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Spotlight on Border Trail Hounds – One of Alpha’s new Sponsors in 2020

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Border Trail hounds

After receiving hundreds of applications to our recent call out for new sponsors, we have finally selected two fantastic recipients, who will each receive a sponsorship package from Alpha.

Border Trail Hounds are one of our worthy recipients of a sponsorship and, over the coming months, we would like to introduce you to their beautiful dogs, all they do and follow their success.

Run by Annabelle Connelly, Border Trail Hounds is made up of the very stunning Jas, lily, Moss & Rue, Henry, Holly and Tim. These working/racing Trailhounds will be competing over the coming months, with a fixture list due imminently.

Hound Trailing is an old Cumbrian sport that takes place up and down the local countryside most weekends from March through to October. The hounds travel in the region of 8 miles across fields & fells, following a scent of aniseed, which has been laid down for them to follow as a trail.

Completing the course in less than 30 minutes, the hounds race towards their owners, running in different grades during the season and collecting points throughout for the coveted title of champion.

Here, Annabelle provides her top tips for caring for hounds after they have raced….

‘After strenuous activity dogs should be thoroughly checked over to make sure they have no injuries or wounds that need vet’s assistance. A post exercise massage will help push toxins out if the muscle such as lactic build up which contributes to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which isn’t something you want when you exercise or work your dog often as this will end up inhibiting their performance. 

The morning after a race is crucial, that’s when you are most likely to see any visible lameness, limping, short strides or head nodding. 

If your dog is unfortunate enough to gain an injury, the next thing to do is to have a vet or licenced animal physiotherapist check them over to pinpoint exactly where the lameness is coming from. Once you know where is sore, it’s time to treat the lameness and help your dog recover as quickly and as safely as possible. 

My favourite things to use to treat a dog for a muscle injury are ultrasound treatment and massages. Massaging the sore muscle twice a day with a muscle liniment or plain warm water will ease inflammation in the muscle and improve blood flow to the injury, blood needs to be flowing through properly for it to carry oxygen and the right nutrients to the injury to help it recover. 

I also like to feed my dogs turmeric, banana and eggs as all three foods have great properties to help a dog recover from injury. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, eggs have all the amino acids dogs need to help recover faster and bananas are great to feed after activity due to their ability to replace glycogen lost when the dog is performing.’

Annabelle Connelly, Border Trail Hounds

Having worried about one her own hounds, Moss, becoming lame recently, we’re very happy to report that after a visit to a licensed physio, all is well, and Moss is back fighting fit and racing.

We are also pleased to say Rue won the Produce trial yesterday (Sunday 20th September). She ran her heart out to win by a length on the finishing line – what a fantastic start to the season! Moss was 4th as he unfortunately made a couple of mistakes, which cost him dearly, but since he was only at the physio a few days ago, we think this is still a fantastic result.

We very much look forward to supporting Border Hound Trails in their coming season. To find out more about them and follow their racing season, visit their Instagram page.

 

 

5 Simple tips for keeping your gun dog fit through the offseason

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Keeping your working dog fit through the offseason will result in a dog more able to hunt with vigour, and longevity throughout the hunting season. Also, year-round activity and training will keep your dog’s hunting skills sharp and maintain your position of alpha.

Just like a professional athlete, a working dog should be kept in shape all year round; the health benefits are undeniable. A marathon runner wouldn’t dream of competing without months of preparation, and your dog is no different. Moreover, a lean, fit and healthy animal is far less prone to illness or injury; and a mentally stimulated working dog is a happy dog.

Here are our five top tips for keeping your hunting dog fit through the offseason

1. Start slow

If you’re bringing your working dog out of hibernation, and into a training plan, be sure to ease him in gently; you don’t want to risk an injury. For starters, simple games like stick throwing are perfect for getting his body moving.

Taking your dog for a daily run is one of the best ways to keep him fit and build condition. Be sure to increase the distance gradually. Be patient and consistent, and it won’t be long before progress is visible. Why not get involved yourself? You don’t want to be left behind, stiff, slow and out of shape come shooting season!

2. Keep the prey drive stoked!

For a super motivated dog come Autumn, keeping those prey drive embers burning throughout the offseason is vital. And, you don’t necessarily need to shoot live birds to keep your dog’s eager for the hunt; offering a sniff of a duck, grouse or pigeon will keep their noses quivering and excitement piqued!

3. Keep up your command training

When out in the field, your dog must respond rapidly to the sound of your voice or a whistle; you and he working in perfect synergy. But like any activity, when training or practice falls to the wayside, muscle memory and responsiveness decline also.

Practice the basic commands, and your whistle commands a few days a week. This training will help your furry friend to recall the commands more quickly once back in the field.

Repetition and perseverance will keep your dog primed and ready for the hunt; plus, your animal is a working dog so the exercise. learning and practice will keep him happy and content too.

4. Fire your guns regularly

Regular exposure to gunshots is essential for your hunting dog, especially if young and inexperienced. Bring your dog along to a dog-friendly firing range for a few hours. Alternatively, target practice with your pup in attendance is also useful.

If your dog hasn’t heard a gunshot for a while, ease him in gently to the sounds. You don’t want to scare him or leave him traumatised; starting with a smaller gun is advisable. This practice will help your dog to keep his cool in the field and avoid sending him darting off in shock.

5. Beware of heat exhaustion

Training too hard in the summer heat can result in heat exhaustion. Dogs don’t sweat like humans; they release most of their body heat by panting. However, there’s only so much panting can do so it’s essential to look out for signs of heat fatigue.

One obvious way to tell if your dog has had enough is the angle of a panting tongue. If the dog’s tongue is lolling out to the side, he’s too hot, and it’s time to call it a day. Ensure you keep a supply of fresh water on you while out exercising – and that your dog has access to a freshly topped up bowl at home.

Summary

Your hunting dog is an athlete; so, should train like one. If you expect peak performance during the hunting season, you both need to put in the work. Long daily runs, gunshot training, voice command practice and the odd sniff of his future prey will keep your dog on his toes, fit and healthy and primed for the season ahead. Not only this, but it keeps the two of you mentally connected, as necessary to perform as a team.

Your animal’s health and vitality are our passion and we are committed to providing exceptional service and outstanding value.

We are committed to nutritional excellence and we expect your pet to thrive on our food as much as we thrive on making it.

 

To keep your pet healthy and nourished, view our full range of dog food, specifically made for working dogs https://www.alphafeeds.com/product-category/dog/

Water safety and your working dog

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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

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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/.

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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black and white dog

Although hip dysplasia can go undetected in dogs who are fortunate enough to experience a milder form of the condition, it can present itself quite early on in a dog’s life and cause considerable discomfort too. So, what is it and what are the signs that your dog has it?

Put simply, the hip joints are designed to fit together perfectly to enable easy movement. When these joints don’t fit together as they should, the hips become unstable and hip dysplasia becomes apparent. Hip dysplasia causes pain, swelling, stiffness and eventually arthritis so it is essential that you recognise the symptoms early, before your dog experiences the pain and discomfort that unfortunately accompanies the condition.

Early detection

Dogs with hip dysplasia usually begin showing symptoms at a young age, typically around 5-6 months old. Unfortunately, the condition tends to be worse in medium – large breed pedigrees including Labradors, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Newfoundlands. Dogs who have been over-exercised when young, dogs that grow at a rapid rate and also overweight dogs can experience worse symptoms of the condition.

Typical symptoms and early signs include stiffness, limping, a wobbly walk and showing difficulty in getting up, lying down, jumping or using the stairs. Your dog may also lose interest in exercise, including just a short walk, and may move both back legs together when running. You may also notice skinnier hips, which are a result of weakened muscles in the hips and back legs.

Treating Hip Dysplasia

If you notice the symptoms of hip dysplasia in your dog, you should seek advice from your vet, who is likely to suggest some daily management measures such as weight management (to reduce strain on joints), Anti – inflammatory medication, rest and controlled exercise, meaning their life as a working dog may be questionable.

If your dog responds well to these treatments at home, they may not require surgery. If, however, their hip dysplasia is more severe, your vet may suggest surgery. There are a few different surgical options, which can unfortunately be quite costly.

A lifetime of care

Whether your dog responds well to daily management measures or undergoes surgery, it is unlikely that treatment ends there. Hip dysplasia, more often than not, is a lifetime condition that requires ongoing care. You may want to consider Physiotherapy and

Hydrotherapy to build up your dog’s strength. Joint supplements can also help slow the onset of arthritis.

It is important to note at this point however that although this is a lifetime condition, your dog can still lead a happy life if their medical and nutritional needs are met.

Keep exercise to a sensible level when your dog is a puppy and if you have an aspiring gun dog on your hands, find out more about training your gundog, not to forget the delicious Alpha training treats we have to offer on our website.

The importance of the right nutritional diet for your working dog is also essential. You should always read food labels to be sure you are feeding your dog the right amount of food that is specific to their size and age. Dogs are more likely to have problems later in life if they don’t have the correct nutrition both as a puppy and throughout their life as a whole so providing the right balanced diet is crucial.

To find out more about Alpha’s nutritional range of dog food, designed with working dogs in mind visit www.alphafeeds.com or call 01522 778000.

Caring for your working dog during the Coronavirus crisis

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dog on sofa

As the world faces a crisis and we enter the unknown in terms of our health, our community, the economy and the lasting impact it will all have on our future, we would like to take a minute to consider our working dogs and the impact it is having on them, their health and their welfare.

We have now had time to adjust to social distancing and stricter measures with regards to venturing out of our homes (as per Boris’ announcement on March 16th 2020.)

Your working dog however is likely to be used to a regular daily routine, plenty of exercise and stimulation and working alongside and socialising with other dogs on a regular basis – the changes we have experienced and adapted to are really not dissimilar to those your dog has also faced.

Current advice and guidance

So, what actually are the guidelines that you need to adhere to when it comes to your working dog?

A new coalition, made up of several UK pet charities and experts, has now been formed to help answer this exact question.

The group has provided useful advice and guidance, laid out it easy to digest graphics. This includes tips on what to do if you are self-isolating, how to protect one another and avoid the spread of coronavirus, how to responsibly practice social distancing and areas in which we can look to help and support one another.

Chris Laurence, chair of the Canine and Feline Sector Group, said: “We are concerned that rapidly changing and conflicting information was leaving pet owners confused and worried. Those of us who work with animals are concerned that this information could leave animals at risk as pets could end up abandoned by anxious families unsure if they pose a risk or how they can care for them in isolation.

“We have come together to reassure people that there is no evidence that pets can get sick from coronavirus so not to panic or worry. We have also written some clear and simple tips about how to continue to care for them through this crisis.

“Like many others, the animal welfare sector is facing huge strain, with reduced staffing, loss of volunteers and pressure on resources. We need to reassure owners

with good advice so they can continue to look after their pets and this will help prevent rescue centres being overwhelmed at this challenging time.” Visit www.cfsg.org.uk/coronavirus to read the advice and guidance and find a full list of all the charities and experts involved.

The dog food industry

It is important to note that that there is a good supply of dog food available within the UK and this is not likely to change in the coming months.

Alpha’s manufacturing plant is located in North Nottinghamshire and most of our natural ingredients are grown by local farmers and shipped directly to the factory. We are therefore confident in guaranteeing not only the continued production of our food but also that the exceptional quality of our feed is maintained.

To find your nearest stockist or to order online, visit http://www.alphafeeds.com

Support your local independent stockist

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dog sat outside shop

Alpha is a family run, British brand, built on a dedication for optimising the health, vitality and performance of your pet with our range of world-class quality foods.

Alpha has always championed local suppliers. Shopping locally and supporting independent retailers is a strong part of our ethos.

During this unprecedented period, we feel there has never been a better time to support your local pet store by buying locally. Not only will you be supporting what is likely to be a family owned and run business, you will also be investing in the British economy, which is going to be key over the next twelve months.

Feeding Champions

Alpha remains the top dog of the pet foods industry for a good reason. With a team of specialist nutritionists striving tirelessly to craft the most nutritionally balanced recipes – our range satisfies all breeds, and our high standards continue to set the bar. We have been feeding champions for years.

Geared towards working breeds; Alpha specialises in feed fit for ‘Dogs with a Purpose’, and dogs of action! With a fully comprehensive range of performance dog feed, Alpha caters for the most dynamic of dogs; so, it’s only natural that our brand plays proud sponsor to BSHRA – British Siberian Husky Racing Association.

The complete range

Tried and tested, and upheld by science, each of our recipes fits into one of three categories;

1. Resting/At Home

2. Working/Sporting

3. Racing/Competing

Made up of the finest ingredients blended for most significant nutritional advantage; Alpha’s range spans from resting, or older dogs, to pups and nursing bitches, to full-time working gun dogs, show dogs and racers. Most of our meats and cereals come from local suppliers, to guarantee quality, freshness and traceability. Vitamins and other supplements hail from only the most trustworthy suppliers. Protein levels range from 19% to 32% to suit a variety of workloads and conditions.

Never negotiating on the quality

Alpha’s ingredients are of the highest order; each recipe is clean, simple, and scientifically backed. Sourcing natural ingredients regionally where possible, our team works hard to not only champion local farmers and suppliers but to support the British industry on the whole. Firsthand connection with suppliers guarantees 100% knowledge of each ingredient’s origin.

Moreover, in times of BREXIT scepticism, a longstanding relationship with our local suppliers means, well, less uncertainty and more reassurance of continuity, so you can be sure that your dog will still enjoy his perfectly balanced diet!

Sustainability and independence

Standing firmly by our values as an independent brand, we strive to champion the smaller independent retailers. With this in mind, you’ll never find Alpha on the shelves of big-name supermarket corporations.

With a resolute commitment to the environment; 2020 will mark a massive overhaul of the Alpha feed packaging, as we bring it up-to-date with the needs of a planet struggling for resources and suffering environmental unbalance, and the fierce consumer demand for sustainability in packaging.

Moving to fully and widely recycled material for the bag; the enhanced packaging will experience not only a more premium look but also a tangible commitment to minimising its environmental footprint.

By shopping locally, you too can reduce your carbon footprint – you may be able to simply walk to your store and, at the very least, your local pet store will only be a short drive away.

In a nutshell

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 our life’s work and with a longstanding commitment to producing nutritional excellence – Alpha products make for happy, strong and healthy dogs.

You won’t find Alpha on the shelves of any high street or big brand supermarket. Why? We want to stay loyal to support the independent retailer, providing them with a product that cannot be purchased from larger competitors.

Many of our customers tell us that they value the personalised service and the specialist knowledge that only independent retailers can provide them. Why not visit your local pet store and experience this for yourself? For more information on our products please visit our website www.alphafeeds.com. Alternatively, call us on 01522 778000 and we’ll be happy to offer help or advice or talk anything working dog.

Alternatively, call us on 01522 778000 and we’ll be happy to offer help or advice or talk anything working dog.

Togo – the husky sled hero who inspired a Hollywood movie

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Today, husky sled racing around the world is a highly popular sport. Intense, exciting and requiring incredible teamwork and skill, it draws in a vast crowd.

But you don’t need to live in Alaska or Siberia to enjoy this fantastic sport. Here in the UK, the BSHRA (The British Siberian Husky Racing Association) exists for one reason only – to deliver the annual BSHRA British Husky Racing Championship. Formed by a determined group of Britain’s leading Sled Dog Drivers; it’s now enjoying its 24th season. There is no membership fee, just a commitment to keeping the UK’s racing scene thriving!

With all the thrill and excitement of today’s modern sport, it’s easy to forget the brutal and intense work these fantastic dogs once undertook, and the lives they changed. Here’s one particular champion with a story so epic it inspired a Disney film.

Togo and the 1925 Serum Run

Nome, Alaska, USA; In January 1925, child mortality was at an alarmingly high rate. Infected with diphtheria, each day, another son or daughter was struck down by the deadly respiratory disease. Nome’s solitary physician, Dr Curtis Welch, feared an epidemic was unfolding. He ordered a quarantine but knew in his heart that only an antitoxin serum could halt the rapidly-spreading disease.

The nearest batch of the life-saving medicine was more than 1,000 miles away in Anchorage, and Nome’s frozen harbour meant that sea transport was impossible. Moreover, the closest train station was 700 miles away, and the open-cockpit planes of the time couldn’t fly in Alaska’s brutal subzero bitterness. The best hope for the children of Nome was its dog teams.  

Sledge dogs regularly battled the snow to deliver the mail, and knowing this, the territory’s governor, Scott C. Bone, recruited the most skilled drivers and dog teams to attempt a frantic relay to transport the serum from Nenana to Nome through the most brutal of conditions.

On the night of January 27, 1925, the first team left from Nenana. Musher “Wild Bill” Shannon bound the precious parcel to his sledge and pushed on his nine malamute pack. 

With temperatures plunging to 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, by the time Shannon handed the serum to the second team, he was already showing signs of frostbite hypothermia, even though he had run by the side of his faithful dogs to keep his body temperature up.

Illuminated by the northern lights the country’s most renowned musher, Leonhard Seppala, took the next leg. He left Shaktoolik on January 31 on a substantial 91-mile run, the longest and most intense leg of the entire journey.

Seppala’s lead dog, 12-year-old Siberian Husky Togo – our hero – was by now an old dog and had run tens of thousands of miles in his life. But this would be his last, and most significant. Togo, born the runt of a litter, was from birth deemed too small, and far too naughty to join a sled team. He was so cheeky that Seppala gave him to a pet store to sell on. However, Togo had other ideas. Breaking out of the store, he made his way home to a surprised Seppala. Noting the dog’s loyalty, Seppala saw him in a renewed light – and the rest is history.

Togo and his 19 fellow dogs skidded and slipped across the sheer ice face underfoot – struggling for traction. Togo, with incredible instinct, strength and fearlessness led them with staunch determination.

Charlie Olson took the baton from here. Charlie, after 25 miles handed over the serum to Gunnar Kaasen for the second-to-last leg of the relay. Kaasen’s team went on the battle through severe blizzards, delivering the vital antidote to the desperate town.

The aftermath

The teams involved saved the lives of thousands, and the media frenzy alerted the rest of the world to the dangers of the deadly virus. Although more than 150 dogs and 20 drivers shared the poignant relay, with numerous dogs sacrificing their lives to the cause, it was Balto, who led the final miles that became a superstar. Togo, who had undertaken the most dangerous and arduous leg of the journey, sadly only received his recognition and celebration years later. Would he have ever imagined he’d be starring alongside Oscar-winning William Defoe, in his own Disney movie? Who knows? He died happily of old age, at the age of 16, in 1929.

So, from delivering life-saving serum’s, all the way to taking their mushers across the finish line of the race track, Huskies continue to thrive as a popular breed in a modern world. At Alpha, we’re proud to sponsor The British Siberian Husky Racing Association – keeping this incredible working dog thriving in what he does best – being a champion.

Gundogs as family pets

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Good working gundog traits include a positive disposition, sharp intelligence, high energy, and trainability. Funnily enough, these factors translate perfectly into making gundogs fabulous family pets.

However, there are a few things to consider before bringing your working dog into the home, or vice versa. Here are our top tips for making the transition;

When does a working dog transition into becoming a family pet?

How many days a year does a dog have to work to be classified as a working dog? Is a dog who sleeps outside a working dog? If my dog works 50 days a year but naps in my bed and enjoys movies on the sofa; does that make her a pet? The questions are many, and the lines blurred!

The answer is simple; your working gundog CAN also moonlight as your family pet. As long as she qualifies in both disciplines, i.e., sporting and sofa training, she should live an incredibly happy life, living the best of two worlds.

Possible issues

Although gundog varieties are keen people-pleasers, many families can experience problems with their pet gundogs. These difficulties arise due to the breeds instinctual hunting drive, explosive energy and independence.

Another red flag is a lack of house-training and ‘pet-dog’ discipline, leading to destructiveness in the home. A lot of these unfavourable behaviours often come down to a lack of exercise, and confusion. The rules have suddenly changed, and your dog can’t make head nor tail of it, which results in a stressed animal.

If you’re choosing to bring a highly intelligent animal into your home, you need to honour her needs. A gundog breed kept as a family pet requires long walks, proper training and an active lifestyle. A dog who knows her place in the family and is mentally and physically content means a happy home, left in one piece!

Summary

Although the answer to the question of whether your gundog can be a family pet, is yes, the result isn’t always completely black and white. If, for example, your trained gundog, freshly introduced to the family home, becomes distressed – it’s best not to force your agenda. Alternatively, if your gundog is happy living the couch-potato family life, while working simultaneously, and seems glad to switch off its hunting instinct when necessary, it can comfortably double up as a pet.

For information on our range of working dog food, which offers a variety of feeds for when your dog is both busy working and when resting, speak to your local stockist, or get in touch with us through our website.

Spotlight on Lurchers

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The Lurcher originated from bygone times where aristocrats dominated the field of hunting with hounds. Only the elite set was entitled to own greyhounds, deerhounds and whippets; and the punishment for a ‘commoner’ caught in possession of these breeds was death.

In time, the ordinary folk, in need of a hunting dog of this calibre, found a cunning way around the problem. By cross-breeding a sighthound with a pastoral working breed such as a Border Collie, or a terrier, the result was an exceptional hunting dog cleverly disguised as a pauper!

Fact file

  • Life Span: 10 to 15 years
  • Height: Ordinarily 27 to 30 inches at the shoulder but can be smaller
  • Weight: 35 to 100 pounds
  • Temperament: Affectionate, loyal, intelligent

Movement

The Lurcher was the first British designer, cross-breed. Quick as a flash, agile on the turn and gloriously elegant in motion – the Lurcher is a marvel to observe. Be thoughtful where you let your dog run free, a Lurcher at full sprint is best suited to open spaces, rather than woodland areas where collisions are a risk.

Exercise

Contrary to popular belief, the Lurcher doesn’t need masses of activity, although they require slightly more than Greyhounds. A couple of 40 minute runs a day is sufficient to keep your lovely Lurcher calm, happy and fulfilled.

Temperament

Like border Collies, Lurchers are incredibly intelligent; so much so that they worked as messenger dogs in both World Wars. Lurchers are loving, loyal and very affectionate. After an extended play and run, they like nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with their faithful person. They adore human company, and due to their super-smart nature, shouldn’t be left alone for long periods.

Cats

The simple fact is, no matter how many centuries pass, the prey drive instinct within lives on with a burning ferocity! If a lurcher pup grows up with cats, he or she may grow up to recognise they’re off-limits for hunting. Otherwise, unfortunately for kitty, she’s fair game.

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

Spotlight on: Gundog directional training

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gun dog standing to attentionA well-trained gundog in action, slinking elegantly to retrieve, and stopping, statue-still – at the pip of a whistle, is a marvel to observe, and something a working gundog owner endeavours to master. The good news is, this unwavering connection between trainer and dog is far easier to achieve than you may think.

The purpose of training

Directional control enables the handler to present his dog with the information she needs to perform efficiently. Sometimes your input isn’t necessary, and your dog can complete the task solo. However, at other times your assistance and guidance help things run more smoothly.

Starting from scratch

Using a combination of hand signals and whistles; the handler communicates to his gundog from a distance. For this partnership to work, his dog must be willing to pay undivided attention and to respond to his cues swiftly.

Directional training

  • There are two main components to directional training; the brakes, and the steering. The ‘brakes’, AKA stopping when necessary, can be taught with a ‘stop whistle’.
  • Once you and your dog have forged a strong connection and mastered the stop whistle, it’s time to move onto the ‘steering’ part of directional training. A paddock or large park works well for practice purposes.
  • Begin with left and right. What you ultimately want to achieve is your dog running in a straight line, at your command.
  • Keeping your dog stationary and with eyes fixed on you, throw one ‘dummy’, or ball to the left – not too far away in the beginning.
  • Using your arms; signal to the ball on your left. Use exaggerated motion as you’ll be working at far greater distances in the future, and your dog will need to identify your signal. When your dog returns the dummy, reward her with a pat, or a small treat.
  • Bring her quickly back to sitting and focused on you. Next, signal – with exaggerated motion – to the right and when your dog returns the dummy, reward her once again. Repeat.
  • When you’ve mastered left and right, try two dummies at once. You want to avoid your dog second-guessing you – so exercising the unwavering focus is essential. With both dummies set out – left and right – make your commands
  • Continue this training with the addition of the ‘back’ command (sending her directly away from you). For this command, you will raise your arm high, up and away from you.

In a nutshell

This communication and understanding is teamwork in action and makes working at great distances, and in unfavourable conditions possible. Once mastered, you and your dog will be the envy of many!

The Right Diet for Your Working Dog

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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.