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 user-friendly. The outcome of my experiment is a recipe for 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
- Shelf-stable, without concerning preservatives
- 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. If you buy a bunch of meat and it has some fat, cut bigger bits off, and just increase your drying time by 2-3 hours. Click here for a comparison picture.
NO SALT: 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. These treats are easier on your dog’s body and stomach than commercial treats 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 to allow for proper air flow.
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.
If you want to make strips or training treats, pause pause the dehydrator after 4 hours of dehydrating. 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, they so easy to clean! You can start by cutting the treats into strips. You can either leave the treats as strips, or if you want to make training treats, you can gather handfuls of strips and working in batches, cut them into little squares. 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 2+ hours.
After six hours of dehydrating, test the treats for flexibility. If they are fairly rigid, they are done! I test this by using my fingernail to break a treat in half. It shouldn’t flex at all. If they are still noticeably flexible or moist, dry them for another 1.5-5 hours. Comment below if you are unsure!
Note: Chicken dries the fastest, usually a total time of 6 hours, beef seems to be pretty consistent at total time of 6-7 hours, and for some reason even tiny bits of pork seem to require around 8-9 hours total drying time.
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. These jars can be washed in the dishwasher.
- Store treats at room temperature, or in a cooler part of your home
- DO NOT store treats in the fridge
- Extra treats can be frozen
- “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. If you’ve ever looked the weight on your store bought treats, that is a HUGE amount of 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 are not 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 won’t be feeding too many little bits of treats, or single treats that are too big. Pretty much all store bought treats are too big, and if they are the right size, they are crumbly and/or otherwise messy.
Please comment below with any questions, or if you try this recipe! I am excited to hear what you think. If you try the recipe, send me pictures and I will share them below!
Marilyn & Brian made treats for Sailor!
Anne & Dan made treats for Mr. Darcy!