Final in a four part series on healthy canine eating by Stacey Waspe
Part Four: Treats for the Sweet!
So, we've let you in on the basics of canine nutrition. And we've given you tips on what to look for in healthy, wholesome commercial food. If you've been reading our series, you now have some ideas on how to home cook for your pooch. What have we left out? The best part, of course! All of us love the sweet stuff the best (even if we don't admit it) and our pooch pals are no different. For a special dog treat, why not make your little tail-wagger some homemade cookies?
The Basics of Baking
The rules to baking for your pet are the same as they've been for all the stages in our series. The ingredients should be fresh, wholesome and natural and words that you recognize and can pronounce. This is true whether you bake biscuits yourself, or you buy natural dog treats from your local bakery or pet shop.
When baking your own treats, it's best to start out with a recipe book especially written with our four-legged friends in mind. (See our suggestions at the end of this article.)
As a general rule, pups don't have quite the same sweet tooth as you or I, so limit the sweeteners; when you do use them, choose natural ones like molasses, honey or maple syrup. As well, watch the salt and the amount of oil in the recipe. You don't need to use salt, food coloring or any additives or preservatives when baking for your pup. And chocolate is a definite no-no! Chocolate is extremely toxic for our four-legged friends. While allergic reactions are common, particular components of chocolate can cause your pooch to suffer cardiac arrest and die. Never use chocolate in any recipe you intend on feeding your dog and ensure that you and your family keep any chocolate out of her reach. In the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season, it can be too easy for your pampered pooch to steal away a chocolate or two, so keep a close eye on her at all times.
Baking for your little tail-wagger is a great project for you and the kids; they'll think it's fun to make cookies for their favorite pooch and they'll love how excited she gets when she starts to smell her treats baking in the oven. It's also a great way to really control what she's eating, especially if she has allergies to wheat or gluten (standard ingredients in many commercially prepared dog biscuits) while still letting her enjoy the occasional treat.
Expert Tip: While your pup will love home-made treats, they're still for a little reward or for a special occasion, so dole them out sparingly. Keep your pooch's waistline in mind and you'll be able to feed her your baked delights for years to come.
Getting Busy in The Kitchen
When I decided to get busy in the kitchen for the last part of our series on canine nutrition, I knew I would need reinforcements. Who else to call but the princess pug? Merry eagerly agreed to team up with me on this project.
The recipes that follow are adapted from two regular "people" cookie recipes from one of my favorite natural cookbooks. I started by omitting the salt and sugar, tasting as I went along. Any natural liquid sweeteners I reduced by about half. In the case of one recipe, there is actually no oil used at all; the only fat comes from the natural almond butter.
In both recipes, I used wholesome, natural ingredients. Since I prefer to use organic products in my own baking, it seemed only fitting to use organic wheat-free flours and other quality organic ingredients in treats fit for the princess pug.
Of course, Merry was the final taste-tester and gave both recipes her "paw" of approval.
In fact, Merry went a little crazy for these treats, which was great fun to watch. While it's always fun to see your favorite pooch get really excited by something, it's even more rewarding when it's something you made yourself.
Granted, Merry's love of the treats made the photo shoot that much harder as we could hardly keep her from licking them or eating them directly off the plate as we tried to get her to sit pretty for the camera! She seemed to really like the flavor and I think she especially liked the soft and chewy texture. After all, Merry is a diva and doesn't really want to have to work too hard for her reward.
Just like home-made cookies for your kids, home-made dog biscuits aren't going to keep that long. Keep them in an airtight container; they're really only going to be good for about 7-10 days.
Merry's Pampered Pumpkin Cookies ©
2 cups organic brown rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3 tsp wheat-free baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups organic canned pumpkin (without spice)
1/2 cup water or apple juice (reserved)
Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients, except for the water or juice, blending well. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet very slowly. The batter should be thick but pourable. Slowly mix in the water or juice until you have a nice consistency.
Expert Tip: Place the bowl of batter in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. It will make the spooning of the cookies on to the cookie sheet much easier.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Take about 1/2 Tbsp size drops and place them on a well-oiled cookie sheet. Swirl the batter around as you drop it so that you create nicely shaped cookies, ending in a peak.
Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Cookies should be firm, but still soft and chewy, just like you like your own cookies! This recipe makes its fair share of medium-sized cookies, so make care packages for all of the other canine pals in your life. They'll love you for it! (Just be warned that they'll be begging for more...) Store in an air-tight container.
Merry's Almond and Carob Dotted Drops ©
1/4 cup natural or organic almond butter (unsweetened)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp fruit juice (apple, pear, orange, peach, etc.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1 tsp wheat-free baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened carob chips (Never chocolate!)
Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and blend thoroughly. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet very slowly. The batter should look similar to regular chocolate chip cookie batter.
Expert Tip: Place the bowl of batter in the freezer for 10 minutes. It will make the spooning of the cookies on to the cookie sheet much easier.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Take about 1 tsp size drops and place them on a well-oiled cookie sheet. You can try rolling these in a ball in your hand and placing the ball of dough on the cookie sheet, gently pressing your thumb to slightly flatten the cookie.
Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. These cookies should be moist and bite-sized, perfect for training or an after dinner treat. Store in an air-tight container.
A Final Word
Pooches and humans aren't really that different. Your pampered puppy will love nothing more than home-made biscuits, just as you love it when someone makes you homemade cookies for the holidays. Taking the time to bake for your pooch will be a treat for everyone! And don't think that all treats need to be sweet ones. Savory treats with rosemary and garlic, tomatoes and even cheese will have your pooch wiggling for joy.
When you don't have the time to get busy in the kitchen, visit a dog bakery, like Three Dog Bakery. In this case, take the pooch with you. They'll have fun seeing and being seen!