Dog treats should fit into your dog’s life in a healthy way, rather than being unhealthy indulgences. The problem is that high quality commercial single-ingredient dog treats are VERY pricey. Now you can easily make your own extremely healthy, perfect dog treats! With this recipe, you do not need to be worried about using lots of treats in training!
Because I am a dog trainer, dog treats are a constant part of my daily life. Miles is a demo dog in my lessons, and we are always working together. For Miles’ health I have never been able to compromise on quality, but I did grow tired of compromising on budget. When I set off to create my own perfect dog treats, aside from quality and price, I had some important extra wishes! After years of dealing with treats that were too big, too little, crumby, hard, splinter-like, powdery, greasy, smelly, and/or flaky, I was determined to make dog treats that were perfect to use. I have created the perfect dog treats! I am so excited to share this recipe with you!
Reasons to make your own dog treats:
- ONE healthy ingredient
- NO fillers
- Easy to make
- Not messy
- All dogs love them
- The perfect sizes
- Happy dog digestion
- No worries about weight gain
- NO guilt training with lots of treats
Choosing a Food Dehydrator
First, you need the right food dehydrator. I can’t stress this enough! You must use one that is rated for safe and effective dehydration of meat. Most dehydrators aren’t designed with the production of shelf-stable dried meats in mind.
- This Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator – This is the best food dehydrator for making your own dog treats. It one of the only affordable at-home dehydrators that is rated for safe dehydrating of meats. It is 1,000 watts and heats to 160°F. The round design also dehydrates evenly.
- Tray covers – These are optional, but I highly recommend getting 1-2 extra packs. If you plan on making training treats, these are essential and make clean-up easy.
Selecting The Meat
You can use any protein source that agrees with your dog. The main thing you’ll want to look for are leaner cuts of meat. Some marbling is okay – don’t worry, any bits of fat won’t cause the treats to spoil if you follow these instructions. Lean roasts are especially cost-effective and easy to prepare. I prefer to use fresh meat, but thawed meat from the freezer works too!
- Any kind of protein
- Leaner cuts of meat
- 2 – 4.5 lbs of meat per batch
Quantity: For one batch that will fill 3-4 trays of your dehydrator, I have found that around 4.5-5 pounds of meat is ideal. You can also do smaller batches. Below is what a batch of 4.6 lbs of small beef roasts looks like:
A quick note about fat: Opt for leaner cuts of meat for versatility and usability. Fat won’t affect the shelf stability of your treats if you follow this recipe, but it will limit how “pocket” friendly your treats will be. I occasionally make “ultra high value” greasy treats from marbled meats; they just aren’t as versatile and you’ll want to feed them sparingly. Click here for a comparison picture.
NO SALT needed: This recipe is completely shelf-stable WITHOUT the use of salt. When you purchase expensive high-quality commercial dog treats, they will usually contain natural preservatives such as rosemary oil and salt. Rosemary oil isn’t great for dogs who are at risk for seizures, and salt isn’t well tolerated by dogs. Even though the amount used in commercial treats isn’t unhealthy, another benefit of making your own treats is that they will be easier on your dog’s stomach and won’t make your dog as thirsty.
M&E’s DOG TREAT RECIPE
Slice the meat around 1/4 inch thick. Buy around 4.5-5 pounds of meat (or less). You’ll want to slice it fairly thinly, as shown, around 1/4 inches thick. It doesn’t need to be paper thin, some variation is okay. Quick tip? Thin, lean pork chops or chicken cutlets don’t require any slicing!
Place the meat in your dehydrator trays. I like to use the optional tray covers because they produce very uniform treats, they prevent training treats from falling through the trays as they shrink, and because they make clean-up easy.
Stack the trays in the dehydrator. The Gardenmaster comes with 4 trays. Always use all 4 even if you are doing a small batch of treats and some trays are empty.
Set the temperature to 160°F and the time to 6 hours, then press “start.” Position the dehydrator at least 2 feet away from walls.
Set your phone timer to 4 hours, unless you want big treats.
After 4 hours, pause the dehydrator if you want to make strips or training treats. To pause the dehydrator, press “stop” and don’t unplug it yet. Now you can take the trays into the kitchen to cut up the treats. Kitchen shears are ideal – I have these (link fixed)! You can start by cutting them into strips. From there, if you want to make training treats, gather handfuls of strips and working in batches, cut them into little squares. This is easy to do because dried just enough to be firm, but still pliable. Once you are done cutting up your treats, spread them back onto the trays, put the trays back in the dehydrator, and press “start” to allow the batch to dehydrate for the remaining two hours.
After six hours of dehydrating, test the treats for flexibility. If they are fairly rigid, they are done! If they are still noticeably flexible, dry them for another 1.5-2 hours. Note: For some reason, pork seems to require an extra 1-3 hours of dehydrating in comparison to beef and chicken.
M&E’s Dog Treat Recipe VIDEO
Storing Your Homemade Dog Treats
I store my homemade treats in these “fido” style jars. Even though the treats have very little smell to us; they are tantalizing to dogs. These jars keep them fresh and safe from pests and dogs.
- Store at room temperature, or in a cooler part of your home
- DO NOT store in the fridge
- “Fido” style jars are great for storing your DIY treats
Homemade Treats are the Best!
This is a jar filled with 1 1/2 pounds of my beef training treats. To make these I used 4 1/2 pounds of fresh, hormone-free, grass-fed, organic beef. Even using meat of this caliber, the treats I made were 1/3 of the cost of store bought “meat only” treats, which aren’t made from high-end meat.
I also have noticed that even when I use lots of my homemade treats when I am training Miles, I still end up going through less treats that I would with store bought ones. This is because when you have the right size of treats, you will be feeding one at a time, rather than a handful of treats that are too small, or bigger chunks of ones that are too big.