It used to be believed that both human and canine brains received a complement of brain cells at birth and that these cells died off gradually over the lifespan. Since 1997, brilliant research at the Salk institute in California has shown definitively that, given the right nutrition and the right stimulation, human brains can develop literally billions of new cells lifelong ( 12,24). So can canine brains.


What is Neurogenesis?

Since 2005, textbooks of human medicine have all been changed to incorporate this new discovery, of brain cell growth in adults. It’s called NEUROGENESIS. (9,10) Now, we know that the same applies to dogs. The old studies which showed canine brains losing cells and shrinking by as much as 50% with age, all used sedentary dogs, kept isolated in cages, with garbage diets, and no social stimulation or training.

What did they expect? Put a human in the same conditions, solitary confinement on bread and water, and they quickly lose their mind. Fortunately, thanks to the animal rights movement, we no longer torture dogs, (or people) like that. A dog that is properly nourished, trained, and loved, can grow their brain by five times its puppy size, and become very smart indeed. In combination with the right protein, all the nutrients we put in ON! to optimize neurotransmitters, stimulate this brain growth lifelong. (We cover the protein ahead.)

9. Colgan M. Save Your Brain. Vancouver: Science Books. 2008.

10. Colgan M. Save Your Brain: Expand Your Mind. Sound Concepts: Indian Fork UT, 2012.

Our neurotransmitter nutrients together also stimulate what is termed NEUROPLASTICITY. Every time you teach your dog something, little feelers grow out from brain cells to reach other cells, to make a circuit which then contains the memory of the new learning. But unless you have the right nutrients in place, the circuit does not have the materials necessary to strengthen and maintain it. It dies off. The new learning then has nowhere to live and disappears.

What is Neuroplasticity?

Research in the 1980s first showed that many aspects of the canine brain, and the human brain are “plastic” that is can be improved even into very old age (10). This work contradicted older science that the brain develops during a critical period in early childhood and then remains relatively unchanged, and declines steadily in old age. Now we know from recent controlled trials, that a combination of brain nutrients plus the right training program can improve the cognition, intelligence, and memory of dogs from puppyhood to even very senior dogs.

We also know that this occurs by a combination of growth of new brain cells (neurogenesis) and growth of new connections between brain cells (neuroplasticity) (10,24,25).

10. Colgan M. Save Your Brain: Expand Your Mind. Sound Concepts: Indian Fork UT, 2012.

24. Head E1, Murphey HL, Dowling AL, McCarty KL, Bethel SR, Nitz JA, Pleiss M, Vanrooyen J, Grossheim M, Smiley JR, Murphy MP, Beckett TL, Pagani D, Bresch F, Hendrix C. A combination cocktail improves spatial attention in a canine model of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;32(4):1029-42. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2012-120937.

25. Sechi S1, Chiavolelli F2, Spissu N1, Di Cerbo A3, Canello S2, Guidetti G2, Fiore F1, Cocco R1. An Antioxidant Dietary Supplement Improves Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels in Serum of Aged Dogs: Preliminary Results. J Vet Med. 2015;2015:412501. doi: 10.1155/2015/412501. Epub 2015 Jun 23.

I am writing this emphatically, because many dog owners who come to us have previously made little progress training their dogs, and they tend to blame the dog when it fails to learn. Almost every time, it is not the dog who is dumb, but more the owner, for failing to understand that a dog needs premium nutrition in order to develop its brain.
It’s really just common sense. If you want a fine crop of tomatoes, you don’t plant them on clay, because it lacks the essential nutrients for healthy tomato growth. It would be silly to blame the tomato plants for poor performance. Any sensible person plants tomatoes in a bed of manured soil, rich in nutrients, and gives them growth factors too. Yet many folk get a dog, then feed it the garbage grains that comprise cheap dog foods, often with the sick excuse that it then has dry feces. Then they wonder why it cannot learn, and is miserably anxious, and disobedient.

Learn more...

Each year, millions of dogs worldwide are abandoned by their owners, relinquished to animal shelters, and euthanized because of behavior problems. Most people still do not know that poor nutrition is the major contributing factor. As this website explains and supports with the latest science, canine behavior is totally controlled by neurotransmitters and hormones in the dog’s brain, and changes in the availability of their precursors in the dog’s diet. As we have noted, for example, shortage of tryptophan the precursor of serotonin, is shown to increase the incidence of aggression, self-mutilation and stress in dogs.

Diet composition, nutrient availability and nutrient interactions all affect the availability of precursors to neurotransmitters in the canine brain. Shortage of any one dramatically damages the dog’s behavior and reduces its resistance to stress. Omega-3 fats, especially DHA, for example, have an important role as structural constituents in brain development, and in brain maintenance in senior dogs. Dietary supply of omega-3 can modify the dopaminergic and serotonergic control systems and, consequently, the cognitive performance and behavior of your pet. Given the right nutrition and training consistently, behavior problems disappear.

We do not have behavior problems with our dogs. They have happiness to spare which we all enjoy (26-29.) 26. Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, Milgram NW. Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age.

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 Sep 1;241(5):583-94. doi: 10.2460/javma.241.5.583.

27. Snigdha S, de Rivera C, Milgram NW, Cotman CW. Effect of mitochondrial cofactors and antioxidants supplementation on cognition in the aged canine. Neurobiol Aging. 2016 Jan;37:171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.09.015 28. Yeates JW1. Maximising canine welfare in veterinary practice and research: a review. Vet J. 2012 Jun;192(3):272-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2011.10.024. Epub 2011 Dec 22. 29. Bosch G1, Beerda B, Hendriks WH, van der Poel AF, Verstegen MW. Impact of nutrition on canine behaviour: current status and possible mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. 2007 Dec;20(2):180-94. doi: 10.1017/S095442240781331X.

After nourishing the major neurotransmitters, the next thing we had to add into ON! was the correct lipid structure to build the waterproof fatty membranes that encircle and protect each brain cell. Otherwise the growing brain leaks like a sieve, and learning is severely compromised.

Canine brain cell membranes are made mainly from the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid. It is found most abundantly in cold-water fish. We put premium, human-grade docosahexaenoic acid in ON!

Learn more...

In numerous dog foods, you will see shorter chain omega-3 fats that are found in plants oils, such as flax seed. These are not effective to canine build brain cells. We do add some plant oils, olive and avocado to ON! But these are for other purposes. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (plus a smidgen of other fish-based omega-3 fats) are the only structural fat constituents of membranes in the canine brain. Given a plentiful supply in their nutrition, DHA accumulates in new-born puppies at very high rates up to the end of the first year of life. Endogenous formation of DHA from plant oils is very low, so supplementary DHA intake is necessary for optimal canine brain development.

Data from many animal studies indicate that supplementation with DHA is essential for neuronal cell growth and neuronal signaling. DHA is also essential to optimal visual acuity development. For dogs this is especially important, as dog vision is only about one quarter as acute as human vision. High DHA levels not only promote optimal early development. Research is also showing benefits throughout life. Again this work indicates the importance of DHA to inhibit the cognitive decline of dogs which otherwise begins in mid-life. It is also important for maintenance of canine vision, to offset the decline of sight common in many senior dogs today.

To develop new brain cells that are waterproof and elastic, in addition to DHA, dogs need a compound called a phospholipid in the wall structure, a specific mixture of phosphorus and fat. One of the best is phosphatidylserine (PS) which we have put in ON! Phosphatidylserine is the major phospholipid in what is called the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane in brain tissues. Neuronal survival and differentiation, requires interactions of phosphatidylserine with brain proteins. Furthermore, neurotransmitter release is regulated by PS present in the neuronal membranes. Because of their synergistic action together, DHA uniquely expands the PS pool in neuronal membranes and thereby influences widespread PS-dependent signaling and protein functions.

Research shows that, by these actions, PS supplementation also improves memory functions in cognitively impaired canines, a great benefit for senior dogs,. To build strong brain cells for life, your dog needs PS lifelong (30,31).

30. Lauritzen L, Brambilla P, Mazzocchi A, Harsløf LB, Ciappolino V, Agostoni C. DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 4;8(1). pii: E6. doi: 10.3390/nu8010006.

31. Kim HY, Huang BX, Spector AA. Phosphatidylserine in the brain: m




Canine energy



Anti-oxidants and inflammation




Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!