Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Jul 8, 2011 10:12 AM

Cooking For Our Four Legged Friends...

This post is inspired by an exchange with givemecarbs and Diane In Bexley on this thread about keeping down food costs (

Seems we three are all owned by wiener dogs - so much so we cook for them!

I don't get too fancy with Honeydew's meals. Usually some kind of boiled protein along with certain fresh veg - carrots, cabbage, things that are fairly dense and not too juicy - and a couple spoonfuls of unsalted stock, or when I'm projecting my need for flavor on her, a drop or two of fish or soy sauce.

She is also a huge fan of dark beer - Imperial stout is her current fave.

I barely bake for myself, so any baked treats the dog gets are coming from the store.

What do you cook for your four legged master?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I make cookies every couple of months (whole wheat with garlic and a bit of cheddar cheese) but my dog's favourite thing ever is the slow roasted yams with liver sprinkles - they have a consistency like leather, and are easy to make though the smell of the liver sprinkles in the oven makes me gag. But my dog goes crazy for them, so of course I put up with the nauseating smell.

    1. I hope none of you are feeding your dogs on exclusively home-made food unless you have diligently studied their nutritional needs. It's even hard to get a prey-model raw food diet right.

      My dogs get to lick the plates daily, bits of fat and gristle, cartilege from cooked chicken bones,
      occasional raw bones, occasional cooked egg, and home-baked treats if there is stale stuff to be used up. I'll process stale bread or whole-grain cereal, add stuff like peanut butter, whole wheat flour, containers of rendered meat/poultry fat from the freezer, dried-out cheese. Mix it all together, add an egg if it's too dry. Press into a pan, score into squares, and bake. Break into bits later. I'll use a recipe and cookie cutters if baking for a greyhound charity event, or use my mini-muffin tin to make "pupovers" - popover batter, adding grated cheese, bacon bits, etc.

      I like baked potato skins but not sweet potato skins - the dogs consider the latter a treat. I have seen gourmet chews that are dried sweet potato halves.

      16 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        greygarious, most of us barely study up on human nutritional needs. ;)

        The pooch does love her PB flavored stuff, though. I might try baking some of those biscuits you make. Thanks!

        1. re: greygarious

          There's tons of info online about good dogfood recipes. It's really not that difficult. pick some menus you like and run them by your vet or another reliable source. have a good knowledge on what ingredients are not good for dogs. It's fun!

          My vet says 70-80% protein is generally want you want your mix to be, and not too much organ meat. Some active dogs do well on basically 100% protein (think sled dogs).

          1. re: MissMechante

            I'll stick with Costco's highly-rated chicken and rice kibble, which I have been feeding for 16 years. Here's a site that has evaluated most if not all commercial dog foods:
            One of my oldest friends is a vet, and assures me that veterinarians do not get enough nutrition training to be able to evaluate the finer points of diet formulations. Mostly, they judge their patients' diets based on outcome. If a dog is in good weight, with healthy coat, skin, and teeth, they are not going to suggest changing brands or home-preparation.

            1. re: greygarious

              Yup -- vets are just as bad a human doctors when it comes to nutrition education. In fact, most nutrition education in vet schools is sponsored by and uses materials provided by petfood manufacturers -- not exactly unbiased!

              The Costco/Kirkland kibbles are a good quality product at a really good price. It kills me when I see people buying Beneful -- which is disgusting -- instead. Lately I've been buying the grain-free kibble Costco is now carrying, which is also excellent.

              Anyway, my chowhound loves anything I eat -- I think just the fact that I eat it makes it desirable. I have to limit her, though, because if she eats certain foods she has "accidents" in her sleep. On my bed. Not fun. So even though she looooooves watermelon, she doesn't get it very often.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Why is Beneful disgusting? did you try it?

                1. re: smartie

                  I don't have to try it, I looked at the ingredients: "Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, chicken, soy flour, water, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, salt, phosphoric acid, animal digest, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (a preservative), dried carrots, dried tomatoes, avocado, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, added color (Yellow 5, Red, 40, Blue 2, Yellow 6), Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite."

                  It has pictures of vegetables on the bag, but the only "vegetable" present in significant amounts is corn, which is two of the top three ingredients. The other main ingredient, "Chicken-by-product meal" is a very low-quality ingredient, as is fat from an unspecified source ("animal fat"). You don't even want to know was "animal digest" is!

                  Here's the ingredients for the Kirkland Chicken and Rice: "Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, cracked pearl barley, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and vitamin E), egg product, beet pulp, potatoes, fish meal, flaxseed, natural flavor, brewers dried yeast, millet, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, carrots, peas, kelp, apples, dried skim milk, cranberry powder, rosemary extract, parsley flake, dried chicory root, glucosamine hydrochloride, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, chondroitin sulfate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid."

                  Do you need to be a vet to know which one is better?

                    1. re: greygarious

                      I wouldn't feed it to birds, either, except maybe pigeons (who seem to eat anything, the more disgusting the better).

                      Here's the conclusion of the dogfoodadvisor analysis: "Beneful Dry Dog Food…
                      The Bottom Line -- What an awful collection of agricultural waste and non-nutritious chemicals. Beneful Dog Food has the rather dubious distinction of being one of the lowest quality dog foods we’ve yet reviewed."

            2. re: greygarious

              Our late greyhlound, Bailey (picture is my avatar) was a victim of the Chinese Wheat Gluten fiasco. After kidney problems we kept her alive for the last year on poached chicken breast and boiled white rice, no dog food AND $8,000 in vet bills.
              Our vet says that if we feed the dogs 30% dry and 70% fresh grilled meats with added rice and veg that's fine. Most of the major dog food is not that healthy for the dogs.

              1. re: bagelman01

                Bagelman, was there a specific product that caused the problem?

                1. re: mucho gordo

                  there was 'phony' or tainted wheat gluten from China in almost all major brands of dry dog food about 4 years ago. Bailey's kidneys were ruined by Beneful small bites.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    I'm so sorry to hear about your pup. She was gorgeous!
                    My sister has made her 14 year old chihuahua-mix's meals since as long as she's had her (about 11 years), mostly chicken and brown rice with carrots. She sprinkles on a supplement powder to cover nutrients it may be missing.
                    Dog food recalls are awful. Another friend has a pet store and her family pet food company had a recall a few years ago, the contamination resulted in a handful of animal deaths. It was heartbreaking.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      I'm sorry about your pup, bagelman. :(

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        The reason I asked is my kidz love the Waggin Train brand of chicken jerky which happens to be made in China. A Google search brings up lots of people saying that product was responsible for their dogs death. We thought ours might be allergic to it but we could not prove it.

                        1. re: mucho gordo

                          we used to use that chicken jerky, but stopped when we discovered it is permissible in China to use dead (not slaughtered tof processing) birds for animal food. The animal food does not require the same health inspection standards as food processed fro human consunoption. With Chinese standards so unenforced, we try not tyo buy ant food processed in China. Before I get flack, my youngest daughter is from China, so I have no anti-Chinese bias.
                          The wheat gluten problem was that the gluten (tainted and counterfeit) was being used here in the USA in the manufacture of dog food and the food was not required to be labeled as containing Chinese components.

                          1. re: mucho gordo

                            I just searched for Waggin Train recall and the links were from 2007. Have you seen more recent reports?

                            I just bought a big bag of those at Target a few weeks ago and my dog has been eating them with no symptoms and likes them. The ingredient list looked pretty clean.

                            I also cook for my dog. I make a basic mix of ground beef or turkey (whatever is on sale), cooked brown rice and finely chopped vegetables. I then mix the dry dog food into this because he will not touch dry food on it's own.

                  2. My puppy baby is a little bigger than yours, I think. I was cooking for him a while back, when he was having tummy troubles, but I gave it up because I wasn't spending that much time (or money!) cooking for us!

                    What I was did then was take a package of ground beef, a bunch of grain (rice, oatmeal, barley), a bunch more vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, greens, etc.) - and the whole mess went in the crockpot for the day, then it got divided up into quart yogurt containers (he's a BIG boy!) - he was getting a quart twice a day. It took up SO much refrigerator space, and I had to do it every couple of days, and it was getting awfully pricey, but BOY did he like it!

                    Nowadays, I make him cookies, and there's his morning yogurt (I drain the whey into his dish, and add a quarter cup or so of plain, nonfat, and he just goes nuts for it), but his favorite thing, by far, is pizza crust. We have homemade pizza every Friday night, and we save all the crusts for him. Oh, that, and his Kong toy - that gets stuffed with a little kibble, some oatmeal, and peanut butter, then frozen. That USUALLY keeps him busy while we're having our pizza.

                    The yams sound interesting, though - do you just thin-slice them and roast them with actual liver? Or use liver treats?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Krislady

                      I get confused as to which one is a yam and which one is a sweet potato - I use the orange coloured flesh roots, whatever you want to call them. I slice them not too thin, maybe a bit thicker than 1/4 inch. I dip them in water and sprinkle them with 'Liver Sprinkles' that I purchased at a pet food store. The ingredients list is simply: 'baked beef liver'. It looks like freeze dried liver that's been coarsely ground. The water makes the sprinkles adhere. Then roast them on racks in very low heat for about an hour and a half or so.
                      This started when we purchased a bag of sweet potato liver treats for her - she LOVED them but at $8 - $9 per bag we decided we could make them for way cheaper. The ones we make are very similar but need to be kept in the fridge, unless you make them in a dehydrator which I think would work well.

                      1. re: MrsCris

                        Excellent - thanks. I may have to give that a try. I try to keep his treats reasonably healthy and non-fattening (I try to do that for me, too, but it doesn't always work out so well. sigh), and he does like most vegetables - and fruits. Peanut butter and cheese are extra-special treats. :)

                        1. re: MrsCris

                          There really are not many yams in this country; you would only find them in asian or african groceries. Everything you find in your mainstream supermarket is some form of sweet potato - they come in white-, yellow-. orange-, and red-fleshed varieties and all are sweet potatoes. A yam is a different animal entirely - it is rather large and does not look (or taste) at all like a sweet potato.

                      2. My cat is so dumb I think he forgets who I am when I go to work every day. One time when we were out of cat food and he was miaowing to be fed, I shredded some salmon filet to tide him over until I could get to the store. He ate only half of it it in an ungracious and complaining manner, and when I poured him his usual food he immediately abandoned the fresh fish for the dry pellets. What kind of cat even does that? I suppose I should be grateful that he prefers the cheap to the good (much like his owner).

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: RealMenJulienne

                          That's too funny. I noticed my mom's cat also, unlike any dog I've ever owned, is not swayed at all by food.

                          They are amusing and befuddling creatures to be sure...

                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                            Years ago, I had a cat that would not touch any poultry - no way no how. No poultry kibble, no bones, no chunks of chicken, not even skin.

                            Now, though, whenever I make chicken stock, I throw a few drumsticks in, too - and I pick the meat off when the stock is done, and the cat and the dog share them - not out of the same dish (wouldn't THAT be a nice trick), but they each get chunks o' chicken as morning treats.

                          2. re: RealMenJulienne

                            I am a confirmed cat person - had them most of my life, have two gorgeous boys now - and have never given them any sort of people food, just high-end cat food. Nor do they get food treats as rewards, they get petted and loved.

                            Most animals, unlike people, do NOT naturally crave variety in food - they want the same thing presented in the same way, at the same time, every day. Ask any zookeeper.

                            A side benefit of this practice is that my cats never, never beg for food from the table. As far as they're concerned, what we eat is not food at all. I hate it when I'm at friends' houses and their pets beg for my food, or worse yet, try to snatch it from the table.

                            1. re: BobB

                              I'm beginning to think this disinterest in food is a cat thing... ^-

                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                Yes, clearly there is a difference between cats and dogs in this regard. But I wouldn't say all cats are disinterested in food - one of my current ones is blase about it, while the other gets very excited each day as we approach the time that I give them their daily allowance of canned food (as opposed to dry, which I make available more of the time). He wants his food, alright - he just doesn't want MY food!

                                1. re: inaplasticcup

                                  I made the mistake of giving bits of tuna to my 2 male cats whenever I would open a can. Now they're ears perk up whenever I get the can opener out. They come running to the kitchen whenever I open a can of ANYTHING! I have to let them sniff the can to convince them that it's not tuna. They don't often eat chicken though. Sometimes, when I make stock I'll give them some, but they're kinda picky with it.

                                2. re: BobB

                                  We have 2 cats as well as our two dogs. They graze all day of Fancy Feast premium dry and fancy feast canned in gravy, BUT they love small bits of people food. Baby cat loves turkey. Big cat loves any kind of broken up cracker and small bits of steak. Neither cat will eat any food that has fish or seafood or dairy

                                  1. re: BobB

                                    A vet I had many years ago said that it is best to feed your animal the same thing every day, agreeing with you that animals do NOT naturally crave variety in food. He said that was the best way to know when an animal isn't feeling well....if it won't eat it's usual meal it may be sick. He joked, 'well, you fed me tuna tonight, and I wanted chicken, but Thursday I wanted beef'. I think there is a lot of validity with that statement.

                                    1. re: Barbara76137

                                      It's not about taste, but about getting a variety of micronutrients and reducing the chances of developing allergies and intolerances. Wild carnivores don't eat the same thing every day, and dogs are both hunters and scavengers who are adapted to eat a wide variety of foods. Vets -- like human doctors -- get very little training in nutrition, and what they do get is usually based on curriculum materials provided by dog food companies who of course don't want you to feed anything but their food.

                                  2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                    We have nine (yes, nine) cats. When we moved recently I had the idea of starting them on a meat diet. I started with raw ground beef. They wouldn't touch it. Then I tried raw chicken. They wouldn't touch it. I cooked the chicken. That went over a little better but not enough, it'd get dried out and look gross. Then I went for tuna. That went over REALLY well but some of the more aggressive cats kept the more timid ones from the food, then I read that it was really a bad idea to have cats eat nothing but tuna. Two of them lost alarming amounts of weight as well. I gave up and we went back to Costco's cat food. All the cats are happy again. There are two who'll beg from my husband, particularly if he's eating tilapia, but other than that all are relatively disinterested in "people food"--and, for that matter, canned cat food.

                                    1. re: MandalayVA

                                      I'm a cat person myself....5 cats max at 1 point tho......With 1 cat diagnosed with Diabetes I switched her from mainly dry to all wet, gluten free with dry available. She really went for that plan & I was able to wean her off insulin. She also doesn't really go for cooked chicken....

                                      Cats unlike dogs cannot process carbs so need special nutrients added to their food (like taurine) if you're going to make homemade.

                                      1. re: jenscats5

                                        Cats cannot process taurine from non-meat sources, therefore a cat will go blind on a vegetarian diet.

                                        1. re: Barbara76137

                                          That's very interesting information, Barbara. I learn something new every day here. Thanks! :)

                                      2. re: MandalayVA

                                        Cats get addicted to the dry food and it can be hard to get them to eat anything else. For one thing, the dry food is salty, and they like the salt.

                                        We have five cats, and feed them mostly a homemade, raw food. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, because you have to research the correct diet, add supplements to it, and take great pains around sanitation and proper storage. Taurine is essential for cats, and if the meat is cooked, or stored too long, the taurine can be destroyed. In commercial foods, they add it back as a supplement. We add it to our food even though it is raw. You have to get a recipe you know is complete, or you could harm the cat in the long run.

                                        We transitioned slowly to this diet, as cats don't like change. They are now very happy with what they are getting, and incredibly healthy and active. It's a pain to make the food though. As much as I like to cook, I really don't look forward to making cat food.

                                        1. re: MelMM

                                          I found a few websites with recipes for raw cat food but they looked way too labor intensive. Our cats are all in good health, a couple of them in their mid-teens but going strong, so I'm not going to sweat the food.

                                          1. re: MandalayVA

                                            It is labor intensive. That's why I don't really look forward to cat food making day. It's not just making the food, but cleaning and sanitizing the grinder and everything else after. The upshot is that my kitchen is super-clean afterwards. There is one thing that makes it all worthwhile, and that is the litter box. On this diet, their poop doesn't stink! It's amazing, but true.

                                      3. re: RealMenJulienne

                                        My late cat had a thing for potato chips and other salty snacks. LOVED them. She once nearly assaulted someone over a Cheeto. On the other hand, I once gave her the heart out of the Thanksgiving turkey. She sniffed it twice and walked away, uninterested.

                                      4. our dogs are very demanding and spoiled. Diesel is a mix of American Bulldog and Dalmation weighing 79 lbs, 8 years old. Kirby is a Yorkie weighing 12 pounds, 3 years old.
                                        They get a mix of Purina One lamb and rice and freshly cooked meat directly off the outdoor grill. I am outside grilling, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, turkey in 90 degree weather or minus 5 degrees in the snow. They don't like meat cooked in a frying pan, in the micriwave, and will just tolerate meat cut from a raosted chicken, roast beef or breast of veal made in the oven, but only in desperation.
                                        The neighbor complains that our dogs eat better than her family, I told her that our dogs are better behaved than her boys and we love the dogs more than the neighbors.

                                        Last night they had grilled chicken thighs, tonight they had grilled shoulder lamd chops.
                                        They don't get the bones, I get to gnaw the meat left on the bones.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          We have two rescue dogs. Both come from a long and distinguished line of mutts. We celebrate their birthdays with a trip to McDonald's drive thru for a bacon cheddar burger that they get to eat in the parking lot. Although this only happens twice a year, it is eagerly anticipated and there is much crying and howling as we approach McDonald's. As we wait for the order they can't stop sniffing and need to be restrained from jumping thru the window into McDonald's.

                                          The rest of the year, they eat Iam's lamb and rice and enjoy a piece of banana every night along with whatever protein we are having. They also look forward to us getting take out Chinese for the white rice that they also get. On hot days they get a piece of frozen broccoli after a walk. I guess it tastes like a broccoli popsicle...cause they love it. Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday since it is our family tradition that the dogs get the first piece of turkey.

                                          1. re: DaisyM

                                            All our dogs and cats are rescues, Diesel loves McDonalds vanilla ice cream cones. 2-3 times per week he starts up about 10PM and won't leave me alone til we make a run for the McD drive thru. The help knows him and my car. I order a cone and pay, we drive up and they hand the cone directly to him through the rear window, they even peel the paper wrapper for him, he loves the crunch of the cone.

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              I love Diesel! My dogs now wish that they lived with you!

                                          2. re: bagelman01

                                            You're not alone, B'man. We get the same feedback from people who know what we feed our kidz. Our Ridgebacks passed away a few years ago so, right now, all we have is our 15 yr old yellow lab. I fix whatever is on sale for around $2 at the market. Lately it's been just b/s chicken thighs or breasts, livers/gizzards but they have been known to do pork and beef. I've slo-cooked chuck roasts with potato and carrots for her. They also got any left over pieces of ribeye or whatever we ate. Kibble is limited to Science Diet Canine R/D

                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                              Then again, a hot doig bfrom Glenwoiod is appreciated once in awhile..............................

                                              Sorry other CHers, But Mucho and I grew up spending lots of time in Hamden in the 50s

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                Speaking of hot dogs, there was a hole-in-the-wall joint across the street from the "Y" in NH. They had the best steamed-in-beer dogs you ever tasted. After a few hours of handball on a Sat. morning there was nothing better than a couple of them with a cold brew.