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Annabell Dennis

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.

Recognising and preventing heat exhaustion in your working dog

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

retriever, dog, drinkingWorking dogs often spend more time outside than regular family dogs. This means that it becomes particularly important to keep them well hydrated and safe in the summer heat.

Dogs of course have the ability to pant and sweat through their paw pads to help them cool down, but this is only minimally effective when temperatures continue to rise and their environment doesn’t change.

How to recognise heat exhaustion

Working dogs should be closely monitored in hot weather.

If you notice any excessive panting, excessive drooling, incoordination, sickness or reddened gums, then it’s important to act quickly and provide your dog with immediate care.

If your dog is physically struggling or falls unconscious, follow these steps to help cool them down:

  1. Using cool water (not ice cold), cool down your dog focusing on the back of their head and neck, under their forelimbs (armpits) and between their hind legs (groin area). Using a wet towel is a good method to lower their temperature, or a cool shower.
  2. Call your vet or the nearest emergency clinic and tell them your dog’s symptoms, they will advise you on what to do next.
  3. When they wake up, let your dog drink water, but don’t force them to drink if they’re uncomfortable. If they can’t keep it down, simply wet their tongue instead.
  4. Check for signs of shock and keep bringing the temperature down as long as possible.
  5. Seek immediate veterinary attention because heatstroke can cause unseen problems.
  6. If travelling in a car make sure to keep windows open or turn the air conditioning on.

The best ways to prevent heat exhaustion

The best thing to do is to avoid being in direct sun during the hottest parts of the day. Seek shade where possible, as often as possible and apply dog-friendly suncream to light coloured dogs. Make sure plenty of water is always available to help your dog stay hydrated too.

Remember that your dog’s paw pads can also suffer on hot surfaces. If you can’t keep the back of your hand flat on the floor for more than 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

Higher risk breeds

Dogs with short hair or white coats or coats with large areas of white such as White German Shepherds, Whippets, Greyhounds, Weimaraner,  Pointers and Jack Russells are more prone to sunburn as their skin tends to be paler than dogs with dark coats.

Stay safe this summer and help your dog avoid heat exhaustion.

The importance of providing the right nutritional diet for working dogs

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

Although quality nutrition is important for all types of dogs, working dogs require the best quality nutrition available in order to endure a higher amount of exercise.

Just like with humans, canine nutrition is closely connected to both their physical wellbeing. The right kind of diet helps them not only run faster and for longer, but will help them to avoid fatigue, it will help to keep their muscles working hard and their blood flowing too.

Working dogs are more prone to accidents

Due to the high-risk nature of their working day, working dogs benefit from a stronger immune system. They face much higher amount of physical stress due to demanding activities, and a quality nutritional diet will help them to recover quickly from any injury or illness.

Working dogs need to be alert more than regular dogs

A nutritional diet also helps dog build a better nervous system. When a nervous system benefits from nutritional support it can help to promote alertness and improve concentration levels of the working dog.

Working dogs need their energy levels to last longer

Due to the long hours and endurance they face during their working day, working dogs need a significant amount of protein in their diet, the recommended minimum is 18-25% of protein to feel good, but this can go as high as 32% depending on the type of work they undertake.

Working dogs need to be fed well from an early age

Nutritional support from a young age can help a dog to develop everything they need for their working life. This includes well-developed muscles, bones, and joints, which are all particularly important for a working dog. Alpha Sporting Puppy food is ideal for young working dogs and puppies – https://www.alphafeeds.com/product/alpha-sporting-puppy-15kg-and-3kg/.

How much should you feed your dog?

This varies depending on breed and size of your dog, but the easiest way to determine how much to feed your dog is to adjust their food intake to maintain their optimum body weight and condition. Always refer to the recommended portion size on the back of the packet as a useful guide.

A leaner build is best for a working dog. In general, this means that ribs should be easily felt but not obviously seen, and there should be a waist visible from the side and above. Lean dogs also live longer and have fewer joint problems.

Browse our range of working dog food here to give your working dog everything they need from their nutrition – https://www.alphafeeds.com/product-category/dog/.

If you have any questions about any of our dog food products, please get in touch on 0844 800 2234 and we’ll be happy to help.

Alaskan Malamute

Spotlight on a working dog breed: Alaskan Malamute

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

Alaskan Malamutes are very solid dogs as they were originally bred to pull sledges. Often mistaken for Huskies, Malamutes are actually larger which makes them an excellent working dog breed.

Today, Alaskan Malamutes are best suited to very active homes and an outdoor lifestyle. With thick coats and a strong desire to pull, run and roam, they enjoy an active working life.

Fact file:

Lifespan – 10+ years

Height – 56-64cm

Weight – 34-39kg

Popularity – They are currently the 50th most popular dog in the UK

Temperament:

Alaskan Malamutes are an extremely cheerful and energetic dog. They are great with families, children, other dogs and, although they can be quite a handful, they are definitely one of the friendliest of the large dog breeds. In fact, they make terrible watchdogs because they approach everyone in a friendly way. They are also one of the most patient breeds, which makes them a great companion for puppies and children.

Hunting instinct:

Alaskan Malamutes have a great natural instinct to hunt. They are pack dogs that were bred to run, hunt and work together in a pack, so their pack mentality is strong too. They often pull on their lead until properly trained due to their hunting instinct.

Stubbornness:

Northern dogs and Alaskan in particular are extremely stubborn as well as prone to boredom. This means they like to be mentally challenged with their work and activities. They prefer stimulation over resting.

Grooming:

Alaskan Malamutes have double coats which give them extra warmth in cold temperatures, and this means they shed regularly. They need daily brushing to keep them comfortable and professional grooming twice a year is recommended.

 

For any 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.

How serious is my gundog’s eye or ear injury? Signs to look out for…

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

A gundog, by nature, is at higher risk of eye and ear injury due to their active lifestyles. However, active dogs are also incredibly resilient and often mask injuries that could turn more serious if left untreated.

So, what signs should you look out for after a day out in nature?

Squinting – If your dog is squinting and has tears coming from an eye, they may have scratched their cornea. If the eye surface has been damaged, you could also see the third eyelid coming over across the eye.

Saline eye drops can help to reduce irritation but if problems persist you must visit the vet. If the injured eye has a smaller pupil it could be a sign of uveitis and can lead to long-term damage if not seen to.

Swollen eyes with discharge – Running through long grass with dust or pollen can cause conjunctivitis which shows as red, swollen eyes and sometimes with a green discharge.

If the dog is rubbing its eyes, it’s time to step in. Cold black tea or saline drops can help to give the eyes temporary relief, but if the eyes are still producing discharge the following day, it’s best to see your vet.

Cloudy eyes – Cloudy eyes are common in dogs of an older age, but if your dog’s eyes are rapidly whitening it could be due to cataracts and a vet should be contacted immediately.

Surgery can help to recover eyesight from cataracts.

Bulging eyes – Red, bulging eyes are often severely painful for your dog. This can be either one eye or both and can be brought on by infection or a tumour behind the eye.

Glaucoma is another factor which could be either due to damage or an inherited disease in some breeds. Either way, you must seek medical attention as an emergency.

Lots of head shaking – Ears can easily catch grass seeds that can get trapped into the ear canal, causing pain and lots of head shaking in an attempt to free them.

Sometimes the seeds dislodge themselves but if the head shaking continues, then a trip to the vet is usually required for removal. Remember to never poke anything into your dog’s ear.

Bleeding from cuts on ears – Ear cuts seem to bleed more than other areas. The best thing to do is apply pressure and a head bandage, to prevent further bleeding or irritation.

If bleeding persists, it’s time to go to the vet.

If you’re worried about your dog’s health, always seek professional advice from your vet by calling your local surgery. For information on First Aid in the Field.