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Homemade grain-free dog treats?

Has anyone successfully made dog treats that your dogs will actually eat?

My dogs LOVE Trader Joe's treats, but they have always been on a high-protein, grain-free diet and I just hate giving them these treats. I would much prefer to bake my own grain-free treats...I'm just not sure which ingredients I should be using to hold everything together. Should I be using a high-protein flour like chickpea?

I did make the dog biscuits from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook and they were a hit, but they contained cornmeal and flour. I haven't attempted to make any other recipe.

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  1. Someone on the dehydrator thread mentioned dehydrating slices of beef liver for their dog's treats. I've been thinking about it for my cats who have also always been grain free.

    1. You can sub in rolled oats, garbanzo bean flour or even rice flour as a binder in most recipes.

      My lab (who eats anything) and my pom (who doesn't) both love the ones I make with rolled oats, mashed bananas, peanut butter and parsley.

      6 Replies
      1. re: foodieX2

        Do you have a recipe? Is it vegan? Neither my dog nor I follow a vegan diet, but I occasionally take him to a vegan community center where they do not allow anyone to bring in animal products. Would love to make dog treats to take along.

        1. re: almond tree

          Here you go. It is not vegan because of the egg but I bet you could use a vegan sub instead.

          Measurements are based on the size of the banana so adjust as necessary

          1 ripe banana, roughly mashed
          3-4 heaping TBS peanut butter (creamy works best)
          3-4 TBS chopped fresh parsley (dried is fine too)
          1 egg (use large or extra large if the banana is really big)
          1-2 cups flour of your choice-rice flours works
          1/4-1/2 cup rolled oats if gluten free oats are ok, otherwise leave out.

          Mix the bananas, PB, parsley and egg together. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to make a thick dough. Start slow and then add more if its too wet.

          The dough is REALLY sticky so I use a cookie scoop and make rounds that I then press flat onto the cookie sheet. The original recipe had you roll the dough between floured wax paper, even so it can be really messy. I did this once so I could cut the dough into cute bone shapes. Made a great gift but a PIA.

          Bake treats in 300 degree oven until golden brown and crispy, about 40 minutes depending on the size. When I make batches for small dogs I make mini ones and they cook up quick-20 minutes or so.

          They keep well stored in an airtight container for about a week or so or much longer in the fridge.

          1. re: almond tree

            banana and peanut butter? I bet they love that, just mix it in a tub and lob gooey spoonfuls at their loveable mugs.

            vegan dogs? I'm not criticizing the idea, but I wonder how it works in real life (I wish I could keep mine from foraging the lawn for moles as I'm going to break an ankle one of these days).

            1. re: hill food

              My dog isn't vegan -- won't even eat carrots which I know most dogs love. He does like to eat used tissues tho I'm not sure if those qualify as strictly vegan.
              However, I often take him to community activities at a vegetarian center that doesn't allow animal products on the premises. He gets excited from all the people and likes to have a little chew treat to focus on.

              1. re: almond tree

                HA! gotcha, but I have known some who....

                mine likes to gnaw on charcoal and old galoshes. while I don't offer either, I am NOT analyzing those contents when he finds them (god knows where).

                it's good you keep your boy-o (or others their girl-o) active and social.

        2. while dogs are omnivores, no need to give them grains or legumes of any kind. the consumption of these foods is one of the reasons many dogs have teeth and gum issues.

          think outside the cookie/bar box. :)

          i used to roast chicken feet and pig ears for my guy. he loved them and they are super cheap.

          small cubes of hard cheese are good occasionally.

          carrot sticks, apple slices, bananas, dehydrated lean meats all work well too.

          you can whiz peanut butter, bacon and a banana in the food pro, form this into little balls and keep frozen or in the fridge.

          5 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            pig's ears - they love them, but I'm glad you say to roast them, I made the mistake of handing out raw ones to a pair of mutts I was sitting once. whoa I have a high level of stink tolerance, but things were not pretty a few hours later.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              About the roast chicken feet -- do the dogs drag them all over the floor? How's the mess factor?

              1. re: almond tree

                i roasted them til they were crunchy. my guy was big so he ate each one in a couple bites. no dragging, no mess.

                pig ears i roasted til crunchy too.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  My guy is little and loves to make a mess :) Still worth trying the chicken feet for a special occasion.

                  1. re: almond tree

                    funny little wierdos. (mine is a big stupid silly)

                    but it's all the same thing.

            2. I've been wanting to try dehydrating some meat ( like jerky) for training and treats. Our dogs are on prey model raw.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rasputina

                I too, would say take any grill or oven jerky recipe, reduce the quality of the beef (or use a chunk like stew meat) don't bother with the spices and you will be the dog's god (well you were probably close already).

                mine, I take leftover vegetables and cook them up in rice using broth I render (and freeze) a few times a year in a marathon crockpot session out of bones I stash in the freezer. (and yes then he gets the beef bones)

                granted that's not a simple treat to carry in my pocket, but he loves it.

              2. Actually a lot of professional trainers find slices of hot dog to be a very high-value treat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                  I hope the brand is Hebrew National. BTW, I only eat Hebrew National Hot Dogs, but I'm mystified about 7 dogs weighing 12 ounces. I am surprised at the irrational number for the weight on one dog.

                2. My dogs seem to love anything. I don't have a specific recipe for treats ~ just kinda wing it by using various recipes. I also never use an AP flour or any wheat based flour, just a combination of many others. For instance, I might boil up some liver, then add it to the food processor with cottage cheese, eggs, including the shell. Then I'll stir in some oatmeal and some oat flour and maybe some other flour, depending on the consistency at that point. I'm looking for a cutout cookie consistency. Refrigerate for awhile and then roll out - cut out - bake til TOTALLY DRY/hard. Another combination might be pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, maybe some peanut butter. After making chicken stock, I will go through everything with my fingers and pick out all the bits of chicken and carrots, add that to the food processor with some old apples, maybe some sweet potato skins that I've saved for the purpose and make a "pate'" out of it. Sometimes I'll add add some sort of flour to that to roll, cutout and bake. Any of them, I may or may not add a pinch of baking soda or baking powder.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Scoutmaster

                    That sounds good, healthy, and labor-intensive. Oy, I am lazy. A good accessible medium-chain triglyceride to add fat is coconut oil,0 .5 to 2.0 ml per lb. of doggy weight.

                  2. Dogs are carnivores and have not yet evolved to be vegetarians. I laugh every time I see one of those fancy-schmancy TV commercials of dog foods loaded with veggies. Dogs will eat that stuff not only because they may be hungry, but also because it is in front of them. Also the commercials that push canned dog foods using Italian food names really are a joke. Do the dogs then start barking in Italian?

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: ChiliDude

                      what exactly IS tuscan-style dog food? lol.

                      after making stock or broth, the meat and veggies are basically wrung out as far as nutrition, so i don't see the point of giving them to anybody -- including the dog. those components gave their all to the stock. keep them for compost.

                      most vegetables and fruits are ok for dogs in moderation, but grains of any sort are totally inappropriate for them.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Protein does not get lost when cooking. it's still there in the meat. A lot of the veggie nutrients are cooked out into the stock, but some of that stock goes back into the mix, plus there's flavor and fiber in them still, so it's good for them. Onions and garlic (and celery since they don't care for it) are removed. Nothing wrong with oatmeal in the mix for them. These are tasty treats for them, not their main diet and a helluva lot better than store bought.

                        Cooked meats, or any meat, should never go into a compost pile.

                        1. re: Scoutmaster

                          sorry, i realize meat doesn't go into compost -- i meant the veggies.

                          if dogs are eating an appropriate diet they do not need "extra" fiber. (nor do humans but that is another thread for another board.) am not against giving small amounts of veggies and fruits as i said, but different dogs have varying levels of tolerance for them. just because they will eat something doesn't mean it's the best thing for them.

                          1. re: Scoutmaster

                            You are absolutely correct about meat in compost. I'm a chile and tomato gardener, and the nitrogen overload in meat will produce a lot of leaves, and will hinder the production of fruit. Yes, I am aware that some nitrogen is necessary, but not in large doses.

                        2. re: ChiliDude

                          My dog who passed away in June at 15 years old loved vegetables. Particularly broccoli, tomato and lettuce and fruit like grapes and mango. She loved eating the remaining mango off the seed. I've read that dogs shouldnt eat grapes but if one landed on the ground she'd eat it and never had issues. I usually squished them a bit for her first, otherwise they'd roll out of her mouth.

                          1. re: youareabunny

                            Grapes and raisins (skins) are toxic to dogs and can cause renal failure. Best to avoid.

                          2. re: ChiliDude

                            'a new study, which finds that dogs have evolved to eat a more varied diet than their wolf ancestors.'


                            ' Dogs had four to 30 copies of the gene for amylase, a protein that starts the breakdown of starch in the intestine. Wolves have only two copies, one on each chromosome.'

                          3. If you have access to a dehydrator, dehydrated sweet potato slices are very popular with dogs. I agree with the suggestion of carrots, one dog I had loved baby carrots.

                            1. reading the labels on the commercial stuff is quite the eyeopener. I've found the cheaper stuff is more often the better (what ARE wheat middlings anyway?)

                              1. I prepare dried beef liver for my dogs and they love it and it's healthy and cheap, to boot. Just preheat oven to 200 degrees F, cut liver to 1/4" thick and bake until dry on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, about 2 hours. Then cut it into bite size pieces and store in fridge.

                                1. Our dog had allergies so we fed him boiled chicken and brown rice for several years and it worked wonders.

                                  His treats were made from sort of over cooked brown rice spread about 1/8 inch thick on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and baked at a low temp (275) until they were toasty and crunchy. He LOVED those treats and would sit patiently right in front of the oven when we baked them. Toasty nutty goodness.

                                  I know brown rice is a grain but it worked for us.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    I think some grains are okay, just not ONLY grains. there's one pricey brand of treats on the market with a big ad campaign promising to get your dog 'begging' that IIRC is mostly cornmeal, wheat flour and HFCS, no proteins (seriously? HFCS?)

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      My sister- who is a vet- feeds her dog the same rice and boiled chicken, adding a half can of veggies (usually mixed veg, her dog isn't picky)
                                      She discourages dog treats beyond a rare occasion since there are now so many pets she sees with increasing weight problems. That said, our dogs have always loved a nearly empty peanut butter jar, or little apples off the tree in the back yard

                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                        One of our dogs used to eat the lemons that fell from the tree. It did keep her teeth sparkling white.

                                        Dogs will eat lots of things not necessarily good for them. Heck one of ours ate crayons.

                                        1. re: rasputina

                                          HA! when i was a wee noodle my dog ate nearly the entire 64-box of crayolas. omg!!!! what a holy hell of a technicolor mess, er... after. the carpet was ruined, i couldn't stop laughing and my mother was furious... forever.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            Yes, our Pekingese ate crayons too. Not that we fed them to her, but hey, we were kids and there were crayons around. Once time she snatched a pink magic marker from my mother's nighttable and chewed the entire think. She was mostly white and after she got the part out that holds the ink, she was covered in pink ink for days.

                                            Now, our 1 year old Wheaten Terrier loves to chew sticks while she plays in the backyard. She especially loves branches that have fallen off the pine tree. I'm not really sure if they are good for her but they keep her smelling fresh!

                                    2. How are you using these treats? And what size of a dog?

                                      I mostly use Charlee Bear treats (best price at TJ), which are small (thumbnail size), clean handling (no crumbs or grease), and not to smelly. I use them as training treats (or just reinforcing good behavior on walks). They are small enough that I can use them as needed, without messing up the dog's (15 lb) regular diet.

                                      I have made treats from pigs heart. It's a lean inexpensive meat. I'll simmer it (a couple of hours), then dice and dry in a low oven, and then freeze. The drying is more for easy handling than preservation.

                                      1. We have 3 beagles - the only things they don't eat is catnip!

                                        But for treats, cooked chicken necks & gizzards (cheap & useful for making chicken stock). You can break up the necks to whatever size you need. Turkey necks are good too, as is chicken backs - don't use thighs, drumsticks or wings - the bones shatter into needle shaped shards.

                                        For the occasional treat just to get their attention - popcorn! One kernel is enough to get their attention.

                                        A chickpea can be used instead of the popcorn if you feel guilty about empty calories....

                                        And - there is always Cheetos.

                                        PS Dogs don't need high protein - cats need more than dogs. I've had to cook for a beagle with digestive troubles for years & the chicken necks (or chicken/fish/beef/whatever flesh), carrots, rice, peas, greens & some leftovers (no onions, garlic or grapes) kept him in good stead till it was time to go to the fire hydrant in the sky.

                                        1. Our dogs are grain-free. We give them peanuts as treats -- maybe three a day per ~15 pound dog. In the summer, when we have a glut, they get blueberries instead.

                                          Easy and inexpensive, and the dogs would do anything for them.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. We had bought a smoked prime rib for Christmas last year. It was a 20 lb. after eating it Christmas, then again new years, and by that point we felt it had been frozen and cooked too many times, I took the remainder, and sliced it thin, dehydrated it till very crunchy, (stored in freezer) & they made the best dog treats for our Australian Shepord!!