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5 husky facts

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Life with a Siberian Husky is fun, exhilarating and sometimes very, very frustrating.

This can be a challenging breed and they are certainly not the right dog for everyone. A lot of people are drawn to their stunning looks but Siberians are so much more than a pretty face. They are athletes, magicians, acrobats, opera singers, demolition experts and the cheerful slayers of mice, frogs and birdies.

Fact One: They are born to run

Siberians are hard-wired to run and to pull and to be part of a team (even if you are the only other member). It satisfies what is a very basic yearning in them. Rather than fight it, the happiest Siberian owners are the ones who roll with it, and allow their dogs to give them a taste of a life less ordinary, a million miles away from work, bills and the daily grind.

Your husky was born to be a sled dog. He wasn’t born to walk nicely to heel, be an agility star (unless it’s inconveniently of his own choosing – see Fact 3) or be a status symbol. Some of them can, and do, enjoy other activities but these activities have to be carefully tailored to take into account you’re dealing with a sled dog whose ancestors were carefully selected for generations pretty much only to run as far, and as fast, as possible.

You don’t have to head to the tundra or snow covered plains to do this. Happy sled dogs in the UK run on dry land pulling three wheeled rigs (in a team) or a bike or scooter (on their own). Some energetic owners even harness their dogs to themselves and run (cani-cross).

Fact Two: They are interior designers and garden re-modellers.

Siberian Huskies can have their moments of being extremely and randomly destructive. These moments are not always predictable or fathomable. Think six years of perfect behaviour then suddenly you come home to no wallpaper and a pile of sawdust where your coffee table used to be.

Couple this with their fairly unique theory of property ownership and you will often find yourself hunting for one of your shoes in the garden and not always being thrilled with the state it’s in when you find it.

Many huskies take digging to an advanced form a civil engineer would be proud of, and this is not necessarily always done outdoors. A friend’s dog lost his favourite ball underneath the sofa but it was okay as he dug through the cushions and base to retrieve it.

The sled dog determination that enables them to run for miles in challenging environments also makes them so cheerfully determined to overcome obstacles that many people have come home to find husky shaped holes in the interior doors, eaten window frames or whole sections of plaster board removed from partition walls.

Many people put this undesirable behaviour down to boredom or lack of stimulation but it’s equally often just a husky’s pragmatic approach to problem solving.

Fact Three: The Littlest Hobo had nothing on most Siberians

Huskies like to keep one eye on the far horizon and to them, yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of whatever is in their way. This is an advantage when it comes to travelling with your dogs as they are never happier than when being loaded into a vehicle for another exciting road trip but it also gives them an unfortunate degree of dangerous wanderlust.

Off lead activity is never a good idea for Siberians unless they are in a fully enclosed area (although still be careful as to some Siberians “fully enclosed” presumably comes across as some kind of a challenge) and they are quick to take advantage of even the unlikeliest escape route or split second of owner carelessness.

I chased a Siberian around the village in my pyjamas because a 28kg dog squeezed through a hedgehog sized break in the chain link fence. They appear to be able to dislocate their body to do this sort of thing.

You can usually spot the garden of a Siberian owner (and not just because of its moonscape nature and lack of natural lawn). The vast majority of Sibes need maximum security fencing designed, planned and then later reinforced and reinforced again with the understanding that if they do not try to dig under it or barge through it, they will at some point attempt to go over it.

Fact Four: Shed Happens

Most Siberians do not constantly lose bits and pieces of their coats so, yes, the good news is there are occasional times during the year when you can wear black trousers that are not made of leather or plastic.

However, this is more than compensated by the fact most Siberians blow their entire coats out once or twice a year and lose about 16 normal dogs’ worth of the kind of fluff that can penetrate solid objects.

These are the terrible times you eat and breathe dog coat and most of your hot drinks start with picking a stray hair or two off your tongue. Even if your dogs are not allowed upstairs, your bedroom carpet will still be coated in it and your vacuum cleaner has probably burned itself out by this point. I’m far too dogged-up to be even remotely house proud but shedding can reduce even me to tears, especially when you are inexplicably unblocking soggy dog hair out of the plughole (do they even ever go near the sink?).

Like with most things Siberian, there appears to be little rhyme or reason with the shedding, at least to UK resident dogs who we appear to have confused out of any reasonable seasonal coat growth pattern. It is July as I write this and the temperature has been bouncing around the mid to high 20s this past few weeks and I have dogs who are down to their underwear and dogs who have gloriously full coats. The same thing happens in winter.

Fact Five: Maria Callas has Nothing on Them

Huskies are mercurial creatures who can change in seconds from being so utterly standoffish you think you might have offended him, to a wildly, waggy furball who greets you with frantic relief after you’ve been in the shower for five minutes. I think this is largely because anything outside of their sled dog hard wiring (me run, pull, run), they are basically winging.

This consistent inconsistency extends to their vocal abilities. While generally the neighbour’s Jack Russell or Rottie will be 10 times noisier (and definitely more annoying), when a Siberian decides to exercise his vocal chords, you’re going to know about it. While huskies are not overly barky dogs (although they can and do bark at times, especially if unsure about something), they mostly like to sing. Like all amateur karaoke artists, not all of them are particularly good at it. While some produce a soulful, lilting howl, others sound like strangled cats (although in their heads I’m sure they are hearing the melodic call of the wildest wolf). Like wolves, however, Siberians tend to howl to call the pack together. As their pack usually includes you, you might find you’re greeted on the way in from work or sent on your way in the morning by a bit of a sing song.

As well as howling, they can be quite chatty and vocal in other ways. Happy Sibes like to tell you exactly how they are feeling with a wide range of wooing and will often engage in a very animated two way conversation with you.

As their level of excitement rises, so does the pitch. My own dogs are most excited about running and eating. Harnessing these dogs to run sometimes deafens you (thankfully we are in the middle of a forest at those times) and food preparation has to be carried out like a kitchen ninja before they hear a bit of kibble hit a metal dish and start to shriek their anticipation.

The bonus sixth fact is that in spite of all of the above, they will steal your heart. Yes, they might trash your garden, empty your bank account and cut down casual social visits to your home by about 90% but they will definitely and permanently steal your heart.

(This blog has been kindly written by Mel Hannan of Mystic Charoite Racing)

Spotlight on Labradors: why are they so popular?

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Labrador Retrievers…the nation’s most popular breed of retriever. In fact, they are also the most popular breed in the US too! Not only do they make great companions in the home, but they also make excellent guide dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs, and of course gun dogs.

Labradors as gun dogs…

Labrador retrievers are traditionally coloured black, yellow or chocolate brown, and are packed with reactive instincts that make them brilliant working dogs. The primary purpose of a working Labrador is to venture out with its owner and help them during shooting. It is the responsibility of the Labrador to retrieve the shot bird and bring it back to its owner.

Labradors are extremely athletic, and they are naturally gifted swimmers due to their otter-like tails, their webbed feet and their water-resistant double coats. They have strong noses and are very courageous meaning they are a great companion to have with you during shooting season. Labradors are also extremely agile creatures: they are focussed and able to remain alert throughout the entire process. They are extremely intelligent and have a huge desire and willingness to please their owners, making them a perfect gun dog.

Working Labradors have a tough job, and just like us, they need fuel to be able to complete their duties. Alpha Feeds has a vast range of different working dog recipes available to buy, with proteins ranging from 19% to 32% and oils ranging from 8% to 20% ensuring there is a recipe suitable to give your dog the nutrition they need to support you whatever the season.

For any more information on our range of working dog food and your local stockists, click here or get in touch with us on +44(0) 844 800 2234.

Alpha Feeds award sponsorship to Chase Ferret Rescue

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In April, leading dog and ferret food brand Alpha Feeds launched a competition on Facebook to win £500 worth of sponsorship.   The competition was open to any dog or ferret-related charity or working group, with the sponsorship being a £500 supply of food for whichever bunch of furry friends they deal with.

Alpha Feeds are delighted to announce that the winner of the competition was Staffordshire based charity Chase Ferret Rescue, with the charity receiving £500 worth of Alpha’s premium ferret food.

Chase Ferret Rescue was founded in 2000 by Angela and Christopher Taylor, with the aim to help ferrets in need, from stray to mistreated, as well as offering boarding services.  Angela has been keeping ferrets since 1998 with the guidance of her father who at the time, had been keeping working ferrets for around 30 years.  As time passed by, they found more and more people in the local area taking ferrets to them for advice and care, so they decided to open Chase Ferret Rescue, a fully-fledged ferret rescue centre.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity,” Angela said upon being informed about her competition win.  “The £500 worth of ferret food will help the rescue centre so much, more than most would imagine.  The money we will save by not having to buy any ferret food for a period of time will help us save for a new run, and then eventually a new shed for our ferrets.  These items can be very expensive, and as we are a charity having the spare funds for these items is very rare.”

Dave Tinker, National Sales Manager for Alpha Feeds said,

“We are very pleased to be able to help an organisation such as Chase Ferret Rescue.  We recognise the incredible work they do for ferrets in their area, and understand that finding funds for improvements in order for them to maintain the high level of work they do is often quite hard for a charity.  The sponsorship we have awarded will hopefully go a long way to help with that.”

A quick guide on how to start ferreting from Simon Whitehead

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Ferreting is an ideal way to harness pest control and catch those pesky rabbits.

It is one of those activities which can be as simple or as complex as you wish it to be, but to begin with we’ll start with a list of basic equipment:

  • A ferret/ferrets (Bred from working ferrets is best for productivity)
  • Spacious housing
  • Food
  • Purse nets/Long nets
  • Ferret locator
  • Spade
  • Ferret carrying box

Ferrets – Everyone has differing views on what makes a good ferret, some prefer hobs others prefer Jills, but either should always be well handled. A ferret doesn’t need to be aggressive in order to do a good job, it just needs to be well socialised and from proven working stock.

Spacious housing – Ferrets are renowned for escaping, so make sure your ferret accommodation is spacious but strong. Well exercised ferrets are happy ferrets.

Food – Our Ferret Feast food is the perfect choice of food for your ferret as it contains a mixture of both protein and vitamins and minerals that are essential for keeping your pet happy and healthy. Read more about our Ferret Feast here.

Nets – Nets are key to catching the rabbits once they have bolted from the warren. There are many available instructions on how to make your own purse net, or you can simply buy them from a reputable net-maker.

Ferret locator – A ferret locator or a ferret finder is a tracking device which attaches to the ferrets neck. This makes sure you don’t lose your ferret when it finds a rabbit hole. It’s good to practice using the locator before you go hunting as well as the responsible actions of using one when required..

Spade – A well designed spade such as The Bulldog Rabbiting Spade, will help you to dig your ferret out if/when required.

These are your essential tools needed to start ferreting.

For any further advice on ferrets or ferreting, or phone us on +44 (0)844 800 2234, we’ll be happy to help.

husky sport

A year in the life of Mystic Charoite Racing by Mel Hannam

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A life lived with dogs has amazing highs and devastating lows. This year has been an emotional rollercoaster with the joy of seeing our amazing youngsters hit the trail for the first time and the inevitable sadness of saying goodbye to old friends.

Sadly, old age and health problems finally caught up with first Mojo and then Beany and both joined the eternal sled dog team this year. Mojo was almost 15 and Beany 14. They both had enjoyed full, well lived and happy years and no one can wish for more than that (other than for our dogs to have lives much less fleeting than they are naturally blessed with, of course).

Beany was the foundation of everything we have. She only had one litter, of four puppies, in her amazing life. This past weekend, three of those “pups” who will be 10 years old in May ran at the BSHRA Santon Downham race, so did 11 of her grandkids and 7 of her great grandkids. They notched up, I think, a total of eight top three places over the weekend with the winning six dog team on both days entirely made up of Beany progeny. Pretty awesome.

I like to think all of these amazing kids, grandkids and great grandkids must sometimes notice a silver grey dog with a big smile running alongside them on the trail.

The great grandkids, of course, are Rogue’s puppies who, not one to hang around, she produced speedily and without fuss over three hours one amazing night in October 2016. She had nine. Six stayed to race with us at Mystic Charoite with three going to friends (two of these to live with their sire Bear and John and Mary Carter (John is the current WSA World Dryland 8 Dog Champion).

The youngsters, who like all our dogs are fed on a diet of Alpha High Performance with the addition of meat or fish, have been in training all summer and took part in their first race at the end of October.

We have spent the first half of the season moving our teams around, letting the pups run in different positions on teams of different sizes, as this year is all about bringing on the yearlings and letting them learn from the wealth of experience and talent on our teams including mum Rogue, grandpa Brew who is still running very well aged 9 and a half and plenty of aunties and uncles.

These are exciting times and the youngsters have been going from strength to strength. The odd turn mishap aside, created by over enthusiastic youth overruling experience, the teams have put in some great runs with plenty of top three places, having raced already with BSHRA, SHCGB and SDAS this season.

We have lots to look forward to in the coming months with the rest of the BHSRA Championship Series, supported by Alpha, and the SHCGB Aviemore race when we will head up to the Cairngorms for a week of racing, hopefully running dogs in snow (we can but hope!) and giving our fantastic oldies some lovely Highland walks.                     

Mel Hannam

Mystic Charoite Racing

 

Training tips for young gundog puppies

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Gundogs have a job to do, and if you have recently acquired a puppy to train up to be on the field, then you need to do so early, whilst generally maintaining their overall health.

To begin with, puppies in training need to know the basics such as toilet training, responding to being called back and generally being well behaved by around 10 months as this builds the foundations for in-depth training.

Retrieving items…

For future gundogs, it is important not to punish or harshly correct a puppy for carrying something they shouldn’t, such as a shoe, as this could teach them that retrieving items is a bad thing. Instead, take the item from them gently whilst saying “dead”. This will get them used to the action and will show that they have done well, as well as helping teach them to drop an item.

Heelwork…

When introducing a puppy to heelwork, it’s important to keep the training interesting by walking in straight lines, figures of eight and occasionally turning left or right or altering the pace. This will ensure that they continue to stay focused on you throughout training and are prepared for real situations once in the field. The same goes for retrieving and training, as your puppy needs to be kept entertained and on their toes, else they will lose interest.

Using dummies…

Using dummies in training and practising regularly will help to build your dog’s knowledge and understanding of what is expected of them in the field.

When using a dummy, it is important to remember to lift your puppy’s top lip out of the way when putting it in their mouth in order to teach them how to handle prey properly. You must also use the “dead” command when taking it away again to teach them to drop the prey. By using your hands, you can encourage them to bring the dummy straight to your hand and ensure that they keep their head held high, making sure not to drag the dummy or prey on the floor.

You must remember that a positive attitude needs to be maintained throughout training, as your dog may sense that you are getting frustrated if they are taking a while to pick something up and may think that they have done wrong.

It’s also important to ensure that your puppy has the best diet to keep them fit, healthy and active for longer. At Alpha Feeds, we can provide you with food for dogs of all ages to ensure that your working dog remains in the best shape and performs to its very best.

For any advice on feeding your gundog puppy, email info@alphafeeds.com or phone us on +44 (0)844 800 2234.

One day in my life…

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(Do I have you singing the Michael Jackson song already?)
I was actually trying to write an article on the ‘typical day of a racing Siberian at the Chezhiver kennel’ and failed miserably!
In short: eat – drink – sleep – get in van – run – get in van – eat… repeat.

You get the idea!

It’s rarely that simple though.

Every day is so different, so I’ve decided to try a ‘typical week’ instead!

Let’s get physical

(A little Olivia Newton John never hurt anyone!)

For anyone that’s done athletics or a power event, weightlifting, gym work, that type of thing, they’ll understand the deal. You exercise a group of muscles that will break down slightly which brings on soreness. Resting and eating the right food repairs the muscles. As the muscles repair, they grow back slightly bigger and slightly stronger each time.

Let’s fine tune this and apply it to the dog world; we can’t be having a dog that’s completely muscle bound, looks like Sylvester Stallone, that rips along a trail in record breaking time but falls in an exhausted heap after 100 metres because the heart and lungs can’t keep up with the big muscles we spent so long building.

So you see, we have this balancing act – we need muscle but we also need decent cardio-vascular work to feed the muscles with that lovely red oxygenated blood that keeps them going.
We work to a rough regime of runs like this:
• Hard work, short run
• Speed work, long run
• Hard work, long run
• Speed work, short run
• Interval training (I can hear all the athletes, football and rugby players etc groaning as this is a real energy sapper but has profound effects!)

Some of this takes care of itself in the natural terrain of the training ground but otherwise we mix these up where conditions allow and particularly in the early pre-season particularly, where temperatures permit.
And all this can get very scientific – I have training records going back years and years; mileage, humidity, temperature, which dog went where, average speed, total stopped time, distance, distance to date etc (yes I know… *yawn* but it’s all valuable data!).

Relax, DON’T do it
(are these music links getting tenuous yet?)
What’s equally important is rest; it’s imperative that those muscles that we just ‘roughed up’ a bit have plenty of time to regroup and get stronger.
In order to help with this process, you need food, good food, and plenty of it. A good protein source in food is critical in getting the muscles to repair quicker, better and stronger, (quite aside from the other good stuffs – oils, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals etc).
Some racers supplement food here and there to put particular emphasis on certain parts of the diet but for a good number of us, the cornerstone of this nutrition comes in the shape of Alpha High Performance which is nutritionally formulated to support speed, endurance and strength in our working dogs; and a lot of the top teams are using it!

My final thoughts…
Get the balance right!
(Had enough of the musical references yet?)
A well exercised pack is a happy pack.
A well exercised AND well fed pack is a pack that’s living the Siberian Husky dream!
With that, I’ll leave you with my little song collection, happy humming…
I’ll get my coat (I’m off training!)
Steve Rooke

 

What makes a good gun dog?

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A gun dog isn’t just a pet or a companion, it is also a dog with a job to do. Gun dogs come in all shapes and sizes but they are typically divided into three primary types:

  • Retrievers
  • Flushing dogs
  • Pointing breeds

There is a good reason why a Labrador will happily spend hours chasing and retrieving a ball, and why a spaniel has bundles of energy…they were bred that way. Years of breeding ensured today’s gun dogs had the necessary traits to do their job well…but what makes a good gun dog?

1. Fitting in with their owners

It is a common misconception that working dogs are not shown any love. In fact, there is nothing quite as special as an owner’s relationship with their working dog. A close and fulfilling bond increases the dog’s motivation to do their job well to please their owner, and a good relationship will ensure your gun dog will also enjoy being with you out on a field, and relaxing with you at home. That trust between the owner and dog is vital for a strong working relationship.

2. Your preferred activities

What makes a good gun dog will depend on the type of job you want your dog to do. Different gun dogs will be better in different areas of shooting and hunting. For example, springer spaniels are one of the preferred dog breeds when it comes to pheasant and bird hunting, specifically due to their agility and stamina. On the other hand, for deer hunting, dogs such as Labradors are trained how to hunt deer and be quiet.

3. Training

Ultimately, what makes a good gun dog is good training. Whatever breed of dog you get, training is essential if you want your dog to be efficient and reliable. Training will normally start when your dog is just a pup with fun games like fetch and drop.

4. Exercise and diet

Dogs, like humans, need to stay in good physical shape, and this is especially true for a gun dog. If your dog isn’t in shape, or isn’t eating the right food, then they simply won’t have the energy they need for their activity level whatever the season. They are unlikely to perform to their best, regardless of how well trained they are. As a responsible owner, you need to ensure that your trusted pooch is exercised the right amount and eating the best food possible for their level of activity.

Owning a gun dog doesn’t have to be all work, it’s a pleasure too.

If you would like to contact us for any advice regarding feeding your gun dogs, email us at info@alphafeeds.com or phone us at +44 (0)844 800 2234.

Interview with Notts Supadogs

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When did Notts Supadogs begin and how did it get started?

Notts Supadogs was formed in August 2008 by Joanna and Martyn Bonner. After running for many years with other teams, they decided to start their own club to give people in North Nottinghamshire and surrounding areas the chance to take part in flyball.

What exactly is Flyball?

Flyball is pretty much a relay race for dogs. There are 4 dogs in a team (and up to 2 reserves) who each race down a 51ft lane, jumping 4 jumps on the way to the spring-loaded box, which releases a tennis ball on impact. Having grabbed the ball, the dog then returns down the lane and over the jumps. Dog number 2 then goes followed by dog 3 and 4.

The winners of the legs and ultimately the race (best of 5 legs) is the team who completes the course with no faults and in the fastest time.

What type of dogs do you have on your team?

Most breeds can compete in flyball; however, it is important your dog is sociable with other dogs, has a good recall and is relatively fit. Strangely, being ball orientated is not necessarily vital!

As a club, Notts have a variety of breeds, predominantly border collies but also cross breeds (a quick Staffie/Whippet!), Jack Russell, Cockapoo, Manchester Terrier and an English Springer Spaniel. So, a variety to say the least…

What qualities make a dog good at flyball?

Anyone wanting to start flyball will ideally have a dog or dogs with the qualities mentioned previously. A fair level of commitment is required, as training and racing in competitions takes up a lot of time. However, the more time and effort you are willing to put in, the more you will get back.

It is a great way of meeting like-minded people who enjoy the excitement and fun associated with the sport as much as you do. Remember, patience is key for you and your dog to become a success!

What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking of getting into flyball?

Anyone wishing to enquire more about the club should simply email nottssupadogs@hotmail.co.uk or leave a message on the Notts Supadogs Facebook page.

If you are not local, have a search around for other flyball pages that may be nearer to your location.

How has Alpha Feed’s sponsorship helped you?

Martyn Bonner says:

“Being sponsored by Alpha has benefited the club in many ways, including purchasing equipment, which has helped augment training levels. Alpha have also been able to provide goods for prizes to winners and runners up of divisions at Notts’ own hosted tournaments, and also given informative advice on feeding and nutrition.

This sponsorship has been extremely valuable to the club, as without it, we would have had source our own equipment and prizes which can be costly and difficult to acquire. This way, we are able to concentrate more on the progression of the sport itself and the club.”

huskys

Caring for the Husky

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Have you ever considered owning this athletic breed for your domestic pet?

If so, read on to find out more about this traditionally stubborn breed.

A husky dog’s core function is to work, and in particular to pull and run. Not surprisingly, this is why they have been used to pull sleds over long distances in Siberia for centuries.

However, as your domestic pet, you should consider getting them to pull you on a bike or scooter. Some huskies enjoy regular walks but this can be difficult for the owner as they will always pull on the lead. This will be difficult to stop as they have pulled for centuries as sled dogs. Do not use a retractable lead as this could cause your husky to pull even more.

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Ferret Food

Top Tips for Ferret Care

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Alpha Ferret Feast is a complete, ideal way of feeding your ferrets, meeting the nutritional needs of working, pet and show ferrets.

It is a premium feed, containing a high proportion of poultry meal (min 26%) and fish meal (15%) which are recognised as some of the best sources of meat protein.

Easy to feed, Alpha Ferret Feast removes the odour associated with some feeding regimes, and contains all the vitamins and minerals needed to keep a ferret in excellent health.

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huskys

Mel Hannam

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Whoa, brakes on as our race season has come to an end for 2016/17. It’s been another fantastic season for Mystic Charoite Racing. In spite of amazing lead dog Rogue still on maternity leave at the start of the season and Brew suffering an injury that put him out of action for three months, our incredible dogs still got us on the podium at least once at just about every event we attended over the winter with (I think!) around 13 first places.

In terms of championships, the teams brought home a Silver Medal in the British Siberian Husky Racing 4 Dog Championship and a Silver in the Four Dog Nordic and Bronze in the Six Dog Nordic classes in the British Sled Dog Sports Federation Championship Series.

The races may have come to an end but the work doesn’t stop. Spring training is probably the best as we have lighter nights to enjoy and we also have Rogue’s puppies (all six of them!) to bring on so they can join the race teams next season.

We also have exciting plans to make as we are hoping to broaden our horizons and do at least one race overseas next season – the question is, will it be on dryland or will it be on snow?

Grateful thanks to Alpha Feeds for continuing to support us and keeping our dogs fuelled by Alpha High Performance Dog food.

Pics are by John and Angela Lord and Siberprint.

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