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Around the country, dogs and their humans are gearing up for the event of the year: the AKC National Championship. This means rigorous training as dogs nail those jumps, weave poles, and tire jumps—all while following a diet carefully designed for peak performance. We spoke to Dr. Catherine Lenox (DVM, DACVN), Regulatory Veterinary Manager at Royal Canin, about how pet owners can help their pets reach top-performing condition.

All Dogs Are Different

Look at a Chihuahua and a Great Dane, and it can be hard to believe that they’re the same species. It only makes sense that such different animals have very different nutritional needs.

Royal Canin’s mission is to make sure that each dog is eating the right food for them. “All of our formulas are very tailored,” Dr. Lenox told me, “and they’re all nutrient-first—we’re focusing on the nutrient profile of the food for each dog.” So, for instance, Royal Canin’s breed-specific line is tailored to meet the health tendencies of different breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever‘s tendency to gain weight or the German Shepherd‘s digestive issues, with kibble shaped to suit each breed’s muzzle shape and lips, too.

And beyond its breed-specific lines, Royal Canin offers food for a variety of health concerns, ages, and activities, as well as for five size groupings. So which food will keep your show dog in best form?

Border Collie on the seesaw in agility.

The Best Food for Agility Trials

Agility dogs need energy, and lots of it. Both Royal Canin and sister brand Eukanuba offer specially formulated diets for sporting dogs, which contain high levels of protein as well as fat. Fat is an essential dietary component for high-energy dogs, Dr. Lenox told me, because it’s the most energy-dense nutrient.

For dogs competing in Agility at high levels, Dr. Lenox recommends Royal Canin’s Sporting Life Trail, which has 26 percent protein and 19 percent fat and is typically recommended for longer periods of activity.

Eukanuba also offers energy-packed diets for sporting dogs. Dr. Lenox especially recommends Premium Performance, with 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, and Active Performance, with 28 percent protein and 18 percent fat.

These diets are ideal for dogs who are training multiple times a week. The more casual Agility competitor, practicing maybe once a week, might not need such high caloric intake. In these cases, Dr. Lenox would recommend a breed-specific or size-specific diet.

The Best Food for Obedience and Rally

For dogs who need to be mentally alert and ready for collaborative teamwork, Dr. Lenox recommends starting diet optimization young, with a puppy food that includes the fatty acid DHA. This nutrient found in the milk of nursing dogs promotes healthy brain growth—so much so that a study conducted by Eukanuba showed that puppies fed a DHA-rich diet consistently outperformed other puppies in a maze test.

All Eukanuba and Royal Canin puppy foods contain DHA, and Royal Canin offers puppy foods tailored to specific breeds as well as various sizes of dogs.

Once they reach adulthood and competing age, Dr. Lenox recommends continuing to feed dogs who need to be alert a diet rich in DHA as well as EPA, another fatty acid that can help support cognition. All Royal Canin and Eukanuba adult foods supply these nutrients through fish oils, except in specific therapeutic foods for dogs who don’t tolerate fish oil well.

Reserve Best in Show, Working Group First, and Best of Breed: GCHS CH Sammantic Querida (Querida), Samoyed; 2018 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.

The Best Food for Conformation

What about when your Poodle needs the perfect spring to his curls, or you want your Miniature Schnauzer‘s color to pop? Did you know that amino acids can enhance dogs’ skin and coat quality, even down to influencing pigment production? For those model dogs in Conformation, who’ll be judged on their proximity to the breed standard, Dr. Lenox recommends Royal Canin’s breed-specific ranges, which are minutely calibrated to bring out each breed’s best features while also responding to their specific health needs. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids will keep your Yorkshire Terrier‘s coat lustrous, for instance, while an exclusive blend of vitamins and fatty acids will protect your Shih Tzu‘s sensitive skin.

For any dogs for which there isn’t a breed-specific food, Dr. Lenox recommends a size-specific diet. Royal Canin offers foods in five sizes: X-small, small, medium, large, and giant. Since size is often a good indicator of a dog’s specific needs—for instance, larger dogs often have more gastrointestinal issues, while smaller dogs need a higher calorie concentration per pound—Royal Canin’s highly tailored size range ensures your dog is getting the nutrition she needs.

And whatever happens at the trial, every well-nourished dog is a winner.

The 2019 AKC National Championships presented by Royal Canin will take place Saturday and Sunday, December 14 and 15, 2019, in Orlando, Florida. Tune in to AKC.TV, or download the AKC.TV app on Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV to catch the live stream.

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