Yes, I love baking, but that is not the reason I started baking for my dog. The reason is that I became skeptical about what goes into commercially manufactured dog treats. As an educated dog mom, I know the wellbeing of a dog does not come from a few walks a day and sufficient feeding. Dogs need enough exercise, play-time, mental stimulation, TLC, and most importantly, nutritious diet every day. I want my pup to stay happy and healthy, and therefore I am critical about his food consumption.
Processed dog treats
Just recently I went into a large pet supply chain here in Amsterdam. As I scan through the treat aisle and read up a few lists of ingredients on the packages, my shoulder sunk. An example of my disappointments was a jerky stick-looking treat called out premium European quality and advertised with "Lamb" flavour (with a lamb image on the front). As I read down the list of ingredients, I saw "fresh chicken", "chicken liver", "dehydrated chicken", "fresh lamb (min 4%)", and rice. While all ingredients look promising, I wonder what makes it a "lamb" flavour treat? It was the same for their beef flavour which composes mostly chicken and a slight percentage of beef. An average consumer does not read the back label on a package. The letters are small, the wording is long, and nobody understands the chemical compounds. Imagine your dog is allergic to chicken, therefore you choose a lamb flavoured treat for him/her in this case, what could happen?
The aforementioned product is not a bad case. At the end of the day, the treat contains mostly chicken which my dog loves. The next couple of packages I read were shocking, however. I saw "meat and animal by-product" and/or "animal derivatives" following a long list of grains, fat, flavouring, etc. What are these by-products and derivatives? Do they mean tissues, fat, or nails? I don't want any of that in my dog's tummy! In case you didn't know, the ingredients are listed from the highest to the lowest content, which means whatever these supposedly-meaty by-products are, there is only minimal amount of protein goes into the treats. Another package I saw, which was the most shocking one, listed "sugar" as the second main ingredient. There are many reasons why dogs should not be given sugar, I will not elaborate on the reasons in this article. If you are interested in finding out more, you can read up this short article here.
Homemade dog treats
If you bake occasionally, you probably know the basic principle in recipes. There are a few essential components in dessert recipes: dry ingredients, sugar, fat, and most of the time, a binding agent. Baking dessert is like a little science project, you need to follow a certain combination to achieve a particular taste or consistency. Otherwise, you might end up with rock-hard cakes, soggy pies or flaky cookies. I can imagine why manufacturers added unwanted ingredients into dog treats. Without fat, sugar and grains, the doughs are difficult to handle, which means it would take longer to produce, hence higher cost. Knowingly, I decided to take over the process, curate recipes and hand-make the dog treats on my own.
When baking with meat or chicken livers, I cut out any fat and tissues I can see. Any part that has no added value and may be hard to digest for dogs must go. As for flour, I choose to use gluten-free flour and mix it with home-grounded oat flour. Gluten is a source of skin allergy and coat shedding in dogs. Not saying my dog has these problems, but why not avoid them. Oat flour makes the cookie dough particularly difficult to handle and shape because it absorbs so much water so quickly. My dog loves oats, unfortunately, and oat flour is very easy to digest for dogs. Therefore I keep it in some of my recipes. For the grain-free recipes, I use buckwheat flour which is a great source of fibre and minerals. As for the unavoidable fatty agent in baking, I choose to use organic unrefined coconut oil. There are so many benefits to feeding your dog a moderate amount of coconut oil. If you want to find out more, you can read up this article here.
Due to the conscious choice of ingredients, the process of making homemade dog treat is not easy. The preparation is long, the doughs are hard to handle and the yield is small. However, all the hard work is worthwhile as long as I can make sure my dog gets healthy, natural and high-quality dog treats. I will be talking more about the ingredients and process goes into the CiaoMilton's dog cookies in another article. For now, this is the reason why I moved away from processed, commercially manufactured dog treats, to homemade dog treats. If you are like me, critical about what to feed your pooch, please check out my website for the delicious homemade dog treats www.ciaomilton.com