Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Dogs are a very important part of life, and they deserve treats. Sure, there are a ton of store-bought options out there, but recent recalls have made me wary, and there's something reassuring about seeing every ingredient that goes into my pet's snack. Unlike some human confections, dog treats are super easy to whip up, and we've rounded up a bunch of simple, tasty morsels for your favourite furry friend.
As with any dietary change, make sure you consult your veterinarian before introducing any new food to your dog's diet, and remember that everything below is meant to be given occasionally as a treat, not as a meal replacement. (Also, though these treats are all safe for human consumption, they're all pretty bland, and the only ones I'd recommend eating yourself are the smoothie and the raw fruits and veggies.)
Photo by Claire Lower.
I show love for people by baking for them, and no one is more deserving of my love than my dog. (In fact, I think few people are as deserving of love as my dog, much less "more deserving.") In addition to being more worthy of your culinary creations, dogs are simply much more fun to bake for. Has any human ever eaten a cookie with the same level of gusto and enthusiasm that your dog has eaten anything? Has a dog ever given "constructive feedback" regarding your carrot cake recipe? Does your dog care about presentation? I think not.
Two-Ingredient Baby Food Treats
These treats from Curbly are super cheap and super easy to make, which makes them some of my favourites. All you need is whole-wheat flour and some high-quality baby food for a cookie that's perfect for your fur baby.
- 2 cups 100% organic whole wheat flour (You can also mix in wheat germ, spelt, or rolled oats.)
- 2 x 113g jars of preservative-free baby food, made from pooch-friendly fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, pears, apples, and carrots. (Make sure to avoid anything with onion, garlic, or anything in the allium family.)
Mix the two ingredients together to form a dough, adding water as needed to keep it firm but malleable. Roll the dough out, cut it into shapes with a sharp knife or cookie cutters, transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350℉ for 20-25 minutes. Let the treats cool before giving them to your pup.
Dog treats can get expensive, but you can create your own on the cheap with a very simple recipe that only requires two ingredients. flour and pureed baby food.
Flax Seed Cheddar Biscuits
These cookies (which I developed for Dogster) require a smidge more effort but, as you can see from the above photo, my dog is a huge fan. The flax seeds are good for your pup's skin and coat, and just a sprinkling of cheddar makes these biscuits extra enticing. You can obtain flax seeds from most health or specialty food stores; just make sure to crush them right before use, so as to prevent the oil from going rancid.
- 1 cup flour (either all-purpose or whole wheat)
- 1/2 cup of beef broth
- 2 tablespoons of flax seeds, freshly crushed (the ground stuff is fine too, just use a little less)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Shredded cheddar for topping (optional)
Whisk together broth, flax, and olive oil until they are fairly combined (some separation is unavoidable). Stir in flour and flax, and combine to form a sticky, stretchy dough. Coat your hands with a little olive oil and roll dough into 16 ping-pong-ball-sized mounds. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and press a pinch of cheddar into the top of each one. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is browned and the biscuits are firm, but slightly springy. Let cool.
Photo by Claire Lower.
During my last attempt to be a somewhat healthy grownup, my King Charles Spaniel became obsessed with my morning smoothie. At first I just let her lick my empty glass, but was soon making a little extra so she could have her own, spaniel-sized portion in her bowl. Unsurprisingly, her favourite was the one with peanut butter in it.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie
- 142g of nonfat Greek yogurt (I used one of the single-serving Chobani 0% yogurts)
- 2 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter
- 8 small strawberries (use frozen for a frosty treat)
- A tablespoon of maple syrup (any grade is fine, but grade B is more flavorful)
Put it all in a blender and blend until it's a smoothie. I'm pretty confident you know what a smoothie looks like. Pour a small portion into your pups bowl and either refrigerated the rest or drink it yourself.
Strawberry Ice Cream
You may or may not have seen a little product called "Frosty Paws," but it is essentially overpriced dog ice cream that my pooch is crazy for. (She's also crazy for a pizza grease-soaked paper towel, so let's not put too much stock in her palate.) Unlike children, dogs are completely unaware of branding, and they will be just as happy with the ice cream-like concoction you create. (Which is great, because those Frosty Paw things are expensive.)
- 4 large strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and diced
- 3 cups of nonfat plain yogurt, divided in half; avoid brands that contain any fat substitutes
Combine both ingredients in a blender or food processor. Transfer mixture to little cups or an ice cube tray and freeze. If you want to pipe the mixture into fun little shapes, pour the mixture into a piping bag or resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Line a baking tray or cutting board with wax paper and pipe whatever shapes you artistically capable of onto the paper. (I can do circles and hearts.) Pop the tray or board in your freezer until the shapes are fully set (about fifteen minutes). Peel them off the paper and serve to your favourite pupper. (Store in an airtight container in the freezer.)
Photo by Karen.
Though the pet food marketing would have us believe that dogs are ruled by their desire for bacon, that particular pork product should be largely avoided as a treat, due to high levels of salt and fat. (Even bacon of the highest quality isn't fit for canine consumption.) For a healthy, but still vastly appealing porcine snack, swap out the cured breakfast meat for simply-cooked pig ears for a chewy treat.
Baked Pig Ears
I love a fried pig ear, but deep-frying is not a good cooking method for dog treats. Instead of dipping them in a vat of hot oil, Food52 recommends baking these babies slow and low in the oven. (Alternatively, you can smoke them. Food52 can walk you through the process here.)
- Pig ears
Obtain some pig ears from your butcher (Asian grocers sometimes carry them). Cut them into pieces that are appropriately sized for your doggo (they shrink a bit during cooking), then toss them with just enough oil to coat. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake on your oven's lowest setting until they are completely dried out. Depending on how low your oven can go, this will take anywhere from 6-10 hours, so flip them around the four hour mark. Once they're nice and crispy, let them cool, and store in a paper bag in a cool, dry place.
Photo by Vitamina Verde.
Dogs like food, and frankly they don't care how much time you spend preparing it. That's great news, because there's not always time to bake (or blend) for your pooch, but you can still reward him or her for being such a good boy or girl with some tasty raw snacks:
- Carrot sticks -- Dogs don't even need dip.
- Apples slices -- Remove the seeds and core first.
- Pineapple chunks -- Make sure to peel off every bit of that spiny skin.
- Blueberries -- Freeze 'em for a chilly summertime treat.
- Cucumbers -- Cucumbers are mostly water, making them super hydrating and appropriate for pets that might be on calorie-restricted diets
Those are my dog's personal favourites, but you can check out this list for more ideas. If you have any doubt as to whether or not something is ok for your dog to eat consult your veterinarian, and always avoid onions (or anything in the onion family), grapes, mushrooms, avocado, and tomatoes.