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Monthly Archives

May 2020

Water safety and your working dog

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

Whilst many dogs enjoy swimming as a form of exercise, not all dogs are confident swimmers, and many can’t swim at all.

Don’t be mistaken, your dog may sport a thicker coat, webbed toes and a sturdy build, which enables him to swim with stamina, but even so, he may not enjoy swimming out of his depth.

Teaching your dog to be a competent swimmer

Swimming can be great at building your dog’s muscles and strength, it can also be good for stiff and painful joints and can help cool your dog down on a hot day.

Even if your dog seems keen, he’ll need to learn how to swim. Be prepared to take it slowly when introducing your dog to water. Initially keep your dog on his lead and allow him to get his paws wet, staying in the shallow area at first.

It may be an idea to use treats and toys to make splashing in shallow water fun.

If your dog is reluctant, use a positive tone of voice and lots of verbal praise to encourage his progress. Observe his body language to make sure that he’s happy and confident, before gradually moving into deeper water.

Once ready, encourage your dog to move out of their depth to start paddling, you can use an arm to provide a little extra support under your dog’s belly if he needs it. This gives him the incentive to paddle his rear legs along with the front legs – paddling with front legs alone will mean he tires easily and splashes excessively.

After a few minutes, encourage your dog back to the shore so he knows how to get out of the water. If at any point he appears to be panicking, back up into the shallow water and let him calm down before trying again.

Never leave your dog unattended around water or push him to do anything that he doesn’t want to do, even if he is a strong swimmer. 

The best and worst swimming spots

Some places are much safer for your dog to swim than others.

The Best

There are good swimming spots that pose little or no threat to dogs, assuming that your dog is able to swim. These include:

  • Lakes
  • Sea swimming
  • Slow moving rivers
  • Private swimming pools
  • Paddling pools.

All of the above offer calm waters. Lakes often have plenty of safe, shallow areas for your dog to swim in too. Dog friendly beaches can provide an enjoyable way for you dog to splash and stay cool – be sure not to visit when the sand is too hot for their paws though. Shallow, slow moving rivers can be safe but always check for hidden dangers, such as fallen trees and rubbish in the water.

If you have access to a private pool then firstly, we’re very jealous, and secondly, providing the water doesn’t get too deep and cold (be sure to watch your dog in the water), these are fabulous places for your dog to enjoy a swim. Wash any chlorine off their fur when they finally climb out.

If you opt for a paddling pool in the garden, this can be a great way for your dog to both have fun splashing in the water and cool down on a hot day. You may want to look for one with hard sides to prevent tears from claws.

 The worst

Other areas of water can pose serious dangers to your dog. These are:

  • Canals
  • Reservoirs
  • Rough seas
  • Fast flowing water or flooded rivers.

Canals can contain stagnant water and also hidden dangers, such as rubbish, which can also be found in reservoirs. Reservoirs can also be very deep and therefore the water can be extremely cold, which can shock your dog.

Both reservoirs and fast flowing water or flooded rivers can have fast flowing, strong currents that can sweep your dog away quickly and hinder their ability to get back onto dry land safely. Rough seas similarly have strong waves and fast water, posing a high risk to your dog.

Gundogs and water on shoot days

If you own a working gundog, you may not be aware of water dangers until the day of a shoot.

Any unnecessary dangers should be avoided on shoot days. If you feel that water could pose a threat, speak to other members of the picking-up team and also the Shoot Captain. If risks are considered responsibly and you are confident that you can control your dog, should he go near to or enter the water, then there is no reason not to proceed with the shoot as planned, assuming you have trained your dog to be a confident swimmer.

You must, however, proceed on high alert and be confident that your dog will respond immediately, should you need to abort the retrieve for safety reasons.

Additional dangers in the water

There are some diseases and poisons that can affect your dog if they’ve been swimming. You can help keep your dog safe by picking a good swimming spot and staying up-to-date with their vaccinations:

Leptospirosis is an infection spread through rat wee and contaminated water. There’s a vaccination to protect your dog against leptospirosis. You can also reduce the risk of your dog catching this by avoiding stagnant water and canals – some lakes can contain stagnant water too, so be cautious, even in safe places.

Blue-green algae is also found in stagnant water and looks like a blue-green sheen on the surface. Sadly, these algae can be very toxic to your dog – if you think they have come into contact with blue-green algae, prevent them from licking their fur, rinse them down if you are able to but most importantly, get them to your vet immediately. Lakes in community spaces and natures reserves will generally have signs up to inform dog owners if blue-green algae are present, so be sure to look out for any warning signs on show in these areas.

Top Tips

Give your dog a good wash when they return home from a swim to be sure their fur is clean of anything they might have picked up in the water.

If your dog gets into trouble in the water, don’t go in after them, as tempting as this will be. Ring 999 instead and get help from the professionals – don’t put yourself in danger.

To summarise

With a little patience, you can teach your dog to be a strong, confident swimmer.

There are plenty of safe places for your dog to splash and enjoy the water and some spots that you should avoid altogether, if possible. Both may have hidden dangers and toxic diseases and poisons present so be cautious when assessing a water spot and always watch your dog whilst they are in the water.

As long as you are confident water is being considered responsibly on a shoot day and that your dog will respond immediately to your recall, if necessary, then there is no reason not to proceed with your day.

Always wash your dog thoroughly after they have been in water and never jump in after him if he gets into danger – you may put your own life at risk in doing so.

A Guide to ferret breeding

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments
baby ferret feeding from bottle

We are now entering peak ferret breeding season. If you are considering breeding your ferret, you must ensure you are prepared to do so responsibly. This is a big commitment, financially and in terms of time spent nurturing and training your young ferret.

If you own working ferrets, you may be considering line breeding to maintain the quality ferret that you currently work with. With ferrets becoming increasingly popular pets, some argue that their natural ability for rabbiting is on the decline, so line breeding for working purposes could maintain the fearless ferret with the strong prey-drive that proves so effective.

Maybe you keep show ferrets, in which case you want to mate the animals that have the best shape, best proportion and in general have the best qualities that a judge is looking for. A friendly nature is also worth consideration as they will need to be handled by judges. If you’re new to breeding, you could decide to simply use two ferrets who have done well in previous shows. Line breeding does come into play here so be sure to check the quality of grandparents too.

Be Prepared

Before allowing your Jill to become pregnant you must do your research to ensure that you are fully prepared for what ferret breeding entails. You should only breed ferrets if you are experienced and confident with handling and nurturing ferrets – only an experienced ferret owner will fully understand the commitment required for successful breeding.

Preparation also means understanding that any complications during labour could mean losing your Jill, resulting in the need for you to hand-rear her kits. If your Jill is a prize winner or an amazing working ferret, you must consider the balance of producing more ferrets to potentially losing your current one.

It is also advisable to be sure you can offer a good home for all kits born. Although the average litter size is eight, Jill’s can give birth to up to 14 kits. Do you have ample room in the event of a larger kit size? Do you have homes lined up for these kits if you cannot keep all of them once they have been reared?

Responsible breeding

Some people choose to breed ferrets for a particular colour. Although fundamentally there is nothing wrong with this if done responsibly, inbreeding to ensure the perfect colour can be irresponsible and lead to genetic defects. If a ferret is severely inbred it will die young after living an unhappy life.

Generally speaking, two ferrets of the same colour will more than likely produce kits of the same colour also. Take caution with breeding silver ferrets however, as although many are successful, silver to silver mating can also produce genetically deformed kits.

Breeding practice

OK, so you’ve done your research and you’ve committed to breeding your ferret.

The first thing you must do it wait until the Jill’s vulva is completely swollen before you allow her to mate. If she isn’t ready when the Hob is introduced, it could lead to a fight and one or both being harmed. It can be hard to tell whether your Jill is indeed fighting off the Hob but if you suspect she is, remove her immediately to prevent any harm being caused to the ferrets.

To ensure mating is successful, ensure no other ferrets are present and only allow the act to happen in the Hob’s hutch.

Mating ferrets is not for the faint hearted. It can be a rough process; the Jill will usually squeal and get dragged by her neck around the hutch before the Hob takes her into his nestbox. This is unbelievably quite normal, so try not to panic.

Mating can be a lengthy process so be sure to feed both ferrets prior to introducing them as you will need to leave them alone for roughly 24 hours.

Once you’ve taken the Jill out, her vulva will dry and shrink to normal size within 1-2 weeks. This is a good indication that mating has been successful.

Feeding your ferret

Once weaned, ferrets will require adult nourishment. When young, their teeth may not be sharp enough to manage food initially so you will need to soak food in warm water for 5 – 10 minutes to soften it.

Because kits have a very short intestinal system and a rapid intestinal transit time, meaning it takes some time for the food to pass through the stomach and into the intestines, kits need reasonably high levels of fat and protein. When you are looking for the right food product to buy, look at the label and see to it that this contains roughly 35% protein and 20% of fat. These levels should be maintained into adult life.

Ferrets also need a balance of meat and poultry products as this will decrease the risk of urinary tract obstructions later on in life. You must ensure that water is always available too.

Alpha Ferret Feast

Alpha Ferret Feast is the ideal way of feeding your ferrets throughout all their life stages. Our premium food is nutritionally formulated to provide a complete and balanced diet to keep your ferrets in optimum condition.

Our Ferret Feast contains chicken & fish, which are easily digestible sources of protein. It is easy to feed, removes the odour of more traditional feeding regimes and contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals that your ferrets need in order to remain in the very best of health.

Overview:

  • High quality chicken & fish proteins
  • Fish meal and linseed for essential omega 3 oils – Aids healthy skin and coat condition
  • Crunchy extruded nugget to help clean teeth
  • Nutritionally formulated for health and vitality
  • Easy to digest and highly palatable
  • With Taurine added
  • 36% Protein
  • Wholesome ingredients – No added artificial colours or flavours

Alpha Ferret Feast should be fed ad lib to ferrets as they have a very fast metabolism.


If a ferret becomes overweight, either increase its activity levels or reduce the amount of food to 5% of the ferret’s body weight. If you have provided moistened food for a kit,
remove any uneaten moistened food after a few hours and replace it with fresh.

Gradually introduce kits to dry food after 5-6 weeks.

To find your nearest stockist of Alpha Ferret Feast visit https://www.alphafeeds.com/online-stockist/.