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

By | Alpha Feeds, Sponsorship | No Comments

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.

 

 

Preparing Your Working Dog For The Shooting Season

By | Health, Nutrition, Training | No Comments

man and dog on shoot in countryside

Summer is coming to an end, the first leaves of autumn are falling, and there’s a decided nip in the air. And what does this spell? The shooting season is nigh!

After a beautiful summer holiday, your dog will probably be looking a little wider around the middle, and maybe a little out of shape. You too may be feeling the same?! With this in mind – now is the perfect time to begin preparations for a busy season in the field.

Everything from feeding to training is about to ramp up – and it’s crucial to manage the transition back into the field with care. In this week’s blog, we talk nutrition and fitness preparation to get your dog in tip-top shape for work.

The DIY health check

Before embarking on your epic pre-season training plan; it’s good to give your dog a quick health check. Luckily, this is very straightforward and can be done for the comfort of your home. However, If your dog is displaying any signs of discomfort, infection or illness – a trip to the vet is recommended. The following steps will highlight any potential problems;

  1. Covering the entire body, thoroughly check your dog for any bumpy bits, and don’t forget the tip of his tail – after a hard season before, this area is prone to injury.
  2. Extend and flex all joints. You should be feeling for any resistance to manipulation and signs of discomfort.
  3. Check the mouth for redness in the gums, loose teeth over zealous tartar build-up; this can all lead to discomfort for your dog.
  4. Check your dog’s ears for redness, irritation and excess wax.
  5. Examine your pet’s eyes for clouding or discharge.
  6. Inspect all four paws looking out for discolouration or strange smells. Examine the length of the nails and study between the toes.

Let’s get moving!

After a few months of relaxing and restoring – your dog is ready to get back into training; and being a working breed, he’ll be turbocharged to get back into the action! Just a few extra pounds can increase the pressure on your dogs’ joints, increasing the risk of an injury, and after a sedentary period, your dog is likely to have put on a few!

Start your training light with regular walks, and increase the intensity gradually. Conditioning your dog for long days in the field, including some short sprints, is crucial. And, focusing on the duration and frequency of exercise will help no end. Activities like running beside you while you ride a bike, practising long and short retrieves (with a variety of dummy weights) and obedience training will all help build stamina and sharpen your dog’s mental response skills.

Nutrition for optimum health and endurance

As the energy levels and activity ramp up, it’s essential to feed accordingly. In the same way, you are building up the workout intensity – introduce new foods slowly. A sudden change in diet could lead to stomach upsets – just as jumping straight into intense physical training could result in injury. We suggest mixing the new food in with the current meal for a week to allow the dog’s digestive system to adjust.

As your dog’s energy levels grow, heralding the start of the season, gradually increase the volume fed, splitting it into two or three meals per day. It would be best if you were looking for a dog food that offers high levels of protein and fat to support energy levels and muscle repair. At Alpha, we provide a range of high performance feeds, including Alpha Sporting Puppy (29% protein), Alpha High Performance (32%protein), and Alpha Grain-free (25% protein).

*No dietary changes will be required if your dog enjoyed a busy and active close season. Vet’s and scientists agree that it’s best (if possible) to keep the dog’s nutritional profile consistent. This aids and maintains good metabolism.

 

 

The brilliance of the Border Collie

By | Breeds | No Comments

border collie laying in grass

Border Collies are smart, eager and always alert. Not only are they a popular working dog breed, they’re the 7th most popular breed of all dogs in the UK in 2020 and it’s not hard to see why.

Exceptionally easy to train, Border Collies are great around children and other animals and despite having beautiful, long coats, they don’t tend to shed as much as other breeds, which is a very practical plus.

Here are four excellent reasons why we believe the Border Collie is brilliant….

Athletic prowess

Border Collies are very energetic. With minimum effort they move freely and smoothly with both speed and stealth, which is what makes them amazing at herding.

With the ability to jump 6-foot-tall fences, they are incredibly agile dogs who are able to dodge, weave and jump with grace – that’s why the Border Collie frequently wins canine sporting activities for their agility skills.

Because the Border Collie is full of energy, it is important to keep them active, both mentally and physically, from an early age. From about two months, start to train your Collie basic commands, such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ in stride. As they are superfast learners, he will soon be keen move on to the more challenging agility moves.

Intelligent and obedient

Intelligence is what really sets the Border Collie apart from other breeds in this field.

Ranked number one for intelligence out of all herding breeds has resulted in the Border Collie being the shepherd’s go to sidekick for generations. Their love of the outside, high energy levels, athletic ability and enjoyment of a challenge makes them the perfect fit.

Once trained, Collies rarely get it wrong. It is usually very hard to break their focus, making them an owner or handlers dream. With an extremely strong instinct to work alongside man, they are always ready and alert to commands. They are patient too, and are good with authority, children and other animals.

Friendly, playful and driven

Border collies are affectionate and love to get your approval in the form of praise, treats and cuddles. They have a tendency to form a particularly strong bond with one member of the household, but their pack mentality means they will always be friendly and affectionate to the rest of the household too.

As a puppy, they are all about playtime and will happily fetch and catch all day. This playfulness never really leaves them making them an excellent playmate for life.

With the focus, stamina and enthusiasm of an athlete, it is in the Collie’s nature to ‘get the job done’. Not only does this make them great for herding, it also means they are extremely obedient, particularly if they know they will be rewarded for their efforts with a treat or two.

Strong work ethic

Border Collies have herding down to a fine art. Herding is a trait that is deeply embedded in the Collie’s psyche, so they naturally are excellent at rounding up the troops and leaving no stragglers behind.

Collie’s do have a high prey drive and will chase any animal, whether large or small. This is not necessarily to hurt it, more because they feel the need to. Nonetheless, it is important for the Collie to understand the ‘recall’ command, and obey it instantly, otherwise they cannot be let loose around livestock.

Not only do Collie’s work hard to herd sheep, they are also a popular choice for search and rescue dogs, as well as tracker and sniffer dogs too.

To keep your Border Collie healthy and nourished, visit our website to view our full range of dog food, specifically made for working dogs.

Dog V’s Ticks – a rough guide to winning

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

dog scratching it's ear

Part of the arachnid family, and closely related to scorpions, spiders and mites; ticks are small parasitic creatures that lurk in grassy areas, awaiting an unsuspecting host, in this case, your dog. Ranking second only to mosquitoes in the spreading of infectious disease (among human and animal) – ticks are a tiny but formidable foe.

There are around 20 species of tick living in the UK. Due to their penchant for woodland, marshes and meadows of wet, long grasses, ticks are a particular risk for your working dog. Although most active in spring and autumn, they’re found lurking about all year, as long as the temperature is above 7°C.

Are ticks harmful to dogs?

Not only are they irritating and uncomfortable to your dog, and hideous-looking (google Ixodida), as parasites, ticks can also pick up infections from one mammalian host and then pass it onto another – resulting in the spread of disease.

Sometimes, ticks carry Lyme disease which they can spread to both humans and our pets through biting. Lyme disease is a particularly nasty bacterial infection. In dogs, the most common symptoms include lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, swollen and sometimes painful joints, intermittent lameness, and swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, it can cause damage in the heart, kidneys, and nervous system.

Not only that, but ticks can also carry a myriad other harmful diseases and pathogens, often bringing them into the UK from abroad. With this in mind, speak to your vet if you’re thinking of travelling with your pet.

How can I avoid my dog picking up ticks?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to prevent your working dog from getting ticks. If you’re regularly out and about in the countryside; the likelihood of encountering them is high. However, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the risk and quickly eliminate the pests should they prevail.

1.  Use a tick treatment

The good old flea collar is surprisingly effective at keeping ticks at bay, but with modern methods emerging, there are much more effective ways to beat the tick.

Spot-protectors work well, as are orally administered repellants. Brands like Bravecto, which act by inhibiting the tick’s nervous system, are effective for three months. However, be sure to read about the side effects as some can be drastic, and sometimes lethal to your dog.

2.  Check your dog(s) thoroughly

If you are in a high-risk area, regularly check your dog for ticks. You’ll usually find them on his stomach, ears, head, legs, and in the creases of their armpits.

3.  Avoid high-risk areas

This advice is easier said than done if you enjoy the shooting season, or walking in woodland areas! Ticks are more common in moorland and wooded areas, especially in the long grass. If you struggle to avoid these areas, regular, thorough checking is highly advised.

4.  Check how common ticks are

If you’re planning on travelling to an event with your dog, check how common ticks are in the local area. Ensure you use a treatment that will kill and repel ticks.

How to remove ticks

When removing an embedded tick, it is imperative to pull out the entire body. Leaving the head behind will result in a painful abscess and possible infection for your dog.

Tick removal tools are the best implement to use – and readily available for minimal cost online, and in most reputable pet shops. Cleverly designed with a forked end; this tool allows you to prise the tick cleanly from your dog, using a swift and satisfying twisting action.

Kennel Cough – treatment and prevention

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

Synonymous with the summer holiday season, and particularly common around this time of year, kennel cough – highly contagious in nature – travels quickly around a busy kennelling yard.

At its best, kennel cough can be an aggravating for your dog, but at its worst – this virus can kill. In this week’s blog, we take a look at this common disease, and at methods for treatment and prevention.

What is kennel cough?

Similar to a chest infection in humans; kennel cough is a form of infectious bronchitis. Multiple types of viruses and bacteria can cause the condition, which brings with it a broad scope of severity. The virus causes inflammation of the trachea and bronchi.

This airborne virus exhibits itself as a slightly high temperature combined with a continuing hacking cough. The coughing sound is often mistaken for sneezing, retching, gasping for breath, or a choking fit. The cough usually worsens with exercise and is accompanied by white foam.

Fit and healthy dogs will fend off the illness, usually within a few weeks. However, in the case of old, or vulnerable animals, the illness can morph into something more sinister, i.e., pneumonia.

What to do if your dog contracts kennel cough

  • Avoid contact with other dogs – This virus is HIGHLY contagious! As much as possible, avoid other dogs during this time. Alternate your dog walking route if necessary.
  • Keep your pets living area well ventilated – Humid, still or warm conditions can further irritate your dog’s windpipe; causing discomfort and possibly prolonging the illness.
  • Avoid getting your dog too excited – Lengthy bouts of physical activity can exacerbate the condition – especially in the crisp morning air. Keep your pet as calm as possible.
  • Use Harnesses, rather than collars for walks – Collars tend to ‘throttle’ a dog with a tendency to pull on the lead; this can have an aggravating effect on the cough. A harness exerts way less pressure on your pet’s throat, making it a kinder option, with or without kennel cough!
  • Vet etiquette – Bearing in mind how infectious the virus is – be sure to keep your dog away from other animals as much as possible. Avoid spreading the illness around the waiting room!

Can my dog catch kennel cough multiple times?

Just like the human common cold – there are many different strains of kennel cough – so your pet can catch the infection multiple times. However, if your dog has contracted the Bordetella bronchiseptica strain, they’ll typically be immune to reinfection for six to 12 months.

Veterinary treatment

Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to kill the Bordetella bacteria if they consider it necessary, although most healthy dogs will recover from kennel cough without any intervention.

Cough suppressants and anti-inflammatories can alleviate the discomfort for your pet on their road to recovery. A healthy dog should recover within seven days.

Preventative measures

Vaccinations are the most effective method of protecting your dog from the virus. Not only do vaccinations protect your dog from sickness; they also help to prevent the spread of kennel cough.

Vaccinations are available for the most common bacteria – Bordetella bronchiseptica – which causes kennel cough. However, due to the myriad viruses and bacteria that can cause the condition, the vaccine doesn’t guarantee full protection.

To keep your dog healthy from the inside, out, visit https://www.alphafeeds.com/product-category/dog/ to view our full range of dog food and training treats.

Dog Agility: Our top tips for training

By | Training | No Comments

Agility training is important to dogs for a number of reasons. Not only does it give your dog plenty of mental and physical stimulation, it helps to keep them well-trained, reactive and teaches them best behaviour practices too.

Developing your dog’s agility can also help to solve separation anxiety issues, as well as promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

What is a good age to start agility training?

Eighteen months old is the minimum age for competing in agility, but it’s good to start agility training at just under a year old.

What kind of agility is best to start with?

Starting with jumps at a low height is a good place to start. Remember to make every activity fun for your dog, so training bit-by-bit is best. Even when your dog matures, training should be done little and often for best results.

What is the peak age for dog agility?

On average, dogs are at their best in this sport from four to six years of age, but that’s at a professional level. Dogs of all ages can benefit a lot from this kind of training.

What are the trickiest agility exercises?

The weaves are one of trickiest manoeuvres to teach, but incredibly rewarding. They’re an ambiguous obstacle to a dog and require a lot of patience and great accuracy. Teach them slowly and try to keep training interesting to help them along.

What can I do to help my dog?

Never underestimate the importance of your positioning on the agility course, this will help your dog’s flow throughout the course.

How to get started:

If you want to take agility classes, watch an agility trial, or simply find local people who can introduce you to the sport, then finding a training club is your best bet.

Here is a useful list of all agility clubs in the UK: https://agilitynet.co.uk/activepages/clubs.asp. We hope that helps!

Would you like to be sponsored by Alpha, the food of champions?

By | Sponsorship | No Comments

Alpha Feeds is now on the search for new sponsorship opportunities. From gundog events, to the sports of agility, showing, flyball and sled racing, our sponsorships cover a diverse range of fields. Now the competition is on to find more worthy recipients to add to our fantastic list of sponsors.

Whether you are just starting out, competing at novice level or are about to go international, the opportunity of our sponsorship is open to everyone.

Said David Tinker, of Alpha Feeds:

“We are very fortunate to support many major names across the disciplines. Our sponsorship is open to everyone, from younger competitors, to start up events, clubs and teams.

Sponsorship is our way of helping an individual dog owner, training club or the next rising star with their exciting journey and we very much welcome entries from anyone who feels they could be the next person or club to join the Alpha Feeds team.

 In addition to our sponsorship package, we also provide in-depth nutritional support to help get all of our four-legged sponsors in great shape for the year ahead.”

Our Sponsorship Package

We feature our sponsors on our website and will write a blog all about you, which will really put you in the spotlight. We are also happy to support your news and successes on our social media channels.

In addition, our package includes:

  • £500 worth of sponsorship
  • 36 bags of food of their choice
  • Branded clothing for three people

Sounds good? We think so too. All we ask is that you remember us from time to time, proudly show you are sponsored by us on your website (if you have one) and share any joint content that we create together over social media.

How do I apply?

Please tell us – in no more than 200 words – why you or your club deserve our sponsorship. Please provide information about your dog(s) and your ambitions for the future. If possible, it would also be great if you could attach a photograph of yourself and your dog(s) competing.

Submissions need to be made via email to info@alphafeeds.com.

The deadline for entering our sponsorship search is 31st July 2020.

Good luck!

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

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

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

Teaching your dog to be a competent swimmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best and worst swimming spots

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

The Best

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

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

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

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

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

 The worst

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

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

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

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

Gundogs and water on shoot days

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

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

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

Additional dangers in the water

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

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

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

Top Tips

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

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

To summarise

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

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

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

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

A Guide to ferret breeding

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

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

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

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

Be Prepared

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

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

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

Responsible breeding

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

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

Breeding practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeding your ferret

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

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

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

Alpha Ferret Feast

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

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

Overview:

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

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


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

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

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

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