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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.


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.”


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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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.


training treats

New Alpha Training Treats

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Alpha Feeds has launched new Training Treats which are hypo-allergenic and wheat gluten free.

The Alpha Training Treats include chicken liver and they are suitable for all dogs over eight weeks old.

These healthy bites are free from artificial additives and are a tasty treat for dogs that deserve a reward whether on a puppy training routine, as encouragement for good behaviour or when working, sporting dogs are learning a new activity.

RRP £1.00 for 150g.

For further information contact Alpha Feeds on 0844 800 2234 or visit www.alphafeeds.com

husky sport

Husky Racing an Exciting Sport

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A world away from the desolate icy wastelands of Siberia, husky dog racing is alive and well in the rather incongruous setting of the British countryside. Now in its twentieth season, the British Siberian Husky Racing Association was formed by a group of Britain’s leading Sled Dog Drivers in 1996. The rules are stringent; every race is electronically timed to 1/100th of a second and believe it or not, after 5 miles, a race has been decided by 5/100th of a second – here we find out more.

In sled dog racing, men and women can compete on an equal footing, and no matter who is racing, this is fantastic entertainment, for both competitor and spectator. The sport is growing, numbers are increasing and there is a thriving junior competition each year.

Training of young dogs starts at an early age over short distances. When a dog reaches one-year-old, it is allowed to compete in races. A regular training programme is essential for success – in the winter season sometimes four times a week for competitive teams. However, one of the biggest challenges continues to be finding suitable trails in Britain. Husky dogs have been constructed to work and their build is designed to cover as much ground, expend the least energy and suffer the least physical shock and stress as possible.

The design of racing sleds today is very similar to those used in the early days, although modern materials have more or less replaced traditional wood. With this, weight has changed too, from around 50kg for a 4-dog team to some now weighing as little as 15kgs, mild and stainless steel being the preferred materials.

Each dog in the team wears an individually-fitted harness, with attention to comfort around the neck and shoulders. The dogs are hitched to the sled by a central rope known as the ‘gang line’, then with brass clips, the dogs are attached into the lines. Teams are divided into classes based on the number of dogs in the team.

Before the start of the race, it’s highly enjoyable to walk around the rally site. Here you can watch mushers getting their teams ready to run. If time permits, most people love to talk about their dogs, but they have to keep a strict eye on the time as they have specific set times to present at the Start Chute. Each team is released at timed intervals.

Excitement levels are high. The Start Chute is noisy and hectic, but seeing the enthusiasm and eagerness of teams of dogs straining to start the race is an absolute must. The finish line is noisy too but by the end of the race, it’s no longer the huskies making all the noise, but excited family and friends cheering and encouraging their favourite teams across the line. In between the start and finish, out on the trail itself, it is important that spectators stand well back so they don’t alarm the passing teams with any sudden movement. There are marshals at regular intervals along the trails and it is imperative that spectators listen to any instructions they give.

To get the best results from these dogs, not only is training important but the correct diet is essential. Feeding depends very much on the level of exercise but a husky that is working in harness does well on a diet such as Alpha High Performance where meat is the first ingredient and there is the right protein/fat ratio. It is important to store food safely though, to avoid dangerous bingeing, as given the chance, huskies would eat at least five times a day by helping themselves!


Blink and you miss it…!

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This season has just been a blur; time flies when you’re having fun.
We started off so well, a beautifully ‘almost’ chilly day, welcomed all the BSHRA competitors to the kick-off race near the Suffolk Heritage coast. A very technical trail with dips and hollows and tight corners, adverse cambers, leaves on the ground – all the good things to keep the dogs interested and keep the mushers on their toes!

*BANG* in comes Storm Angus from the East, the first ‘named’ storm of the season, 84mph winds battering the coast and throwing down rain like no-ones business which sadly saw us cancel the seconds days racing – a total pain but safety comes first.
Since then, we’ve recently had THE best bit of weather for running dogs in this country. At Warren Wood. The 8 dog and 6 dog teams went out in bright sunshine, uncluttered blue sky, a real hard hoar frost on the ground and a recorded -9C. Whilst everyone around is complaining at the cold, if you’re a husky racer, THIS is what running dogs is all about. A big team running like a steam locomotive with just the sound of the team puffing away, every breath hanging in the cold air for a second or so until it evaporates – just magical!

And so to the next weekend we have in store. The first time that BSHRA has ever scheduled a 3 day event – most are 2 days. Even more exciting is the prospect of 3 different trails, one per day. We usually run the same trail on both days but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound.
It will take a fairly large and enthusiastic team to pull it off successfully but I’m safe in the knowledge that if anyone can, BSHRA can. Wish us luck and cold weather; I’m sure we’ll be fine!

Photos courtesy of the very talented Angela Lord