Prepared Foods August 23, 2004 enewsletter

Fish oil can make puppies smarter and easier to train, it has been claimed. Animals fed diets with boosted levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, were significantly quicker to learn, researchers found.

The nine-week-old pups spent five days being taught how to recognize shapes leading them to a food treat.

Those fed a dry food laced with 10 times higher than normal amounts of DHA were much better at remembering the correct way to turn in a T-shaped maze.

Twice as many of the 19 puppies on the high-DHA diet achieved an 80% success rate than the 20 given lower doses of DHA.

The research was carried out in Ohio by Eukanuba, a company that makes DHA-enriched pet food.

Most dog foods contain some DHA in the form of fish oil or fish meal. The study compared the effect of this "normal" level and the much higher concentrations found in Eukanuba puppy food.

DHA is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the brain, and thought to be vital for mental function.

Its benefit to humans is well recognized, and it is now added to many formula milks for human babies.

Eukanuba claimed that having more trainable puppies could save owners up to £1,000 ($1,807) a year in behavior-correction fees.

Spokesman David Morgan said, "DHA has been praised as a wonder nutrient for infants, and this is the very first time that it's been found to boost healthy brain development in puppies, too.

"With puppies receiving enhanced DHA-levels demonstrating superior memories by being smarter, more trainable, this research has widespread implications for helping to establish optimal behavior patterns."

British veterinary surgeon and dog behavioral expert Sara Heath said, "Enhancement of a puppy's cognitive development and exposure to various learning opportunities can maximize the potential for it to develop into an adult dog that can be readily welcomed as a member of society."