If you love spending time in the kitchen and have some ingredients left over from the last baking spree, why not consider making some of your dog’s treats at home yourself? (It’s okay even if you don’t consider yourself a whiz in the kitchen: Most dogs won’t care if the cookies are a little lopsided!)
Here’s our breakdown of the best recipes for great grain free dog treats to serve your best friend and what they’ll need for a healthy diet…
Don’t Serve That! What’s OK to Give Dogs And What’s Not
Remember that not all ingredients that are fine for humans are safe to serve dogs.
Avoid the following ingredients (which are all marked as ‘potentially harmful to pets’ by the Humane Society; see the full list over here):
- chocolate (especially that with a high cocoa content)
- apple seeds (they do contain amygdalin, which converts over to cyanide after all)
- xylitol (a popular sweetener and sugar-alternative)
- cherry pits
While the last seems obvious, you might be surprised at what some try to feed their animals – in short, don’t!
Another extensive list of potential poisons for your pet to avoid at all costs is available from PoisonPetHelpline.com.
If there’s an ingredient you’re unsure about or your dog has an already-sensitive system (like a form of IBS which certain breeds of dog are prone to) check with your vet first.
Homemade vs Store-Bought Dog Treats
There are many reasons why you might, like thousands of other pet owners the world over, decide to avoid store-bought foods for your pooch:
- Less Processing. Store-bought foods and snacks for both dogs and humans contain an increasing amount of processing and artificially enhancing ingredients such as MSG (or monosodium glutamate) which might cause long-term harm to you or your dog’s health.
- More Affordable. Name-brand store-bought snacks and foods carry a price-tag and it can get expensive when you have several dogs in-training at once!
- It’s Fun! Making these yourself aren’t just cheaper, it’s fun and something you can involve the entire family in doing once or twice a week when it’s time to make dog treats again.
So, do you think you can do it better than what you find in stores? Let’s get baking!
How to Store Your Homemade Dog Treats
Always store the end-product in a container that seals properly or a bag that’s able to let out all the air. Some things are best stored in the fridge, and the lack of preservatives might reduce the shelf life of some of the items on this list considerably.
What’s a Healthy Diet For a Dog?
The ASPCA has an excellent list of the factors that make up your dog’s healthy diet. In short, they are water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Basically, that’s more or less everything you would find in the average human’s healthy diet, too! It’s worth mentioning that your dog’s age has a significant effect on his or her dietary requirements; as does their weight.
Remember that a puppy will not have the same dietary needs as an older dog, and a smaller, more active dog will need a different diet than a larger one (even if they have the exact same amount of physical activity!). Again, check with your vet or pet nutritionist.
If your dog has a sensitive stomach or has recently taken probiotics, there’s nothing wrong with including (plain) yogurt as part of your dog’s diet: This provides them with essential probiotics, much the same as your body needs on a regular basis.
Vets and experts also mention that – except for an explicit allergy to grain – there is generally no specific reason dogs shouldn’t eat grain. It is, however, acceptable for dog owners to have their dogs on a gluten-free diet providing they balance it out with other ingredients: The keyword here, you might have noticed, is balance.
8 Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treat Recipes
1. Jerky Treats
Jerky is one of the easiest things to make at home, yet one of the most expensive things to go out and buy anywhere.
If you want to make chicken jerky for your dogs, buy some boneless chicken breasts and cut them into small, bite-sized strips. Lay these on a baking tray in your oven (or dehydrator if you have one) to dry out.
Sources say this process can take several hours – as little as four or as much as twelve – depending on the environment you’re doing it in, the size of the pieces and the heat you’re setting it at.
You don’t have to use chicken for this: Almost any meat will work for this. Some recipe-writers (like Yankee Kitchen Ninja) recommend a basic marinade in a bag before drying the meat, but that seems entirely up to personal pooch preference.
For a variation on this to create a baked jerky-style chew made of applesauce and pumpkin, see our video below!
2. Sweet Potato Pooch Bites
This is the easiest thing you could possibly make, and you can almost think of it like vegetable jerky using the process above. All you have to do is slice your sweet potato into thin slices and, like you did the jerky, place them in an oven or dehydrator to dry out. These can be kept fresh for your furry friend in a Ziplock bag.
3. Liver Snacks
These liver snacks for your dog continue the tradition of drying things for your dog; chewing increases your dog’s overall gum-and-tooth health, which is why most vets will recommend chews for dogs.
Liver treats are pretty easy: Just slice the liver into thin slices and place these on a baking tray and into a warm oven for at least two hours – again, some sources give this more time, and it will depend on the environment. Most guides recommend that you rinse the liver before you start the process.
4. Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Treats
There are many spins on the peanut-butter-and-pumpkin recipe, and it turns out to be one of the first that comes up when you research recipes. Why? All the ingredients in the basic recipe incorporate the elements of a dog’s healthy diet – mentioned above – without much effort.
You’ll need: Pumpkin, oil, peanut butter, eggs, water, cinnamon (for flavor) and gluten-free coconut flour. (Of course, non gluten-free recipes use flour here while some recipes – like this one – use chickpea flour instead.)
Mix the peanut butter and water together and throw in the eggs, then add the flour and the cinnamon – careful when you work with cinnamon and inhale. This should form a dough and be spread onto a baking tray; then, into a warmed-up oven. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
5. Frozen Dog Treats
Have you thought of frozen dog treats? (We’re sure most people’s pets haven’t either, so this should be a great way to treat them on a really hot day – hey, climate change is a real thing, might as well start preparing now!)
Mix together water and peanut butter using a blender and add flax seeds and berries – of course, you can be creative here and it doesn’t have to be berries – and throw this frozen frisbee for your pooch to enjoy.
Creative owners have also become big fans of stuffing Kong toys with wet food mixes and putting them in the freezer, giving dogs something to lick and amuse themselves with while their owners are away.
6. Hemp Seed Dog Biscuits
Going the really natural route? Hemp seeds, available (yes, legally) from most pharmacies and health food stores, can provide your dog with some necessary fiber – especially if you’ll be omitting or reducing the amount of wheat in their overall diets.
Here’s one recipe for hemp seed dog biscuits using oat flour – and only three other ingredients – from The Crunchy Chronicles. Oat flour, applesauce (which can be replaced with eggs – in baking, the two are often interchangeable), hemp seeds and oil, which can be sunflower or coconut.
Source: The Crunchy Chronicles
7. Dog Gummy Treats
This idea is thanks to Modern Dog Magazine over here and you can use any variation of the base recipe they give – which is basically just cold water, hot water and gelatin. (Which should, they emphasize for obvious safety reasons, be unflavoured!)
You can flavor your dog jellies with anything from pumpkin and cinnamon to coconut water.
Source: Modern Dog Magazine
8. The Fruit-and-Veg Options
Fruits and vegetables can make an excellent, healthy snack for animals – and you can still opt to try them like some of the options above if you have a need to preserve them for longer, or you can simply freeze them if you’re going through a hot day and your animals are in need of some cooling relief.
Fruits like apples, banana’s, oranges and vegetables like pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes are great; things like grapes, avocados, onions, raisins, and mushrooms are to be completely avoided and could be extremely dangerous to your dog.
Want more grain free goodness? Make sure to check out our guide to the best grain-free dog food to feed your pooch!
Does your pooch have any favorite grain-free treats? Use the comments to share the recipe!