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Spotlight on Labradors: why are they so popular?

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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.

Bringing your puppy home for the first time

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

So, you’re about ready to bring home your new puppy? This is an exciting time for everyone but remember, it can be extremely overwhelming for your new furry friend, and so it is vital you welcome him to the family very carefully.

Every puppy is different and so may respond differently, but we have put together a small guide on how to manage the first day at home with your new companion, so as to try and make this transition as smooth and positive as possible:

  • It is important to first remember your puppy has just left behind both his mother and his littermates. He is now faced with having to adjust to a new home full of different smells and different faces. He will get used to this, but on his first day, he definitely needs a little time to adjust.
  • Before you bring him into the house, take him outside to his allocated toilet spot and allow him to relieve himself. It is important to immediately begin the toilet training routine as this will help him learn quicker.
  • When you get inside, show him his new home, as after all – this is his new home! Limit this to one or two rooms initially so as not to overwhelm him and remember, you must supervise him. You’ll be amazed at the amount of mischief a puppy can get themselves into. Also, don’t forget to introduce them to their own space, and if possible use a blanket from their old bed to put in their new one so it feels familiar.  Remember, puppies don’t need to be taught when bedtime is, so let them sleep as and when they need to.
  • Remember to check with the breeder/rescue centre what food they have been giving the pup – a change in environment and food could potentially be extremely stressful for your puppy and so it may be best to maintain the diet they are used to, at least for the first week or so.
  • Taking a puppy home for the first time will present all kinds of learning curves, and it will be a journey for you both to learn how to adapt to one another. It may feel impossible on day one, but your puppy will soon become the most loved member of your family! And obviously the most adorable one.

One last thing – don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Getting a new puppy is meant to be fun, and it is absolutely ok to be excited!

If you do need any more information or advice regarding bringing your puppy home for the first time, please get in touch today on +44 (0)844 800 2234.

Alpha Feeds award sponsorship to Chase Ferret Rescue

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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.

How to crate train your puppy

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

Beginning to crate train your puppy can feel like an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. It can take weeks or even months to conquer the crate, but if you stay patient and persevere with it, you will reap the rewards…

The entire premise of buying your puppy a crate is to provide him or her with a safe, secure and positive space that is solely for your pet. This means you should never use the crate as a form of punishment.

Introducing your puppy to the crate

Much in the same way you wouldn’t appreciate being put in a crate without prior warning, your puppy will not like it either. It is important you gradually introduce your puppy to its crate, so as to allow him or her to build up a positive association with it.

Fill the crate with your puppy’s possessions such as its toys and any blankets and start by leaving treats in and around the crate so that your puppy will approach it voluntarily. Make their first impression of the crate a great one! During this initial training stage, never shut the crate door – keep it open at all times so your puppy does not feel restricted or trapped.

Another good way to make your puppy see the crate as a positive experience, is to feed them in the crate. Again, remember not to shut the door at this stage! You do not want to get ahead of yourself and rush the process. Patience is key in crate training.

Shutting the crate door

Once your puppy has built up a positive association with the crate and will go in voluntarily, now is the time to test the waters and try shutting the crate door. Close the door gently and feed your puppy a treat whilst they are inside. Don’t leave them shut inside for any longer than a minute or two at first, slowly increasing this time as you continue to train them.

Make sure you praise your puppy for using their crate, and ensure you leave the door to it open when you are not ‘actively training’ so that your puppy can choose to use it when he or she pleases. This element of freedom with the crate will show your puppy the crate is not to be feared and it will begin to symbolise safety and an area of respite and calm for them.

Don’t forget, crate training can take many months to master. However, eventually you will be able to leave your puppy in its crate for up to four hours at a time during the day and you can even make it his or her sleeping spot too!

Remember…

  • It is a good idea to crate train whilst your pet is still only a puppy as it can be very hard to train an older dog who is not used to confinement in your home.
  • The crate needs to be a sufficient size. It should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and stretch out when lying down.

If you have any more questions about crate training your new puppy, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Alpha on 0844 800 2234, and one of the team will be more than happy to help you.

What qualities should gundog puppies have?

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When deciding on a gundog for hunting purposes there are many attributes you may want consider.  Here is a run-down of the some of the qualities that you should be looking out for when choosing your dog.

Sensitivity to sound

Some dogs are a lot less shy than others when it comes to noise, which is a huge factor when dealing with firearms in a hunting environment.  This is something to consider when choosing your dog, although bear in mind that sound sensitivity can be improved through training.

Sense of smell

Whatever the purpose of your gundog, whether it be a pointing breed, a flushing dog or a retriever, their sense of smell needs to be exceptional in order to carry out their duties successfully and efficiently.

Jaw Strength

For big game hunting a larger prey, a good strong jaw is a positive attribute.  However, for those who are wishing to hunt birds and smaller prey, a gundog with a soft jaw may do the job just fine. 

Mentality

This is particularly important if your gundog will also be your family dog and general companion.  Although different breeds can vary in temperament, many dogs are naturally relaxed, calm and obedient, which will benefit you in almost all scenarios.

Courageousness

A hunting environment can be a tense place for a regular dog.  The last thing you want when hunting is for your companion to be fearful at a time when you need them to be fearless.  Of course, through spending time with your dog you can influence their behaviour to encourage a cool, calm and low-key approach.  However, those dogs who are naturally courageous are more likely to be able to deal with a wider range of prey.

Endurance

Depending on the type of prey, you may require your hunting dog to pick up the pace at any given moment, and keep up the pace until the job is done.  This quality is particularly important for the longer hunts that require more duration.

Intelligence

Intelligence is a very important factor when training your dog.  Although gundogs are known to have natural abilities that are valuable for hunting, they still need to have a high level of obedience so you can get the most out of your hunting partner.

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

working dog

Should I feed my working dog before exercise?

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

It’s important to recognise that your dog needs to retain a large amount of energy before any intense activity, but you should also be aware that they need sufficient time to digest this meal beforehand.

There is no definitive amount of time to leave your dog to digest their food before beginning an activity, but between one and a half to two hours is recommended.

Dogs can easily ‘bloat’ if they partake in any strenuous exercise too quickly after eating their meal. This may cause the stomach to swell and twist upon itself, causing blockages which can be life threatening to a dog if not treated quickly.

When thinking of your dog’s feeding schedule, it’s always best to keep it consistent, working this effectively around your exercise schedule.

If you’re thinking of feeding your pet after exercise, then this may affect your dog’s performance beforehand. It’s also not a good idea to feed your dog straight after exercise, when they’re excessively warm or when they’re still panting from their workout.

You should wait for at least an hour after exercise before feeding your dog, as this gives them sufficient time to calm down and relax their stomachs before eating a large portion.

Whether you feed your dog before or after exercise, always ensure that fresh, clean water is always available.

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

husky sport

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

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

 

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.

Training tips for young gundog puppies

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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…

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

(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

 

The benefits of a high protein diet for working dogs

By | Nutrition | No Comments

Your dog’s nutrition is just as important as your own, so it’s essential that you ensure they are getting the right amount of protein in to their diet to keep them healthy and active for longer.

Working dogs need a good quality, sustainable diet to keep up their strength for the long working days ahead of them. They need to be able to keep up their energy to stay active and the protein in their diet aids in doing this.

Protein works to build their strength and preserve their health as well as maintain their energy through the day. It also offers calories which can sustain the needs of active and working dogs for a longer period of time.

Protein provides your dog with stronger muscles, greater bone and body mass, improves nerve function, aids the creation of cells and can help in healing your dog’s wounds. Your dog will even benefit from having a shinier coat and healthier skin due to the higher level of protein.

All dogs need protein in their diet, but choosing the right food for your working dog is essential even from a young age as this will help to build their strength and energy through to adulthood.

At Alpha, we offer a range of different foods for both active puppies and adult dogs, which are nutritionally balanced and formulated for health and vitality. Our foods range from 19% to 32% protein, helping you to choose the right food for your dog depending on their purpose and high performance.

For advice regarding feeding your working dog, please email us at info@alphafeeds.com or phone us at +44 (0)844 800 2234