Training a New Puppy? Diet Could Make a Difference

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Minnehaha Dog Park
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Having trouble teaching Fido to sit and stay when you want him to? New research shows nutrition could affect your dog’s ability to learn.

A study released at the 2004 meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association shows docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an essential brain-building nutrient for human babies, is good for puppies, too.

The new research, conducted by The Iams Co., looked at the role DHA plays in brain development for puppies. It found puppies nourished with high levels of DHA – both before and after weaning – were smarter, more trainable than puppies fed low amounts of DHA.

These findings correlate with those on human nutrition. In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged the benefits of DHA when it approved the fortification of human infant formula with DHA to ensure formula-fed infants received the cognitive benefits of this nutrient.

“The role of DHA for puppies is similar to that for human infants – it is a major structural component of the brain,” said Dr. Dan Carey, a veterinarian with Iams. “This research shows why feeding a diet high in DHA is so important. Good nutrition, combined with training and loving care, primes puppies for healthy lives.”

In the Iams study, 39 puppies were evaluated for the effects of dietary DHA on learning. Puppies were fed a complete and balanced diet that varied only in DHA levels, as were the puppies’ mothers prior to delivery. After they turned 9 weeks old, each puppy was tested in a shape-recognition food-reward test, which included a maze course with symbols associated with the location of a food treat.

Following 30 days of testing, the success rate for puppies nourished with enhanced amounts of DHA was twice that of those receiving typical amounts of DHA in their diets.

“Based on the results of this study, I would recommend that breeders and pet owners feed their dogs foods enhanced with DHA,” said Carmen Battaglia, founder of the “Breeding Better Dogs” program. “I think they’ll see better results not only in their puppies as they grow and develop, but also in better training due to better brain development.”

Eukanuba puppy foods, which have enhanced levels of DHA, are perfect for dog owners who want smarter, more trainable puppies. – NU

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