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Alpha sponsor victorious team at 2019 Euro Challenge event

By | Results | No Comments

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

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

When asked about this win, Wagland said:

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

What the competition involved:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top tips for training your young gun dog

By | Training | No Comments

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

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

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

Early retrieving is essential

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

Encourage them to hunt

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

Get them used to other animals

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

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

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

Don’t over exercise

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

Treat from the hand, not the pocket

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

Get your dog used to loud noises/gun fire

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

Carry an un-cocked air rifle during training

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

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

Spotlight on a working dog: Golden Retriever

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

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

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

Fact file:

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

Temperament:

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

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

Exercise:

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

Grooming:

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

Working Roles:

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

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

Could your dog need a sensitive diet?

By | Nutrition | No Comments

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

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

What are the symptoms of a dog having food sensitivities?

Symptoms include:

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

When to seek attention from a vet:

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

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

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

Our Hypoallergenic range for working dogs:

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

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

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

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

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

All you need to know about Flyball

By | Training | No Comments

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

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

What is Flyball?

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

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

What qualities does a handler need to have?

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

Can any breeds make up a Flyball team?

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

What is the age restriction?

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

How many times a week should they train?

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

What kind of tournaments are there?

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

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

Top tips:

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

Milestone Awards:

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

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

Notts Supadogs

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

Recognising and preventing heat exhaustion in your working dog

By | Dog Welfare | No Comments

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

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

How to recognise heat exhaustion

Working dogs should be closely monitored in hot weather.

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

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

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

The best ways to prevent heat exhaustion

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

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

Higher risk breeds

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

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

The importance of providing the right nutritional diet for working dogs

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

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

Working dogs are more prone to accidents

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

Working dogs need to be alert more than regular dogs

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

Working dogs need their energy levels to last longer

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

Working dogs need to be fed well from an early age

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

How much should you feed your dog?

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

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

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

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

Alaskan Malamute

Spotlight on a working dog breed: Alaskan Malamute

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

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

Fact file:

Lifespan – 10+ years

Height – 56-64cm

Weight – 34-39kg

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

Temperament:

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

Hunting instinct:

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

Stubbornness:

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

Grooming:

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

 

For any information on our range of working dog food and your local stockists, click here or get in touch with us on +44(0) 844 800 2234.

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

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surgery can help to recover eyesight from cataracts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why ferrets make wonderful animals

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

Sadly, ferrets are very misunderstood animals. There is a common misconception that ferrets can be difficult to care for and are often mistaken for rodents. This, however, cannot be farther from the truth – not only do ferrets make lovable pets, but they are also very effective working animals.

About ferrets

Ferrets originate from the carnivore family of the Mustelidae and their closest ancestor is the European polecat so they are very curious and love to explore, often assessing most items with their mouths and nose. They rely on their senses of smell, taste and hearing as their eyesight is quite poor.

Ferrets use postures and vocalisations to indicate emotions. It is important to explore the behaviours of your breed of a ferret to ensure that you understand key emotions such as when they are feeling excited, an excited ferret will make a ‘dook’ sound.

As well as using smell to hunt, ferrets use scent to communicate with each other. They can tell if another ferret is male or female, strange or familiar and if the mark was left recently or a day ago, just by sniffing a mark left by the other ferret’s bottom.’

They become familiar with their ferret friends by using smell to hunt and communicate with each other. Don’t panic if your ferret sleeps between 18 and 20 hours a day don’t panic, that’s the sign of a healthy Ferret.

Caring for a ferret

A ferret can be both great fun and a treasured companion, but it is also important to realise that they can be quite challenging and a big responsibility and long-term commitment – healthy ferrets can live up to 10 years of age, however, their average lifespan is 6 years.

It is also very important to provide your ferret with a healthy, balanced diet which is why Alpha Ferret Feast has been carefully formulated as a premium complete diet to meet all the nutritional needs of working, pet and show ferrets of all ages.

Why Alpha Feeds Ferret food?

  • 36% Protein
  • Wholesome Ingredients – No Added Artificial Colours or Flavours
  • High-Quality Chicken & Fish Proteins
  • Fish Meal & Linseed for Essential Omega 3 Oils – Aids Healthy Skin & Coat Condition
  • Crunchy Extruded Nugget to Help Clean Teeth
  • Nutritionally Formulated for Health and Vitality
  • Easy to Digest and Highly Palatable
  • With Taurine Added

It is also very important to provide your ferret with a healthy, balanced diet. Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat to survive. That being said, they should never be given cat or dog food, which is full of plant matter that ferrets cannot digest.

Be sure to stick to dry food specifically provided for ferrets or indeed, provide fresh meat. Ferrets are also lactose intolerant and dairy can really harm them. Feeding your ferret a healthy, balanced diet will ensure they are fit to endure a full day’s work.

Where to find them:

The best place to find a working ferret is with a reputable breeder. Always be sure to visit the breeder, see how they keep their kits and also how knowledgeable the breeder is. A good breeder will be able to provide advice, support and the equipment you will require.

springer spaniel

Can rescue dogs be good gundogs?

By | Alpha Feeds | No Comments

The success of a rescue dog becoming a good gundog relies heavily on the breed, age and agility levels of each individual dog.

Breeds such as English Springer Spaniels are quite often found in rescue centres, after their owners underestimate their high-energy levels and need for regular exercise. Sometimes gundogs that have already been trained to be gundogs can even be found in rescue centres, when gamekeepers are made redundant or find that they simply have too many dogs for their need.

Where to look for a rescue gundog:

You’ll find a dedicated rescue and rehoming charity for virtually every gundog breed out there. Not only is this a reminder of how many dogs need to be rehomed, but it means there are many to choose from and there is likely to be one in your area. While rarer breeds may have only a single rehoming organisation, other breeds such as Labradors and spaniels have many.

Rescue dogs are surprisingly adaptable:

Dogs are amazingly adaptable creatures and have the ability to adjust to a new environment very quickly. There’s a saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but this simply isn’t true and the majority of trainers will tell you this.

Although there might be a learning curve, a dog can soon be taught to retrieve with both speed and style, as well as actually drop the catch at the end too.

Rehoming is good for the dog, good for the charity and good for the owner:

For many people, having a rescue dog becomes a way of life and they would never consider buying a puppy again. It’s important to find out as much as you can about any rescue dog, what their temperament is like, their history and their age, and bear in mind that the charity will try and find out as much as possible about you as possible too.

Remember, rehoming is taken very seriously:

For example: Springer Spaniel Rescue lists nine strict rules that apply to anyone who wants to rehome a spaniel. The rules are, however, very sensible because if they applied to everyone then there would be far fewer dogs in need of rehoming in the first place. Questions range from previous experience or knowledge of the breed, to having the financial security to pay for veterinary treatment.

Where should I start looking?

An internet search is the best way to start looking for a dog that needs rehoming, check for good charities in your area and be sure to leave your details with them if nothing is right for you at the time.

dog on beach

Gundog training for the summer 

By | Training | No Comments

The gap between shooting seasons can often seem very long, especially if your gun dog is young.

It’s interesting to note that dogs’ diets change between seasons too – Dogs are more active during the shooting season and therefore require a higher protein & oil diet. When dogs are less active, the food levels need to be dropped which is why dog food companies like us at Alpha have something for each season and requirement. See our range here.

One of the best ways to keep your dog active and learning retrieving skills is to join a summer club which will continue their training and retrieving progress.

Clubs all over the UK

There are clubs all over the country that offer training classes throughout the summer months. These classes usually start at the weekends and then extend into evenings during the week once the days start to get longer.

Many committee members attend these classes and they all have experience in the field of training gun dogs, so they know the best activities to provide.

Training for all levels of gun dogs

Classes are usually split into three groups: novice, intermediate and advanced, and this mix will give your dog plenty of chances to meet a range of new people and dogs. This also helps develop the skills of you and your dog when working together.

  • Novice skills – Novice classes involve the more basic training skills, starting from “sit”, “stay” and “walk at heel”, everything your dog needs to know from day one.
  • Intermediate skills – Intermediate classes move towards hunting-specific skills, such as “basic retrieving” and “short handling exercises”.
  • Advanced skills – Advanced classes involve teaching your gun dog to hunt and quarter its ground. It will also introduce them to gun shot and more advanced handling, as well as retrieving exercises to fully prepare them for days of hunting.

Even if your dog is already well trained with all the skills it needs for retrieving, these classes can be a great opportunity to progress or refresh their skills, preparing them for the forthcoming season.

These clubs are also a great opportunity for the owners for meet and swap information about shooting and retrieving in their local area.

Useful links:

See what clubs are offering summer training near you.