Are you a dog lover?
Yes, lots of assent out there. Whether you have one (or more) of your own or simply enjoy random meetups with neighboring pups, many of us find ourselves eternally and hopelessly in love with dogs. Childlike in their simplicity but wise beyond their years, they provide many of us with an emotional connection like no other.
Which is why it’s no surprise that most dogs are bonafide members of their human families. And as such, they’re accorded the same (snacking) rights and privileges — including access to regular treats beyond their daily bowl of kibble.
It’s simple enough to purchase dog treats; the variety is stunning, and most dogs aren’t overly picky. But just as you take the time to make your family cookies from scratch even though they're readily available at the supermarket, making homemade dog treats is another way to show you care. You can satisfy your pup — and your own desire to get into the kitchen and bake.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can bake for your dog.
First, do no harm
There’s conflicting information online about which people-friendly foods you should avoid feeding your dog, but here are the forbidden foods everyone seems to agree on:
- alcohol of any kind
- chocolate, coffee, or caffeine products (no doggie brownies, please!)
- garlic, onions, leeks, or chives
- macadamia nuts
- grapes and raisins
- xylitol (an artificial sweetener)
Thankfully, these few ingredients don’t really limit your baking. And there are plenty of human foods that are actually good for dogs (though often only in moderation). This article from the American Kennel Club offers a great roundup of do’s and don’ts when venturing away from Purina chow and into table food: People Foods Dogs Can and Can’t Eat.
Start simple: Use a dog biscuit mix
It’s a relief to turn to a cake or brownie mix when you don’t want to rummage through the pantry for ingredients. And our dog biscuit mixes are an equally easy solution for homemade dog treats. Not only are they delicious, but we’ve worked with an expert in the pet food regulatory industry to make sure our mixes are AAFCO-compliant (read: healthy for dogs). Just add a few basic ingredients; roll or pat the dough flat; cut into your desired shapes (simple squares are fine), and bake. Check out our three pup-approved biscuit mixes:
You can also make either flavor of our new mixes into 12 “pupcakes” — you know, for those fur-baby birthday parties you throw. Simply combine the dry mix with 1 cup (227g) water, 2 tablespoons (28g) pumpkin purée, 2 tablespoons (25g) vegetable oil, and 2 large eggs. Scoop into a standard (12-well) muffin pan and bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Baking for dachshunds or other small dogs? Use a mini-muffin pan to bake about 30 little pupcakes; they’ll need about 12 minutes in a 400°F oven.
Homemade with guidance: Turn to a recipe
Best of Breed Dog Biscuits, a longtime favorite recipe on our site, satisfies your pup with treats made from whole wheat and oats, milk, eggs, peanut butter (the main flavor), and a touch of parsley to ward off “doggie breath.” One of our satisfied canine customers, “Cronch” from Illinois, left this review for us:
“Woof, my mother made me these biscuits for winter holiday. They are very tasty. Mother keeps in glass jar. Must plot to break jar and eat them all ... want more biscuit. Send biscuit.”
The recipe makes about 40 to 60 biscuits (depending on size), and they keep very well. When I make them I don’t usually use a bone-shaped cutter, but simply grab a pizza wheel to cut the rolled-out dough into stamp-sized squares — easier to carry, and more to share with the other eager dogs we meet on our morning walk.
Homemade for freewheelers: Try this no-recipe, customizable formula
Want to make your own dog treats from scratch — no recipe involved? You know the human food your pupster likes best, be it peanut butter, tuna, yogurt, apples, carrots ... and you can turn those favorite foods into biscuits. There are many paths to homemade treats; here’s a simple “recipe” I use, to get you started.
- 2 cups flour or a mixture of flours and grains (e.g., all-purpose flour, whole wheat, rolled oats)
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup “semi-liquid” (e.g., peanut butter, applesauce, pumpkin purée, etc.)*
- about 1/3 cup liquid (e.g., broth, water, milk), enough to make a stiff dough
*You want something soft and pudding-like, neither fully liquid nor dry. A popular option is 2 tablespoons (34g) peanut butter mixed with 2 tablespoons (25g) vegetable oil to thin it a bit; or 1/4 cup (64g) applesauce, pumpkin purée, or another cooked puréed vegetable. Personally, my dogs love it when I use 1/4 cup (55g) sardines blitzed in the blender with their oil.
Put your flour or flours/grains in a medium bowl. Combine the egg with your semi-liquid of choice, and add it to the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Finally, add enough liquid — broth, water, or milk — to make a rollable dough.
Note: The amount of liquid you use may vary, based on both the flours/grains and semi-liquid you choose; what I’ve listed here simply gives you a ballpark measurement to start with.
Roll the dough and cut biscuits. If you do this on parchment, you can simply pick up the piece of parchment and place it on a baking sheet; there’s no need to separate the biscuits until after they’re baked.
Bake the biscuits in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until they’re bone dry. Remove them from the oven and carefully separate into individual biscuits while warm. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a couple of weeks.
Things to consider
While it’s tempting to think in terms of what makes our human palates happy, dogs don’t eat that way. I mean, witness some of the things they put in their mouths … you know what I mean. Dogs get more enjoyment from their super-sensitive noses than their taste buds, so don’t bother with salt or spices in your biscuit recipe to enhance flavor; it’s unnecessary and can raise blood pressure (sodium) or irritate sensitive noses.
Make sure any cutout biscuits are thoroughly baked; for easiest and longest storage, you want them as dry as possible. If you’re worried about biscuits burning before they’re thoroughly dried, bake at a lower temperature (say, 325°F), then let the biscuits cool completely in the turned-off oven, as you would meringues. If your dog is older and prefers softer biscuits, that’s fine, too; just be sure to store them in the fridge or freezer rather than at room temperature.
Even though you make treats from good-for-your-dog ingredients, they still won’t constitute a balanced diet. Remember they’re special treats, not regular handouts. And yes, I know your pup is going to follow you around with those big sad eyes, begging … but give them a cuddle instead. I predict the tail will wag just as enthusiastically!
Our newest biscuit mixes get a double paws-up (highly recommend!) from all 10 of the dogs on my testing panel. I wish I could show you the entire pack, but instead let’s have a virtual meet-and-greet. Tell us your dog’s name, age, and favorite people food in “comments,” below. I’ll start: My oldest dog is Baci, he’s 11 — and he goes bonkers for popcorn!
Cover photo by Kristin Teig.