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Annabell Dennis

The Right Diet for Your Working Dog

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

Dog runningActive dogs like working, sporting, and hunting dogs, burn a serious amount of energy – up to four times more than that of your average dog. To counteract and support this extreme athleticism, they require a suitable high-energy feed.

Joint health is also crucial to your dog’s longevity, be it farming, policing, sporting and so on. Your active dog is invaluable to your team, and a carefully thought out diet will mean a long, happy, healthy and action-packed life.

When deciding on your dog’s diet, ensure it covers the following;

  • The food should be doggy-delicious.
  • The feed should provide your dog with enough energy to work hard, play hard and thrive.
  • Your dog’s food should support a healthy digestive system, help build lean muscle and aid in muscle recovery after strenuous athletic activity.
  • If your dog is extremely active, his feed may need additional nutrients to support joint health and mobility.
  • Your working dog is an athlete; his food will need fortifying with essential vitamins and minerals.

When to opt for high energy food

If your working or sporting dog is exceptionally active, chances are he’ll need a high-energy feed to match his energy outputs. Fat is your dog’s primary source of energy. Specialised high energy foods – alongside additional minerals, vitamins and highly digestible ingredients – possess a high fat content to meet this requirement.

Keeping weight on your sports dog

Highly active dogs are prone to weight loss. The correct feed will nourish your dog, help maintain a healthy weight, and provide all the energy he needs to perform. However, if your dog seems to be losing weight without cause, speak directly to your vet; they may need to conduct a complete physical exam to rule out any underlying health issues.

Joint health

For working and highly active dogs, joint ailments can be a real problem. Dogs that were once performing athletic movements and covering vast distances can begin to feel pain and discomfort – leading to slowing down and disengaging from the sports they once loved. When pain is obvious, and you see a decline in your dog, veterinary advice is required ASAP.

Hypothermia in dogs

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

St Bernard working dogAfter a shoot day, it is imperative to ensure your dog goes to bed well-fed, warm and thoroughly dried. Although it is unusual to witness dogs with hypothermia in the mild winters of late, a dog left wet, and already tired after a hard day’s work, is especially vulnerable to it.

Using a heat lamp to dry off after a day’s shooting ensures your dog goes to bed properly dried off and warm. If your dogs live outside during the winter, raise their house off the floor at least four inches, make sure it has a sloped roof and is well insulated. If they live in an outhouse or barn, provide closed-in beds with warm and dry bedding.

Recognising the signs

Identified as intense shivering; the onset of hypothermia will slow your dog right down. With this reluctance to keep moving comes more significant danger of deterioration. Muscular stiffness and a visibly escalating lack of co-ordination will follow. Left untreated, the dog’s heart and breathing rates will decrease, the pupils will dilate, and it will collapse into a coma.

As hypothermia is an emergency, you should call your vet immediately.

What to do if you think your dog has hypothermia

A rapid response could save your pet’s life. It’s essential to call your vet immediately and follow their instruction.

In the meantime, you can do the following;

  • Do not place your pet anywhere hot. Warming them up too suddenly can send them into shock. Get them out of the cold, to somewhere warm and sheltered. Warm them up gradually with thick blankets, under and around them.  
  • If your dog is wet, dry them gently with a towel. If the dog is conscious, try and encourage a drink of lukewarm water. 
  • Regardless of your opinion regarding the severity of the situation, get your dog to the vet for assessment.

Dogs more susceptible to hypothermia

It’s essential to recognise that some dogs are much more vulnerable to the cold than others. These include dogs that live outside for long periods with inadequate shelter and space to run around, wet dogs, puppies, dogs with diabetes, smaller breeds, and shorthaired dogs.

How to keep dogs warm in an outside kennel

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

Working dogs, when cared for properly, can thrive in outdoor kennels. Providing you have a dry outhouse, barn or well-built kennel, your dog should stay cosy, happy and well through even the harshest of winters.

If you have a doghouse, the floor should be raised at least four inches off the ground. Ensure it is well insulated too. Shredded paper or cardboard boxes under the bedding will block the ground-cold from reaching your dog. Secured to the floor; the house should also have a sloped roof.

Here are four more tips to keep your working dogs warm in an outdoor setting;

Provide ample bedding

If you have more than one dog, they will often nestle together for warmth, while some dogs prefer the space to spread out. Provide enough bedding space for everyone.

Use a closed-in bed

Closed-in dog boxes or beds are much warmer than an open bed. Teamed up with some warm blankets, or even shredded paper, which doesn’t hide pests and rodents as straw does, they’ll keep your dog happy and well through blizzards and gales.

Keep your dog dry

After a day of shooting, your dog will no doubt be muddy and wet. Toweling them off is an essential measure; however, a heat lamp ensures your dogs go to bed warm and perfectly dry.

After a day out in the elements it’s also good practice to check your dog’s paws; In icy or snowy conditions, painful ice balls can build up in between their toes.

Keep dogs hydrated and suitably fed

Make sure your dogs have access to unfrozen and clean water. There are heated bowls designed especially for outdoor living, or a cheaper version is to check and refresh containers, daily and diligently.

Dogs that live outdoors in a warm, dry and safe space are less likely to burn off valuable calories in efforts to stay warm. However, if your dog is expected to get cold, it may need more feed to help keep their metabolism up.

Alpha Working Dog Food – Champions of Sustainability And Independent Retailers

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

spanielFounded over a century ago, Alpha is a family business, forged on a passion for optimising the health, vitality and performance of your pet with world-class quality foods.

Located on the North Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire border and firmly established within the pet food industry, The Alpha brand is a trusted and highly reputable name – one synonymous with science, nutrition, excellent service & outstanding value.

This fiercely independent company champions local producers and distributors, with regional farmers growing most of the natural ingredients and shipping them directly to the factory. This firsthand contact with the growers ensures in depth knowledge of our ingredient’s provenance.

Take a walk around Alpha’s manufacturing plant, and you’ll witness the enormous investment made in their team, research, development, factory, packaging and operational systems to ensure that Alpha products dominate the market and continue to deliver excellence.

With a highly dedicated team of skilled people, who are passionate about the quality of their products and the service they provide – Alpha products are now more in demand than ever.

Moreover, not only is this brand consistently providing the market with their innovation, duty of care and flavours; they’re also enormous advocators for sustainability. With an unwavering commitment to the environment; packaging materials used are sourced from sustainable forestry and are 100% recyclable.

Furthermore, Alpha sticks firmly to its values as an autonomous brand and continuously supports independent retailers. You won’t encounter Alpha on the shelves of big-name supermarkets.

Since the first bag rolled off the production line, until now, Alpha continues to ceaselessly champion and cherish their legacy of honesty and quality. Your animal’s health and vitality are their life’s work and with a longstanding commitment to producing nutritional excellence – Alpha products guarantee a healthy, happy and thriving working dog.

Spotlight on a working dog breed: Greyhounds

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

dog, greyhound, racingGreyhounds are lean, powerful dogs, with a keen hunting eye and a knack for sprinting. Once owned exclusively by royalty, this magnificent breed dates back to Egyptian times.

Not only are they regal in looks and gentle in character, but they’re also relatively low maintenance. Contrary to popular belief, the breed is more couch potato than a sprinter – needing only one hour of vigorous exercise a day.

Fact file:

  • Lifespan – 10 – 14 years
  • Height – Male: 71–76 cm, Female: 68–71 cm
  • Weight – Male: 27–40 kg, Female: 26–34 kg
  • Temperament – Affectionate, Intelligent, Athletic, Quiet, Even Tempered, Gentle

Movement

Greyhounds, while mostly docile, are very energetic in short bursts. Their action is graceful and elegant, moving smoothly and sleekly with the minimum of effort, and able to turn quickly while in full flight, without losing pace or their balance. They are renowned for incredible speed, used mostly at track races.

Exercise

The Greyhound will live a happy and fulfilled life with one significant workout per day. This session will be full speed, high octane and interactive – this breed loves to play. Many owners take their canine friends ‘lure coursing’ which is an excellent way for them to let off steam whilst also enjoying something they were born to do.

Temperament

Greyhounds usually get on well with other dogs, but instinctually chase cats and other small fluffy animals – and being so lightning-fast, they may catch them, much to the distress of your neighbour.

While this breed may act aloof, and a little nervous around strangers – they’re incredibly loyal and affectionate with their family.

Prey drive

Deeply embedded in the psyche of a Greyhound, chasing down prey is such a powerful instinct, that your neighbour’s cat may be in real peril, should they meet. For this reason, a well-fenced garden is necessary – as greyhounds can jump up to six feet.

Separation anxiety

Highly intelligent and emotional, Greyhounds form strong family bonds and don’t like being left alone for long – they’re the perfect dog for someone who works from home. Greyhounds in isolation are vulnerable to separation anxiety, leading to destructive behaviour. Unfortunately for your sofa, ripping things apart is their way of relieving any stress.

For information on our range of working dog food, including our High Performance and Racer feeds, speak to your local stockist, or get in touch with us through our website.

How to train your gundog to hunt using a whistle

By | Training | No Comments

dog trainingDogs can often be sly and stubborn when receiving instructions. If you are experiencing problems with selective hearing or other obstinate behaviours, then a whistle could be the next level tool your routine requires.

A dog whistle can help you train your dog by reaffirming positive behaviour at the exact second they do something correctly.

A wide range of everyday dog whistles are available on the market and are helpful for training commands and discipline over both short and long distances. In fact, the sound of a whistle can travel much further than a voice.

A whistle is small and flexible enough to be conveniently carried everywhere you go. Should your dog wander away when you’re looking in another direction, a simple blow of your whistle will beckon her back.

Here is our guide to getting the most from your whistle training:

Tip one

As soon as your dog starts to fail at responding to commands, bring out the whistle. As soon as their response is positive, reward them with a treat and plenty of praise. This reaffirms that the whistle sound is a positive one.

Tip two

Use different cues for different pitches, for example, a short, sharp whistle could mean sit, while a long one says fetch. You can also alter the tone of the whistle to suit different commands.

Tip three

Remain consistent with your commands so that your dog will always know what you expect of it.

Tip four

Use words until your dog responds on command and then reward it with a treat. Your dog will eventually be able to read the whistle cue and then you can drop the verbal command altogether.

Tip five

Repeat, repeat and repeat some more. Multiple training sessions are necessary until your dog responds without receiving a treat.

Tip six

Use your whistle for multiple situations. Whistles can prove useful in different situations, such as breaking up a fight and calling your dog back to your side too.

Tip seven

Think of your whistle as your voice, or as a shared language between you. Unfortunately, we can’t have a conversation with our dog, but whistle commands come pretty close.

Choosing the perfect gundog for you

By | Training | No Comments

Spending time with your gundog, training together and appreciating your time out in the field is one of the great joys of working together. Selecting the right gundog for you is a crucial decision because finding the perfect dog will make for many exceptional and memorable days.

The first question to ask yourself is: what kind of work will your gundog be doing? Different dogs are better suited to different roles.

Dogs such as terriers specialise in the control of pests. The Jack Russell, for example, is famous for their rat-catching abilities. Whereas Springers excel in the art of hunting. Alternatively, breeds such as Alsatians and Border Collies can make excellent dogs for beating.

Let’s find out a little more about each working breed.

Spaniels

Hunting is a spaniel’s primary job, and his strongest instinct. Traditionally, he has to hunt up and flush game within proximity of his handler. The moment the game is shot, he must stop and then retrieve on command.

Hunting at a remarkably fast pace, the Spaniel flits from side to side in front of his handler, covering a tremendous amount of ground. However, the fantastic ability to work in this manner comes with a price, he is a live-wire of a dog, particularly when young, and may prove a restless housemate. Harnessing that incredible energy requires a trainer with great ability.

Retrievers

The Retriever, despite the distractions around him, remains unwaveringly steady and only leaves the handler’s side when commanded to do so. Possessing great patience, the Retriever awaits commands while also accurately marking any shot game. He is prepared to face lengthy and complicated retrieves.

He calls on his experience and initiative, and is incredibly responsive to his handler’s every command, even at great distances.

Setters and Pointers

The role of the Pointer or Setter is to find game, when scarce in open countryside. He should then point to it, enabling the handler to advance within gunshot before the flush.

The pointing breeds are impressive and athletic dogs. These powerful creatures require large open spaces in which to run and vast amounts of exercise.

HPRs or Versatile Gundogs

The HPR is a multi-faceted dog that is becoming increasingly popular. There is an extensive range of breeds from which to choose, each with their unique working style and personalities.

At this moment in time, however, they’re still a minority in the shooting field, so specialists in their training are hard to find.

Putting in the research before you choose your field companion will be hugely beneficial to your future.

Alpha sponsor victorious team at 2019 Euro Challenge event

By | Results | No Comments

springer spanielAlpha was very proud to sponsor the Great British team at Hatfield House again this summer, at the annual Euro Challenge event. Especially since the Great British team claimed the prestigious Euro Challenge title for the second time in three years.

Captain of the team, Phil Wagland, has been sponsored by Alpha for many years with the URC and the NGRA, so it was a great moment for us to see him lead his three-man team to victory, edging out defending champions Germany by just three points.

When asked about this win, Wagland said:

“It’s great because we have had the same team for three years in a row… The first year we won, narrowly from Belgium. Last year we came third when Germany won, so it is very satisfying to get a win again.”

What the competition involved:

The competition involved a variety of tricky retrieves, with each team consisting of three handlers and three dogs which have to be from different retriever breeds. The test simulated the many and varied situations that arise when shooting and picking-up with dogs, including walking-up in line, standing at a drive and retrieving from cover; over fences and from water.

Wagland was handling four-year-old Fieldquest Funnyline Kelbrook, who also won the prize of top golden retriever on the day too! He added:

“We have thoroughly enjoyed this year’s event. The organisers set up an interesting working test that gave every dog the opportunity to shine. It was a great atmosphere and it was fantastic to see so many people watching the action from all round the arena.”

Other members of the winning Great British team include Paul Birkbeck and Gary Ellison, experienced handlers who not only thoroughly enjoyed the event but also enjoyed watching their dogs truly shine.

Alpha are thrilled to have been supporting such a fantastic team and such a wonderful event too.

If you’re interested in future Euro Challenge events, then tickets for the 2020 event are on sale now via www.thegamefair.org or 0844 8586759.

Top tips for training your young gun dog

By | Training | No Comments

Training is much more complex for working dogs due to the amount of commands they must learn, the amount of times behaviour must be repeated and the long working hours required of them too.

Young dogs, under 8 months, have an extraordinary ability to learn, but they are also very easily distracted, have too much enthusiasm and are likely to forget commands more frequently too.

That being said, be sure to praise young puppies for their actions, particularly when it comes to retrieving.

Early retrieving is essential

A puppy’s naturally instinct is to get your attention and contact using toys. They may try tug of war to get you to play or will want to keep their favourite toys to themselves. Encourage your dog to bring their toys to you and drop them, as early as possible. This will help you in future.

Encourage them to hunt

Teach your dog to “find it” or “seek” early on, by not letting them see where you drop their toys, balls or dummies, and hide them in long grass. You want a dog that understands they have to do the work and encourage them to keep looking. Praise them well when they find the right object.

Get them used to other animals

This is particularly important if you live around farming areas, you don’t want your dog to be distracted by livestock or running around cattle, they could get seriously injured and it’s not fair on the farmers. Teach your dog early on to remain calm around other animals and praise them for correct behaviour.

Show your dog that they should always keep an eye on you

Young dogs are often so excited to be outside that they refuse to return on command. The trick here is to be more interesting than whatever is distracting them. By laying on the ground and making squeaking noises, the dog is more likely to come back and investigate those sounds.

Don’t over exercise

This is particularly important when your dog is under a year old. If you have other working dogs it can be tempting to take the youngsters along to learn, but too much exercise can spoil their joints, and this damage can’t be rectified.

Treat from the hand, not the pocket

Dogs are smart enough to know that in order to take a treat from your hand, they must drop the toy or dummy. This will not only encourage them to drop on retrieve, it can control when they drop too. Teach them when to drop by when you offer them the treat.

Get your dog used to loud noises/gun fire

It’s important to desensitise your dog early on to loud bangs and noises. By dropping metal food bowls or clapping unexpectedly, you will help them become less skittish when gun fire is introduced. Remember there is no rush – it is important to introduce it gradually.

Carry an un-cocked air rifle during training

Carry your air rifle with you throughout all training, so that when you do eventually fire it from a distance, your dog won’t associate them with each other. This will help your dog adjust without developing a fear of when you are carrying the object.

We hope these tips help you to settle into a great routine with your young gundog.

Spotlight on a working dog: Golden Retriever

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

golden retriever, dog, working dog, gundog, gun dogGolden Retrievers are a gundog breed that were originally trained to find live game and retrieve any game that had been shot and wounded.

They first came from black Wavy Coated Retrievers crossed with the Tweed Water Spaniel, which gave them their distinctive yellow coat. In 1913 the Golden Retriever Club was formally recognised by the Kennel Club.

The fact that these dogs are incredibly easy to train, as well as calm natured, makes them ideal working dogs to work with people and other dogs. This includes roles such as guide dogs, tracking and explosives detection.

Fact file:

  • Lifespan – 10+ years
  • Height – Female: 51–56 cm, Male: 56–61 cm
  • Weight – Female: 25–32 kg, Male: 30–34 kg
  • Popularity – They are the 2nd most popular dog in the UK
  • Nickname – Goldies

Temperament:

Golden Retrievers are very hardworking, playful and loving dogs that are incredibly intelligent and easy to train. They are a popular family dog as well as a working dog, because of their gentle nature and are great with children, given early socialising.

They are described as very kind, as well as fun-loving and with a streak of mischief too. They seem to tick every box which may well be the reason they are the second most popular dog in the UK.

Exercise:

Golden Retrievers love frequent exercise and being outdoors. Their high energy levels, ability to track and love of water make them ideal dogs for hunting and exploring.

Grooming:

They have a very thick, medium length coat that requires grooming 2 or 3 times a week to keep it in tip-top condition. Their thick coats help to keep them warm all year round.

Working Roles:

Their ability to sniff out and retrieve downed game over both land and water gained them huge popularity as gundogs, but they also make excellent sporting dogs, assistance dogs, working with the police and military.

For any information on our range of working dog food and your local stockists, contact us or get in touch with us on 0844 8002234 for more information.

Could your dog need a sensitive diet?

By | Nutrition | No Comments

dog, border collieSome dogs are born with food sensitivities, but other dogs can develop sensitive skin or a sensitive stomach later in life and gradually over time.

If your working dog has food sensitives to the current type of food you’re feeding them, then their symptoms will be constant, and it’s worth varying their diet to see if this helps settle symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a dog having food sensitivities?

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive gas
  • Soft stool
  • Diarrhoea
  • Frequent scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Chronic ear problems

When to seek attention from a vet:

If at any time your dog experiences chronic vomiting or diarrhoea that doesn’t clear up by itself in 24 hours, seek attention from a vet, so that they can help diagnose your dog quickly.

Here are some tips to help a dog with a sensitive stomach:

  1. Cut out scraps
    Once other serious issues have been ruled out, it’s time to simplify their diet. Cut out giving your dog any table scraps or multiple different treats.
  2. Make sure they’re not getting into anything they shouldn’t
    When out, where possible, try and prevent your dog from eating something they shouldn’t.
  3. Try a Hypoallergenic diet
    Test out new foods on your dog. Hypoallergenic diets are diets that are less likely to case reaction by eliminating ingredients like Wheat, Dairy, Eggs and Soya. Choose dog food that is designed for sensitive stomachs. It may take some trial and error to see which food agrees with them best, but once you find a gentle food that agrees with them, their symptoms should clear up completely.

Our Hypoallergenic range for working dogs:

Alpha Sensitive dog food has been nutritionally formulated with chicken and rice, which are carefully cooked to help optimise digestion.

Not only is our food hypo-allergenic, wheat and gluten free, but it’s also got prebiotics to help promote digestive health. It’s also free of soya, dairy products and artificial colours and flavours, which can all irritate the bowel and cause digestive issues.

Our food is designed to be easily digestible, well balanced, and high in protein – ideal for working dogs with sensitive stomachs and comes in a number of ranges:

  • Sporting Puppy
  • Sensitive Extra
  • Adult Grain Free
  • High Performance

Find out more about our sensitive diet food here – https://www.alphafeeds.com/product/alpha-sensitive-15kg/.

All you need to know about Flyball

By | Training | No Comments

Notts Supadogs Flyball ClubIs your dog full of energy, great with other dogs and do they love to engage in physical activity?

If you enjoy team sports, meeting other people and travelling with friends, then a sport like Flyball might be ideal for both of you.

What is Flyball?

Flyball is a race where two different teams of dogs run side by side over a 51-foot course. Each team is made up of 4 dogs and each dog must run over jumps, trigger a Flyball box (which releases a ball), retrieve the ball and then return over the jumps.

The next dog is then released in a relay fashion until all dogs have crossed the finish line. Fastest wins! 

What qualities does a handler need to have?

  • Be highly motivated
  • Make everything positive
  • Have a good recall skill
  • Have a good bond with their dog

Can any breeds make up a Flyball team?

Yes, any breeds can make up a team and they can all run together!

What is the age restriction?

All dogs must be over 12 months to compete in a team.

How many times a week should they train?

Training is ideally done once or twice a week and competitions/open tournaments take place all year round.

What kind of tournaments are there?

There are Open Tournaments, Multibreed Tournaments, and Intermediate and Starter racing. The first two are BFA sanctioned tournaments which run in accordance with the BFA rules, and all dogs and handlers must be registered with the BFA to enter the ring.

Intermediate and Starter racing is more suited for younger dogs because in this race, dogs don’t have to trigger the box and boxloaders can give the dogs plenty of encouragement. Younger dogs benefit from lower jumps irrespective of their own height here too.

Top tips:

A lot of practice is key for this sport! As a working dog, your dog shouldn’t be easily distracted but it’s important to ensure your dog always wants to come back to you. Using their favourite treat or toy can help with this and teach them to zone everything out.

Milestone Awards:

BFA points are also awarded to each dog racing if all four dogs complete the leg without error. Milestone Awards are awarded to dogs throughout their Flyball career!

If Flyball is a sport you think you’d like to get involved with, search to see where your nearest team play.

Notts Supadogs

Alpha is proud to be the current sponsor of Notts Supadogs Flyball Club, who are a great team, achieving many successes and having lots of fun whilst doing so! Find out more about them on their Facebook page.