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Can a Hunting Dog Diet Improve Scenting Abilities?

Can a Hunting Dog Diet Improve Scenting Abilities?

An English Setter rests on a hunt to cool down.

The science is in: a hunting dog diet can improve dog scenting ability

Cornell University once again, along with Auburn University, leads the charge in science related to our hunting world. Known for their important studies of wildlife that greatly impact conservation, Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine has used funding by the Department of Justice to learn how a dog’s diet can improve their “sniffer.” In our world, that means a hunting dog diet could increase their scenting ability on game birds.

It’s important to mention that this is not the first or last study of its kind. It does, however, confirm more definitively that a gun dog’s diet that has more fat and less protein will increase their ability to smell. The study’s greatest achievement was in overcoming previous study flaws. They accomplished this with the help of Auburn University Canine Detection Training Center, which employs revolutionary advancements in scent training.

The detection center “flushes out fumes between tests” which has proven to give more accurate training for the dogs and a decrease in scientific research flaws. The study showed that dogs with the right diet had a greater than 90% detection rate.

Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, PhD used a regular adult dog food combined with corn oil: “Wakshlag designed the high-performance and corn-oil diets to have the same amount of energy from fat (57 percent). But the corn oil diet had less protein: 18 percent compared with 27 percent in the regular and high-performance diets.” According to Wakshlag, corn oil has a polyunsaturated fat which is now believed to have a direct correlation between a dog’s increased olfaction. The study showed some other important facts related to this diet.

A dog’s ability to reduce body temperature faster increased its ability to scent. Essentially if a dog is panting, their ability to smell is decreased. Digesting protein increases a dog’s body temperature, thereby increasing their panting. This is one of the critical reason to keep a hunting dog conditioned.

It is important to point out Wakshlag’s advice related to this study: “A sled dog or greyhound may need more protein to keep going. But detection dogs tend to exercise in shorter bursts and need to recover quickly and smell well.” I do not know about you but my hunting dog is full throttle in the uplands, so although this gun dog diet may make him smell better the question now becomes that of endurance.

That brings up the question we must truly ask, “What is the best nutrition for hunting dogs“.


Cornell Chronicle. 2017. Cornell University. Available at More fat, less protein improves detection dogs’ sniffers

View Comments (2)
  • So is there any kind of dog food that contains these ingredients? Or is this something one would need to make?

    • Great question Luke. It’s been 4 years I’d have hoped the author would’ve followed up on your question by now.

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