Nothing says lovin’ like homemade dog biscuits warm from the oven.
In honor of National Dog Biscuit Day (Feb. 23), Joey and I baked peanut butter bones, pumpkin puffs and mackerel nips to share with the morning walking pack.
What Makes Homemade Dog Biscuits Better?
With so many pet food recalls, making your own dog treats offers a lot of benefits:
- You know what went into them. There are no strange or possibly harmful ingredients.
- The recipes can be tailored to your dog’s special needs. (Poochie’s allergic to wheat? Replace it with oatmeal.)
- Using your dog’s favorite flavors is easy. Apples and carrots aren’t Joey’s favorite foods, but he loves broccoli. I can substitute what appeals to him.
- The artificial flavors, colors or preservatives that may affect your dog’s health are eliminated.
The Flavor Test
The FidoUniverse Test Kitchen preheated the oven to 350 degrees and turned to three recipes from the Internet. They were selected for flavor variety, having a limited number of easy-to-get ingredients and simplicity of making.
Our informal and unscientifically selected panel of dog biscuit experts — Joey, Zoey, Zach, Denny and Red — sampled each recipes. Although no expert refused any of the homemade dog biscuits, there were clear preferences.
Similar results occurred with a second panel consisting of Gibson and Ruby, dogs who actually know who their parents were, unlike the first panel.
Members of the third panel — Chloe and Ziggy — had no favorites. In the words of their owner, “They ate them all — and fast!”
The seven dogs who had definite preferences all loved a Cesar Millan recipe we have dubbed “Pumpkin Puffs.” Second runner up was a significantly modified recipe from Curbly that we call “Mackerel Nips.” The third runner up, Peanut Butter Bones (slightly modified from CopyKat Recipes) were the cutest, but not the most sought after.
Recipes for Homemade Dog Biscuits
All of these recipes use human-grade ingredients, so feel free to taste them. They are easy to adapt to include different ingredients or flavors. There are certain foods that dangerous for dogs such as onions or onion flavorings, raisins or chocolate. We’ll give you a full list of foods to beware of at the end of this post.
Cesar Millan’s Pumpkin Puffs
These are good enough to serve to health-conscious human guests. You can replace the wheat flour with oatmeal if your pup has allergies. These puffs are rich with fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and iron.
- 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
- 4 tablespoons molasses
- 4 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the wet ingredients — pumpkin, molasses, oil and water — together in a bowl.
- Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon to the wet ingredients and mix until the dough softens. It may be easier to do this with your hands in the last stages.
- With a small spoon, scoop up pieces of the dough. Roll it into balls and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. If the dough is sticky, wet your hands. Flatten the balls on the baking sheet with a fork or the bottom of a juice glass.
- Bake about 25 minutes until the dough is hardened. The flatter you press these the faster they will bake, but don’t make them cracker thin. If they still seem soft at the end of 25 minutes, bake them a little longer, but keep a close eye on them.
- Cool on a rack and store in a paper bag.
The basic version of this two-ingredient recipe is so easy to get creative with that we turned it into what essentially is mackerel crackers.
Here’s the original version:
- 2 cups organic whole flour (or wheat germs, spelt or rolled oats or any mixture thereof)
- 2 (4-ounce) jars of pureed baby food — beef, blueberry, sweet potato, chicken, whatever your dog likes. Just read the ingredients to be sure it contains no onions or onion powder.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the ingredients together until they form a stiff dough. If too sticky, add more flour; if too crumbly, add more water
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about a quarter-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to make shaped dog biscuits or a pizza cutter to make cubes or diamond shapes.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Place the dog biscuits about half-inch apart.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cool completely on a rack. Store in a paper bag. (Storing in an airtight container will make them soft, although still edible.)
Our mackerel nips involved a few changes:
- We did a half-and-half blend of whole wheat flour and oats.
- We pureed a 15-ounce can of mackerel and used 1 cup of it for the flavoring. (We saved the remainder to put on Joey’s kibble for dinner later.)
This version is — uh, shall we say — aromatic. If you don’t want to live in a cloud of eau de mackerel, get the can out of the house ASAP. Many, many other options can be used instead of mackerel, including pumpkin, grated carrots, steamed and pureed broccoli, blueberries, applesauce, peanut butter or greens such as parsley, kale or spinach.
Peanut Butter Bones
- 1 and 1/8 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 and 1/8 cups unbleached white flour
- 1/2 cup of peanut or other nut butter
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the two flours together in a bowl and set aside.
- Mix the oil, peanut butter and water.
- Add the flour, one cup at a time to the wet ingredients to form dough. Toward the end, you’ll need to mix it with your hands.
- Let the dough relax for 10 minutes. This makes it easier to roll out.
- On a sheet of waxed paper, roll the dough out to a thickness of a quarter-inch.
- Cut with a knife or a cookie cutter into shapes.
- Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Score the top of the cookies with a fork so that the steam inside can escape during baking.
- Cook about 25 minutes, turning the pan a couple of times during baking. The cookies should be hard to the touch when you’re ready to take them out of the oven. If they aren’t, let them bake longer. Try adding five minutes more baking until they reach the hard stage.
- Cool on a rack. Store in a zip-lock plastic bag on a shelf. No refrigeration needed.
I adjusted this by adding an extra quarter cup of nutritional yeast and a tablespoon of salmon oil. Those additions may have lowered these biscuits in the standings with our taste test experts.
Ingredients to Avoid
Some foods are dangerous to dogs, including onions, grapes, raisins and chocolate. (Some people would add garlic as well.) Anything that contains those items should be avoided. Anything that you know your dog is allergic to should also be avoided.
Ingredients new to your dog, such as mackerel possibly, should be introduced a little at time to see how the dog reacts.
The beauty of homemade dog biscuits is that you can give your dog both what he likes and what is healthy for him specifically.
If your dog has a favorite homemade dog treat, please share your recipes with us.
Here are other posts with recipes for homemade dog food and treats:
- Easy Homemade Dog Food, Jan. 2, 2013.
- Delight your dog with these pumpkin treats, Oct. 16, 2013.
- Dog-Gone Good Cuisine blends flavor, health and simplicity, Feb. 28, 2014.
- Homemade Chicken Jerky Treats for Dogs, May 2, 2014.
- New recipes for homemade dog biscuits feature sardines, basil and gluten-free flours, March 6, 2014.