy demand," advises Purina Research Nutritionist Brian Zanghi, PhD.

The foundation of optimal performance, good nutrition should be part of your retriever training. Dogs fueled with the right nutrients have what it takes to give big results when it matters most - from the duck blind.

Do you feed Purina Pro Plan SPORT dog food? Take a moment to tell us about your experience feeding the brand that delivers Nutrition That Performs. How has Purina Pro Plan helped your retriever's performance in the duck blind?