Skip to main content

Gun Dog Nutrition & Intelligence

If you want your pup to perform at an elite level, consider nourishing his noggin.

Gun Dog Nutrition & Intelligence

When we puppy shop, we look for quality genetics that should produce athletic, physically healthy dogs with drive to spare. When it comes to duck dogs, there is always a heavy emphasis on prey drive and the ability to work from dark to dark in the harshest conditions as it pertains to puppy choice.

But what about a dog’s problem-solving skills, or ability to learn?

Canine intelligence is something we think of in blanket terms, like dalmatians are dumb or border collies are smart. When it comes to duck dogs, most of us have the attitude that we’ll take our retrievers how they come intelligence-wise, wherever they may fall on the brainy spectrum.

Here’s the thing, though, in addition to quality training we can foster better brain development and actually enhance our puppy’s intelligence through proper nutrition.


What Is DHA?

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fish oil, but is also sourced from algae. Studies have shown DHA is a crucial element when it comes to nervous tissue and retinal tissue development. In layman’s terms, this means that DHA aids in eyesight and brain development in mammals. This is something you should want for your duck dog.


Additionally, there is quite a bit of research out there that suggests fish oil has therapeutic benefits when it comes to osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, several inflammatory diseases and disorders, and a host of other ailments that might affect your retriever.

Where To Get DHA

I reached out to Raj Naik, DVM, who serves as the Purina Veterinary Communications Manager, to ask where the average person can find quality food sources that are chock full of the good stuff. His response was, “Fish oil and algae oil are the most concentrated sources of DHA. Since mammals are inefficient at converting short-chain polunsaturated fatty acids to DHA, pet food manufacturers supplement puppy food with DHA. For example, all of the Purina Plo Plan FOCUS Puppy Formulas are formulated with DHA from omega-rich fish oil to help nourish brain and vision development in puppies.”

Naik went on to explain several of Purina’s formulas, including a couple of Pro Plan SPORT options, contain both DHA and EPA (another type of omega-3 fatty acid, which supports joint health and mobility). This means that it’s possible to foster not only brain and vision development from the moment you bring your puppy home, but throughout his life as he transitions into a fully mature duck dog.

How Much Does It Matter?

It’s impossible to measure DHA’s effects on individual dogs to see exactly how much their cognitive function increases through proper nutrition, but the research is there to suggest the benefits absolutely exist with an omega-3-free diet. Essentially, if you’re interested in wringing the most potential out of your duck dog, a quality diet that contains DHA is a must.


Not only does this produce healthier dogs, but you’ll also see an improvement in problem solving, which is an asset to time-strapped amateur trainers looking to take their dogs to new skill levels without having to devote countless hours to every step of the process. The ability to suss out dummy-related training mysteries quickly fosters dogs that are confident in meeting new challenges, which is exactly what we want out of our retrievers when we’re in the boat or in the blind.

Nothing tests a dog’s ability to solve a problem quicker than a crippled diver that is hell-bent on swimming into uncharted territory to leave behind his four-legged pursuer. Or the greenhead that lands in the cattails with enough mobility and instinct left to do his best job at hiding from the discriminating noses of the most seasoned duck dogs.

A retriever that has the best brain-power possible and happens to be backed by the physical drive to get the job done is a special thing indeed. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, feed your pup a dog food formula that contains plenty of DHA.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Arkansas Snow Geese

Arkansas Snow Geese

Wildfowl Editor Skip Knowles took this short video showing all the Snow Geese flying. Let's just say, he had a very good hunt!

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Picking a Puppy

Picking a Puppy

Wildfowl contributor Mark Romanack shares advice about choosing your next retriever.

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Craig Boddington and Eric Poole take a look at the new modern Franchi Affinity shotgun.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Waterfowl hunters must find creative ways to practice the demanding types of shooting challenges we face.7 Ways to Improve Your Shooting Skills How-To

7 Ways to Improve Your Shooting Skills

Mark Romanack

Waterfowl hunters must find creative ways to practice the demanding types of shooting...

A teacher made a $100 row boat into a bluebill's worst nightmare, and a dog's best friend.  Convert a Row Boat into a Bluebill Blind Boats

Convert a Row Boat into a Bluebill Blind

Mike Marsh

A teacher made a $100 row boat into a bluebill's worst nightmare, and a dog's best friend.  

Develop the duck dog of your dreams by paying attention to neurological needs.Early Neurological Stimulation for Better Duck Dogs Retriever

Early Neurological Stimulation for Better Duck Dogs

Tony J. Peterson

Develop the duck dog of your dreams by paying attention to neurological needs.

Chef Jacques Haeringer shows you a great tasting goose legs recipe that will satisfy everybody at the dinner table.Beer-Braised Goose Legs Recipe Recipes

Beer-Braised Goose Legs Recipe

Chef Jacques Haeringer

Chef Jacques Haeringer shows you a great tasting goose legs recipe that will satisfy everybody...

See More Trending Articles

More Retriever

The HSUS is putting bills into motion that could make hunting with your dog a criminal act.Hunting And Training Retrievers is Under Attack Conservation

Hunting And Training Retrievers is Under Attack

Jace Bauserman

The HSUS is putting bills into motion that could make hunting with your dog a criminal act.

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability. How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability Retriever

How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability

Tony J. Peterson

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability.

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.Basic Water Training for Your Retriever Retriever

Basic Water Training for Your Retriever

Bill Gibson

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.

Don't let personal bias get in the way of making improvements during the season and beyond. Keep Your Duck Dog Sharp Throughout the Year Retriever

Keep Your Duck Dog Sharp Throughout the Year

Tom Dokken

Don't let personal bias get in the way of making improvements during the season and beyond.

See More Retriever

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Wildfowl App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now