What are dog treats?
We give our dogs treats almost every other day, but have you ever wondered a little about them? What exactly is a dog treat? Where did they come from? How are they made? Good! I admire your curiosity, so let’s get to it.
Dog treats are similar to human snack food. They are designed to be a quick snack for your dog during the day between his or her meals. They can also be used as instruments to stimulate your dog or pass the time (and give them something to chew on). Dog treats come in many shapes and sizes nowadays. There seems to be no end to the variation of treats on the market.
The earliest reference to dog treats was found in Roman times, they referred to it as dog’s bread, made from bran. They were often referred to as dog’s bread throughout history. There are numerous references throughout ancient Europe. The closest thing to modern dog treats came from England in the 19th century. They were made from grain and vegetables such as oat-meal, bran, potatoes, carrots & parsnips.
According to folklore, the modern dog treat was invented by accident. A butcher shop in London in the 1800’s was experimenting with biscuits to improve business. When the shop owner baked the biscuits, they tasted awful! When he gave one to his dog though, he ate it right up!
By other accounts, an electrician from Cincinnati named James Spratt was visiting England and had an epiphany by the quays. He saw some dogs munching on discarded hardtack, the cheap, tough biscuits carried on ships and known to sailors as “molar breakers.”
The industry sprung from there, and in England he soon had competitors such as Dr. A. C. Daniels’ Medicated Dog Bread and F. H. Bennett’s Malatoid Dog Biscuits. F.H. Bennett was the first person to make them into the shape of a bone in 1907, which made his treats shoot to popularity in the US. He quickly overtook Spratt with this one piece of genius design.
The world’s largest dog biscuit weighs 279.87 kg and was baked to be 2,000 larger than average by Hampshire Pet Products from Missouri.
The Basic Ingredients
How to make dog treats is pretty simple. Treats are usually made from a source of protein, fats, carbohydrates and fibre. It’s estimated over 50% of dog owners give their dogs treats. Most dog owners use treats to train or to reward their dog for performing a specific action.
Traditional dog treat flavours were chicken, liver, beef, lamb turkey, cheese and bacon. Nowadays there is a lot more choice, with ingredients such as coconut, papaya, sweet potato, peanut butter and spinach. A lot of the treats available nowadays are designed to be healthy and beneficial for your dog. This is a good thing, some of the ingredients used in mass produced dog treats are less than perfect for a dog. One preservative used is called BHA, to stop the treats from spoiling too quickly. That’s great to have longer shelf life, except BHA is a known carcinogen, that means cancer causing.
It is important to try to choose the best possible treats for your dog. The same as with human snack food, it’s great if you have a banana or something healthy. It’s not so good if you have lots of preservative-laden junk food. Think the same way for your dog, they don’t have the power to choose between the two.
The ingredients are normally intended to be palatable and easily digestible for dogs. They also obviously need to be nutritious, and economically viable to prepare. This last part basically means that we humans don’t go hungry by giving the dogs all the good meat. We still ensure the quality is high for them, but we don’t serve our dogs fillet steak every night.
The usual carbohydrate source in treats is flour, this gives the dog treat the majority of its baking and binding properties. Protein is added to increase nutritional value and offer amino acids and energy for the dog. The protein source can be animal or plant, although some plant proteins can be indigestible, it is common to use milk or eggs.
Fats or oils are added to supply essential fatty acids to your dog’s diet. These fatty acids are critical in your dog’s diet. Fatty acids such as omega-3 are good for your dog’s skin and also their coat.
Fibre is another ingredient that is usually present in treats, this is a good binding agent for your dog’s digestive system. Fibre is important to give rigidity to stools and help the food pass through your dog’s system.
A lot of dog treats are also fortified with Vitamins to supplement the nutritional value to the dog. Vitamins are normally sprayed onto the treat at the end of the manufacturing process to raise the nutritional profile of the treats.
Additives are sometimes added, this can be a good or a bad thing. Some vitamins act as natural preservatives and can prevent spoilage, however chemical preservatives can damage your dog’s health.
The Manufacturing Process
The dry ingredients are added to a large vat and stirred. Water or milk is added to the mixture and it is agitated until the correct consistency is obtained.
The dough it squeezed through moulds and cut into the required shape of the final treat. They are then passed along a conveyor belt to an oven.
The treats are passed through an oven and baked until they solidify.
The treats are fortified with vitamins. They are sprayed with a solution of desired vitamins and left to dry for a few seconds.
The treats are packaged into the desired boxes. Something eye-catching for the consumer, obviously! They are then packed onto pallets ready to be shipped.
The Benefits Of Making Them At Home
When you know how to make dog treats at home the benefits are plentiful. You will have complete control over all of the ingredients in your dog’s treats. You can rest assured there are no nasty chemical preservatives in their treats and that everything they get is 100% natural.
You can put proper care and attention into knowing exactly what you want to give your dog as a treat. You can even get creative in the process! Experiment with different variations in small batches to see which your dog likes the most.
Making dog treats doesn’t have to be a chore either, it can be something the whole family can get involved in. If you have kids you can all get together and make some treats for your pooch to enjoy. Perfect rainy day fun! You can also teach the kids about the importance of a proper diet and being aware of the different ingredients in their own food as well as their dog’s.
Most importantly, you can have fun too! A perfect break from a hectic life, just preparing something tasty for your dog to enjoy. You can bond together afterwards and relax as they enjoy their home-made snack. Yummy!
Some Great Recipes
- Bacon Fat Doggy Treats
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup melted bacon fat
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup cold water
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix by hand until dough forms. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Add more bacon fat or water if the dough is too stiff.
Cut into bars or bones, put them onto a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned.
- Banana Peanut Butter Treats
- 1 banana, peeled
- 1 cup oat flour
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup dried parsley
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter (xylitol free)
- 1 egg, beaten
Put banana in a large bowl and use a spoon or potato masher to mash it thoroughly. Add oat flour, oats, parsley, peanut butter and egg and stir well to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Bake until firm and deep golden brown on the bottom, 40 to 45 minutes at 150ºC. P.S. – Parsley is a natural breath freshener!
- Delicious 3-Ingredient Dog Treats
- 2 cups wheat germ
- 3 (2.5 ounce) jars strained chicken baby food
- 1 tablespoon water
In a medium bowl, mix ingredients together. Add more water if necessary to form a dough. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork dipped in water. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven until golden brown.
Things To Watch Out For
You should always be aware of the ingredients you use in your recipes if your dog has any allergies. You may think a certain ingredient is fine but it may be quite similar to one he is allergic to. It is always best to consult your vet when deciding to give your dog any new foods in their diet.
You should also be wary of undiagnosed allergies. Make small batches of your treats and just give your dog one the first time you make them. Monitor him for the rest of the day and ensure he shows no signs of an allergic reaction. Itchy or red skin, scratching, runny eyes, sneezing or vomiting.
Although they are stables of our own baked goods, don’t use chocolate or raisins in your dog’s treats because they are harmful. You should also have your vet’s number on hand and know who to call if you have any issues with your new treats.
Other than that, now that you know how to make dog treats you can start to make lots of yummy recipes for your pooch at home. Have fun!
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