How to bake DIY doggie treats at home

by April Lisante
Posted 10/8/20

There is no doubt this has been the season of DIY.

Somehow, added time at home and with immediate family has sparked all kinds of inspiration, from painting those dingy walls to baking up …

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How to bake DIY doggie treats at home

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There is no doubt this has been the season of DIY.

Somehow, added time at home and with immediate family has sparked all kinds of inspiration, from painting those dingy walls to baking up sourdough bread.

I personally have been busy making candles and soap (yes, I’m that person right now) but I’ve also really pushed the limits of my kitchen experimentation. I crock potted, tried out new recipes, learned how to make bread starter with my husband, even dabbled in Dalgona, that pesky pandemic coffee trend. Then I thought of yet another idea: homemade dog treats.

We have a mini French poodle with a personality mirroring none other than Napoleon himself. The always-regal Luca knows the words butter, brioche, and ice cream when they are mistakenly verbalized. He knows when a rotisserie chicken or Chick Fil A nuggets enter the front door. He is a discerning eater, liking canned dog food not at all, turning his little coifed head away when the bowl of crunchy pellets hits the floor. Get turkey with gravy or baked chicken with a side of broccoli in the dish, and we’re in business with Mr. Bone-aparte.

But perhaps most frustrating is that fact that he won’t eat any store-bought dog treats of any kind. None. Cute shaped bones filled with peanut butter, tiny nuggets shaped like chicken legs, and wavy bacon-looking slices? Non pour monsieur. He sees the processed particles and pushes them away with his snobby little nose.

I’ve bought some of those dog cookies at pet stores that look like iced gingerbread men or stuffed cannolis, but he just picks them up, decides it’s not real Christmas booty or mascarpone, and spits them out.

So, I read up on dog treats that can be made at home and lo and behold, one of the most prevalent ingredients is a seasonal slam dunk – pumpkin.

But where to start? I chose local gourmet dog treat maker Jennifer Kirby, a Chestnut Hill resident and former private chef, as my guide to making some biscuits. I’d seen some of her products and learned that she makes about 50 different types of treats using a sustainability mantra. From the human-grade food scraps to the packaging, she has made dogs happy while eliminating food waste in the three years since she launched her company Piggyback Treats.

“I am a dog mom, and food waste has always been something that I am passionate about,” said Kirby, who, with her boyfriend and company partner Chris Courter, has a chocolate lab and a rottweiler. “I knew I needed to stand out and be different [ when starting the company] and the answer was to be completely sustainable.”

From salmon skin rescued from sport fishermen to secret-recipe biscuits made with real foods, all of the treats she makes for dogs comes from “piggybacking” with local restaurants and farms for their leftovers. She harvests fallen apples at orchards, uses spent grains from breweries, and even pumpkins that lie rejected on the ground after Halloween.

That means anyone can make these types of healthy treats at home. Many leftovers can be safe for dogs – and made into cookies! If you have leftover carrot peels, or apple slices, some leftover brown or white rice from ordering Chinese food, or maybe some liver leftover after buying a chicken, you can make some tasty biscuits dogs will actually eat.

“When you make your own, you know what’s going into it,” said Kirby, who sells her products online and in local places like The Bone Appetite and the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market at Mermaid Lane. “There’s a whole lot of ingredients in pet food that doesn’t need to be there. Cooking for your pet means you are more aware of what goes into their bodies.”

Take pumpkins, for example. One uncarved pumpkin left over after Halloween can be sliced up, dehydrated it in an oven and served up as sweet snacks. Or, extract the seeds, coat them in liver and bake them. Dogs apparently go nuts for them and they also act as a natural dewormer.

“They love it! It’s a source of fiber and it smells like liver,” Kirby said.

To make biscuits or hard cookies, it’s as easy as mixing up some whole wheat flour, pureed pumpkin and perhaps some apples in a processor, then forming them into little burgers and baking them at 250 to 300 degrees until they dry out. Kirby has products that include fun ingredients like anise and liver – together – in a biscuit. But most importantly, before baking anything for your dog, make sure the ingredients are safe.

“Have fun with it if you want to do something a little different, but if you are unsure whether an ingredient is safe for your pet ask your vet,” she said. You can also Google the info, or email her at info@piggybacktreats.com.

Here are two of Kirby’s recipes from Piggyback Treats that are perfect for October pups. The first one is named after Kirby’s 10-year old chocolate lab, Candy, and calls for spent grains from a local brewery. Most breweries throw the grains away, but you can call and ask if they can save a few cups for you.

In the meantime, I’m making some of my own at home. I’ll let you know if Napoleon approves.

Candy’s Cider Bier Bones

  • 3 cups spent grains
  • 2 cups apples, any variety
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour of choice, plus more for dusting the table
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • Wash apples and remove seeds. Chop or pulse apples in food processor until pea-sized pieces. Combine spent grains, apples and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and blend evenly. Add flour to mixer bowl and paddle to form soft dough. Dough should not be overly sticky. Add more flour if necessary. Dust table with flour and shape dough into neat and tidy square. Dust dough surface lightly and roll to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes (using cookie cutters) and place directly on baking tray, spacing ½-inch apart. Bake at 200 degrees (or oven’s lowest setting) until completely dried through the center, or place directly into a dehydrator and dry until crisp.

Pumpkin Cookies

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour of choice, plus more if needed
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ginger, ground
  • Wash and remove seeds from pumpkin and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cook fresh pumpkin in a saucepan with a small amount of water until soft. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • Add pumpkin, egg, spices to mixer bowl. Paddle until mixed thoroughly. Add flour to bowl and mix thoroughly to make a smooth dough. Fill a piping bag with dough and pipe onto greased baking sheets in desired shapes, or pipe into fun-shaped silicone baking trays. Bake at 300 degrees until completely dried through the center. Cool and let your pup enjoy!

Treats can be stored in a jar on the counter or in the fridge. For more information about Piggyback Treats, go to www.piggybacktreats.com.

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