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When I made changes to my own diet and switched to eating plant-based, whole foods, it only made sense that I started to rethink what I fed my dog, Benny. After all, he’s my baby, my little boy, my heart. So I changed his diet to consist of healthy, whole foods as well, and every day, I prepare his dinner along with mine. Benny is very picky, so finding biscuits and treats that were healthy as well as appealing to him was a bit harder. I decided I needed to learn how to make Benny yummy dog treats at home.
There are a lot of benefits to making your own dog treats: you get to control what ingredients go into them; you can avoid all the preservatives, additives, fillers, and byproducts; you can cater to any of your dog’s dietary restrictions, and you can choose the flavor combinations your pooch loves most. With all of the recalls on dog treats these days, there is nothing more comforting and rewarding than knowing you are giving your fur baby treats that are healthy, safe, and of course, filled with love.
Making homemade dog treats is an easy way to show your dog some extra love. Just be aware of which ingredients may be toxic to dogs such as macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, chocolate, apple seeds, and large amounts of onion and garlic. Every dog is different, so please check with your veterinarian to see which ingredients are suitable for your dog.
1. Choose a Base
Any flour can be used to make dog biscuits, but why not go for the healthiest choices? Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour are good choices. If your dog needs to avoid wheat, choose gluten-free flours like chickpea, sorghum, or oat flour. Adding oats is a good way to add fiber and chewiness to the treats. When I make Benny’s Peanut Butter Biscuits, I use a blend of whole-wheat pastry flour, sorghum flour, almond meal, and rolled oats. To make them gluten-free, I would just replace the whole-wheat flour with more sorghum flour or high-protein chickpea flour. I find that I don’t need to add any baking powder, baking soda, or egg replacers to get biscuits that have a texture that is crunchy on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside.
2. Choose Your Flavors
You can choose any combination of healthy foods to put into your biscuits. Fruits and veggies that are safe include apples, bananas, berries, broccoli, carrots, celery, citrus (without the seeds), eggplant, green beans, kale, melons (without the seeds), potatoes, spinach, squash, tomatoes, watermelon (without the seeds), and zucchini. Peanut butter is a popular choice for dogs – they love it and it has natural sweetness. Dogs can’t have chocolate, but they can have carob, which has a similar taste. It comes in powdered form or you can add carob chips to your cookies. Add a pinch of cinnamon for extra flavor. Whole grains such as oats and brown rice are good additions. A quick way to add flavors you know your dog already likes is to put a spoon or two of her favorite prepared dog food in your biscuit mix. By mixing and matching ingredients, the variety of treats you can create is endless.
3. Sweet or Savory
Dog biscuits can be sweet, savory, or both. When I make Benny biscuits that are on the sweet side, I add a small amount of molasses or maple syrup and a hint of pure vanilla extract. Those ingredients complement his favorite flavors of carob and peanut butter. He also loves savory biscuits filled with sweet potato, carrots, spinach, or kale. When I make these more savory treats, I use vegan “beef” or “chicken” flavored broth instead of water for an even more appealing smell and taste. Of course, you can use your imagination and mix carrots and peanut butter or spinach and banana to make unique treats that satisfy your dog’s sweet and savory taste buds.
4. Lovin’ in the Oven
Once the dough is mixed for the special treats, the fun really begins. That’s when I break out my cookie cutters to make fun shapes for the biscuits. I know you’re thinking that’s really more for me than for Benny, but I’m sure he appreciates his cookies having fun shapes like bones, hearts and kitty cats. To make it easier, however, you could just roll the dough out on a flat baking sheet and use a knife to cut it into squares before baking. I bake the biscuits, which are small 2-inch cookies, for 18 minutes at 400 degrees, until they are hardened and crisp. Larger biscuits will take a bit longer. Alternatively, they can be cooked on the stove top in a dry pan over medium-low heat until they are crisp. Store them in a covered food container and if they have frosting, keep them in the fridge.
5. Decorating With Icing
While the decorations and designs may be for us humans, our dogs do love the taste of the frosting or icing. Of course, we don’t want our dogs to get too many sweets, but a little bit as a treat is fine. Ingredients you can use to make icing include non-dairy yogurt, vegan cream cheese, carob, banana, peanut butter, pureed fruits and veggies and even mashed potatoes. A simple recipe is to mix yogurt with peanut butter or cream cheese. If you need it thicker, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it’s the desired consistency. Add vanilla, cinnamon, carob or parsley for enhanced flavors and colors. Once you mix up the icing, you can spread it on the cooled biscuits with a flat knife or use a pastry bag. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can just spoon it into a plastic baggie, snip the tip off the end, and squeeze the icing out however you want to decorate with it.
Making dog treats at home is a fun and loving thing to do for your furry best friend. Once you start making cute shapes and decorating them with icing, you can make special treats for your dog’s birthday or “gotcha” day. Before you know it, you’ll be giving bags of homemade dog goodies to all your friends and tails will be wagging all around you. Oh, and because they are made with whole foods, your dog might be willing to share one with you. Woof!
Image source: Homemade Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits