We currently have 9 dogs that we train and compete with in herding competitions. We train on a daily basis, locally as well as nationally. (www.fourmileaussies.com is our kennel website.)
I can tell you for sure that a hungry dog isn’t at his best. Hungry dogs are quicker to get in a fight, but they may not necessarily win. When we compete with our dogs, not only do we need physical strength but also we need mental sharpness. (The dog has to obey some pretty complex commands when taking the livestock through the course.) A dog that is hungry (or hasn’t eaten the morning of a competition) tends to get tired when things get tough (i.e., he won’t work as hard to turn back a running cow.)
They also get mentally sloppy as the day wears on. They will forget what ‘right’ and ‘left’ means sometimes. Or they will get sloppy and allow one sheep to split from the group and they won’t bother putting it back. All this sloppiness results in losing points during your run.
Since our dogs can’t talk to us, we have to observe their behavior and adjust their nutrition based on the results we see. I can tell you for sure, that a dog that has had several small meals (or snacks) throughout the day lasts longer, tries harder and is mentally sharper than a dog that skipped breakfast and has only had water to drink. I think dogs are pretty much like humans.
I’m thinking any coach that gave that advice never trained dogs!