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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for entering our sponsorship search is 31st July 2020.
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.
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.
Whilst many dogs enjoy swimming
as a form of exercise, not all dogs are confident swimmers, and many can’t swim
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.
your dog to be a competent swimmer
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.
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.
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
are much safer for your dog to swim than others.
good swimming spots that pose little or no threat to dogs, assuming that your
dog is able to swim. These include:
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.
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.
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.
of water can pose serious dangers to your dog. These are:
Fast flowing water or flooded rivers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
quality chicken & fish proteins
meal and linseed for essential omega 3 oils – Aids healthy skin and coat condition
extruded nugget to help clean teeth
formulated for health and vitality
to digest and highly palatable
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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!