Welcome our Guest Blogger Jamie DeBree, who is going to share something a little different today: How to make home made dog treats!
Thanks for inviting me, Mauri!
My dogs are the only reason I have a food processor and a dehydrator.
I used to have a dog named Lucy who had a pancreatic disorder (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency – E.P.I.) that left her unable to naturally produce the enzymes needed to digest food. The enzymes I needed to add to her food worked best for her with a raw diet, so I bought a food processor a week after she was diagnosed so I could process vegetables to add to her food. I did a lot of research on canine nutrition and was soon making treats for the dogs as well.
Since then, I’ve cycled on and off making food and treats for my dogs, adjusting recipes and techniques as I go to fit the digestive idiosyncrasies of the current family pups. Mica has an extremely sensitive stomach and can’t handle any amount of dairy or grain, and while he can tolerate a small amount of fish oil, he definitely does better without it (actual fish will make him sick). Murphy doesn’t have any allergies, but he does have a weight problem we’re trying to correct. It’s slow going, as he also has anxiety issues that worsen when we cut the amount of food he gets. Veggie-based treats are good, as they’re low-calorie, though the occasional peanut butter treat is met with slightly more enthusiasm.
I’ve been cooking since I was twelve, and when I was young, we didn’t often have all the ingredients for recipes (nor the money to just go out and get what we needed). So I learned early on to substitute or leave out ingredients as needed. As a result, I don’t tend to follow recipes to the letter, and I often “eyeball” amounts instead of measuring exactly, even when baking. When Mauri asked if I’d like to write a post about making dog treats, the only thing that gave me pause was the fact that I’d have to measure the ingredients I use at least once, to write up a recipe that others would find easy to follow. I don’t measure when I make these myself – I just toss things in until I have the consistency I want. Feel free to do the same!
The treats I make are rooted in a very basic recipe that I cobbled together from bits and pieces of several others I found online. Most dog treat recipes include grains of some sort (oat flour, rice flour, etc), and since Mica can’t have any of those, I decided on coconut flour as an appropriate substitute. If your dog isn’t as sensitive, oat or rice flour should work. You just may need more or less to bring the batter to the right consistency.
Many dog treat recipes are baked, but I wanted mine to be small, crispy, and to keep on the counter for a good week or two without spoiling, which is why I use a dehydrator instead of the oven, and also why I don’t add eggs or meat of any kind (you can, but you have to be very careful to dehydrate them for a long enough time at a high enough heat – something I’ve never bothered to experiment with).
As for the main ingredients, there are a plethora of options to use. I tend to use frozen peas most often, because they’re easy to get and use, and the dogs like them. I’ve also used carrots and peanut butter (get all natural, no sugar/sweeteners added – Xylitol is deadly to dogs and sugar isn’t good for them either). Obviously with harder veggies like carrots, you’ll need more moisture to puree them. I’m not a vet or a nutritionist of any kind, so do your research and use ingredients you feel comfortable with. This recipe is very forgiving.
Below is the recipe I use for Pea & Pineapple Treats. Honey is controversial for dogs, so feel free to leave that out, and I add ginger for Mica’s sensitive stomach – you can substitute any good-for-dogs spice or herb you’d like, or leave it out without affecting how the recipe turns out.
Pea & Pineapple Treats
- 2 cups frozen peas (or other veggie of your choice – thawed)
- 1/2 – 1c water 1 6oz can pineapple juice (optional – replace with water if desired)
- 1tbsp honey (optional)
- 1/4 tsp ginger (or other dog-friendly spice/herb, if desired – optional)
- 1/2 – 1 cup coconut flour to start (more or less as needed)
- Puree the peas, water, pineapple juice, honey and ginger in the food processor until smooth. Use more or less water to get that smooth consistency – watery is okay, crumbly is too dry.
- Add coconut flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture is spongy and will hold its shape when rolled into a ball, but is still soft to the touch. You will need more or less depending on how watery the puree was to start. The batter should be a bright, vibrant green.
Mica & Murphy add: Let dogs taste-test small balls of the mixture before moving on!
3. Spread the mixture out on dehydrator mats that you’d use for fruit roll-ups or dehydrating other liquids. If you don’t have any, parchment paper laid over your normal dehydrator trays will work as well. I find that pressing it in with my fingers works best – make them as thick or thin as you’d like.
4. Then use a knife to score lines in the batter top to bottom and side to side. This shapes the treats and makes them easy to break apart when they’re done.
Optional: If you prefer, you can also just roll the batter into small “cookie” balls, flatten, and lay on regular dehydrator trays. Either method will work – spreading and scoring generally results in smaller treats, making cookies results in larger treats
NOTE: Dehydrating times will depend on the unit you’re using and how moist your batter is. I generally start them at 145 degrees for 6 hours or so, and then turn it down to 135 degrees for another 6 hours. You’ll have to experiment with the times for your unit.
The treats are done when they’re lighter in color or slightly browned and (if scored) break apart easily. If they’re still soft, they need more time.
Want to try peanut butter? Here’s the latest combination I’ve been experimenting with (the dogs love it)!
Peanut Butter & Apple Treats
- 1c peanut butter (no sugar/sweetener added)
- 1 1/2c apple sauce (no sugar/sweetener added)
- 1/4 cinnamon (optional)
- 1tsp honey (optional)
- 1/2 – 1c coconut flour
Blend peanut butter and apple sauce (along with honey and/or cinnamon, if you choose) in a food processor until smooth and slightly runny.
Add coconut flour 1/2 cup at a time until the batter is the consistency of cookie dough.
Mica & Murphy say: Don’t forget the doggy taste-test!
Prepare for dehydrating as above, either spreading thin and scoring, or rolling balls and pressing into cookies. Dehydrate until dry and crunchy.
Aside from the time it takes to let the dehydrator work its magic, these treats are quick and easy to make and easy to adjust for food allergies and/or picky eaters. I’ve found the ingredients to be less expensive than buying treats at the store, too, though that may vary depending on what’s available to you.
I hope your dogs love them as much as mine do!
Bio: Jamie is a database administrator and author from Billings, Montana. When not working or writing, she loves to cook, read, and spend time with her two dogs and husband. Connect with her on your social media platform of choice by visiting her website at jamiedebree.com.