was successfully added to your cart.

Dog Welfare

Does a Labrador’s coat colour matter?

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

Labradors are the most popular breed in the world, but in the shooting community, a Labrador’s coat colour can be a controversial subject. It’s been a highly discussed topic for many years.

The general rule amongst the shooting community is that black is respectable, yellow satisfactory, chocolate is strictly a show bench colour and fox-red Lab is purely an accessory. During the period of 1909 to 2011, 1,790 black Labradors qualified to run in the IGL retriever championship, whereas only 367 yellows were authorised.

Although, it seems that each colour is suitable for a different job. Whereas a fox-red Labrador is suitable for wildfowling and game-shooting due to their natural camouflage, a yellow Lab would seem totally out of place in a shooting field.

As for chocolate Labradors, their name meant that they became increasingly popular as pets, but unfortunately it has been said that they can be difficult to train, due to having their working instincts being bred out of them.

Similarly, there is a controversy between black and yellow Labradors that suggests yellows are less trainable but have more brains than blacks. Though the black gene is more dominant, genetically, there are no obvious differences between all of the colours to suggest that this is true.

The UK breeding standards are quite flexible, allowing colours to range from light to dark, whereas the US are able to breed an almost unheard of silver Labrador.

In the end, coat colour comes down to a matter of preference, your need for a camouflaged dog and perseverance with training your dog. Each is different and some can require more time and patience than others. If you are looking to invest in a gundog, we recommend getting a dog with proven working bloodlines on both sides of the pedigree. This would be much better factor at determining their working characteristics than the colour of their coat.

Owning a Husky – The Highs and Lows

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

Ever wondered about the husky dog? Want to know the ins and outs of what it is like to own this athletic breed? Here Mel Hannam, owner, trainer and dog sled competitor sponsored by performance dog food experts Alpha Feeds tells us all about this magnificent dog.

What is it about these dogs that make them supreme athletes?

A husky has been constructed to work i.e. to pull and run. This makes them perfect sled dogs as their build is a set of angles, bone lengths, musculature designed to cover as much ground, expend the least energy and suffer the least physical shock and stress as possible.

The dogs are also very good at resting between periods of work, especially where there is a sofa or bed involved.

What temperament does a husky have?

Their temperament all depends on what mood they are in. They are genuinely stubborn, independent and delightfully mercurial. One minute they can be a snuggly dog then the next day change to an aloof semi feral dog. They might not come in from the yard when called but they will give you hell for daring to go in the shower leaving them downstairs alone. Selectively deaf and selectively food oriented, they tend to do very much as they please whether it pleases you or not.

Huskies can be predatory and may not be best suited with smaller animals like cats. When bored they can entertain themselves, but this could mean that your personal possessions will be in the firing line of being chewed or hidden under ground.

Are they good with other dogs?

Canine company is important because the breed is a sociable animal, however the friend will need to be able to cope with the size, strength and very physical play of a husky. This can be because huskies have a dense coat and in play tend to grab each other quite firmly by the scruff of the neck. To other smaller dogs this can be too much and can risk possible injury.

Generally the huskies body language is forthright and ears pricked up right can be perceived as full-on or aggressive behaviour to other dogs. This is important to consider when you are introducing new dogs.

How much exercise does the dog need?

Because they are sled dogs they need the opportunity to run and pull. This does not mean you need to buy a sled, an easier way is to get them to pull you on a bike or scooter.

Some huskies enjoy regular walks; however they will pull on the lead. Please do not get frustrated with them because sled dogs have pulled for centuries and it is just what they do.

If you want to let the dog run free it will need to be within a secure location, including a high fence which they can also not dig under. You will need to be patient with them when you want them to come back. If they were pulling a sled the musher shouts commands and the dog runs away, not towards you, this is how they have been trained.

Can they be hard to train?

Yes and no. It is easy to train them to be sled dogs because that is what they are hard wired to do, but you will never be able to train one to be like a Border Collie.

Recall and being reliable enough to run freely will probably never be one of the dogs’ strongest points.

Similarly like other dogs, it is very easy to train them to be naughty – bad behaviour is always more easily reinforced than good unfortunately!

Are there any special requirements this breed needs?

Huskies hate to be on their own so company is extremely important. If they cannot have constant attention from their owners a canine companion that can cope with the breed is important to supply their need for attention.

For any dog exercise is important, but for the husky it needs to be more around allowing the dog to run and pull.

What will owners find difficult with this breed and how can they overcome this?

Owners must realise that northern breeds are traditionally stubborn, but the difference between huskies and many other more domesticated breeds is you almost have to earn their love and respect. They are intelligent and not a breed you can exercise just by throwing a ball. The dog requires a lot of attention and needs to be exercised properly.

What feeding regime does the dog require?

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. My dogs also appreciate added meat or fish.

I feed my dogs twice a day, but if they had the chance they would choose to be fed at least five times a day by helping themselves if the chance arises. Food needs to be stored safely to avoid dangerous bingeing.

For more information visit: www.alphafeeds.com or call: +44 (0)844 800 2234


For further information please contact Tim Smith at TSM on (01724) 784600.

Training the Gun Dog with Phil Wagland

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

Phil Wagland is well known throughout the gun dog world as a trainer and competitor, also organising and running events for the North Midland Area of the United Retriever Club. Here courtesy of sponsor performance dog food experts Alpha Feeds, Phil provides valuable tips on training the gun dog.

What breeds do you recommend for a gun dog?

It is very much down to personal preference and the objective and end result of having a dog. Owners should ask themselves; is it a shooting dog, a picking up dog or a beater that I need? Also consider whether test or trial competitions would be involved.

There are four sub-groups which are most admired: Pointers and Setters, Spaniels, HPRs and Retrievers. Within these groups there are one or two key breeds which have proven ability. The other minority breeds can be quite variable in their success rates.

Recently people like to be different and go for the minority breeds to stand out, but the safest option is to go for the key breeds of proven ability. The main breed I work with is the Labrador, followed by the Golden Retriever. The minority breeds in this group include: the Flat-coated Retriever, the Chesapeake and one of the rarest in the group is the Curly-coated Retriever.

What do you look for in terms of character, temperament?

Character will vary with the different breeds. Depending on whether you want a quiet or lively dog will help you make your decision while you also need to consider the living arrangements (home or kennel). Will the dog be on its own or with several other dogs and will there be children around – these are all questions you need to ask.

Good temperament is always a prime concern which means a dog being able to live with people and other dogs in a friendly way.

Trainability is another aspect of the dogs’ character which should be valued; therefore emphasis must be on the working lines of the breed. For Labrador, Golden Retriever, Springer or Cocker Spaniel it is essential to go to the blood lines of the working dogs, not a pedigree which has a history of competing in the world of showing.

Where would you normally source a gun dog puppy?

The best advice I can give is to know the owner of the bitch and see the dog in both play and working scenarios. Knowledge of the dog used at the stud would also be advantageous.

It can also be useful to watch a dog at a shoot or trial as this will allow you to see how the owner/handler works and if they treat and train the dog in a way that you approve of.

If you are unable to do the above the next best tip is to contact someone associated with the breed, possibly through a gun dog training club. A personal approach will usually be better than just using the internet or a Kennel Club list. Newspaper and websites are ill-advised because they may lead to puppy farms.

What age would you recommend starting training?

The training starts with the mother of the puppies at the early stages. From eight weeks on, owners should teach the basics like: simple obedience when giving food, being put in a cage, visiting a vet etc. These are all valuable experiences for the dog and helps aid your bond with the puppy.

At three months of age the puppy should be getting over its injections and lead training can be integrated. Your lead training can include pavement walks to get the puppy used to meeting people and cars. Countryside walks will also help achieve appropriate behaviour.

Obedience or good citizen training at four-months-old will help acclimatise your dog to meeting other dogs and people as well and this is another part of the training I would encourage.

Some simple gun dog training should to be introduced at six-months-old (not rushing too much into retrieving) and then end by attending a gun dog training class or club. The first couple of weeks will be more for socialisation and emphasis on basic obedience.

What are the First 5 Steps to Starting Training?

  1. Seek help or advice if an owner is unsure on where to start. Equipment to start with would be a lead and a whistle.
  2. Keeping the dog’s relationship strong to you. Avoid circumstances that could hinder your bond with your dog.
  3. Spend time on the basics. There is no need to rush because if you do, it could undo your hard work on the basics.
  4. Learn to read your dog. Understand what its strengths and weaknesses are to be able to draw out the natural working dog which is the secret to success.
  5. Make the training fun! Your dog should enjoy the training and working together.

Where should they be in their progress by six months?

At six months a young gun dog should just about have the basics mastered but they may still be liable to make a few mistakes. They should still be able to play like a puppy on occasions and it is important that owners realise dogs vary in their learning pattern with some slow and some quick learners.


Where should they be after their first year?

The basics of obedience, heeling smartly and being steady should be mastered by this age.

Retrievers in particular will be competent at marking seen dummies, simple blind retrieves and pick up and deliver game or dummies. In competitions they will be able to compete in Puppy Gundog Working Tests, which are designed for dogs up to 18-months-old.

Novice Tests will come after the year due to them not being ready for the field trials at that age. If owners do take a young dog picking-up or shooting, make sure it is under controlled conditions.

Do you know in the early days if you have a potential Field Trial Champion?

Experienced trainers can see potential, but it has happened in cases where it doesn’t come through. Slow developers sometimes have proved to be better than the early starter given time.

How do you keep the young dog keen and willing to learn?

Changing locations, different ground, water, obstacles, different cover all help in keeping the training fun and different. This not only heightens their senses but keeps the dogs interest up.

Training with a group of friends can also help you as an owner by taking on ideas and advice.

If things do go wrong in a training hour, simplify the task, reattempt and go back to basics or call it a day with playtime, love and affection. Go back to it another day avoiding the same mistake.

When it comes to health and vitality what food do you recommend?

We are very fortunate to have sponsorship from Alpha Feeds and the dogs always look fantastic.

Alpha Sensitive Extra with duck and rice is nutritionally formulated to meet the needs of adult dogs with a sensitive digestive system.

Hypo-allergenic and wheat gluten free, the feed also contains Fish Meal and Linseed to provide essential Omega 3 Oils which aid a healthy skin and coat.

With no artificial colours or flavours added and prebiotics to help promote digestive health, dogs really thrive on the food.

The protein level is 25%, making it highly suitable for hard working dogs with delicate digestive systems.

For further information visit www.alphafeeds.com


For further information please contact Tim Smith at TSM on (01724) 784600.