The oven timer just went off and you're anxious to see how your concoction of dry yeast, honey, chicken broth and water has turned out. No, it's not the latest casserole recipe featured on your favorite cooking show. It's not even food for you. What's in the oven are the homemade treats you made especially for your BFF, your pride and joy -- your small dog.
Why make your little dog's treats instead of buying them? There are several reasons. For one thing, small breed dogs typically weigh less than 22 pounds (10 kilograms) or are shorter than 16 inches (41 centimeters), so it's important to make sure the treats they eat are not too big for their mouths and tummies. Also, store-bought treats can be costly, and some contain ingredients that aren't the best for your little pup. By making them yourself, you can control dog treats' nutritional value and totally avoid the colorings and preservatives found in many commercial brands. It's also a fun project to tackle with your family.
There are many types of homemade treats that your small pooch will love, and it's relatively easy to get great recipes from a number of reputable books and websites. Read on to learn more about five homemade treats that are sure to please.
People love to celebrate birthdays, milestones and other special occasions with great-tasting cakes, so why should your pup be any different? Serving a homemade cake made with carob chips, carrots, bananas or even homemade doggie-safe cinnamon frosting is a scrumptious way to welcome your new small pooch to the family or to mark the anniversary of when you two came into each other's lives.
Doggie cakes can be as intricate and detailed as those people eat, but remember to tailor the ingredients for your small dog. Michelle Trochez-Brown, owner of Florida-based natural dog treat store Nuni Cakes, advises that the key to making good choices about homemade treats is sticking to the basics. When making doggie cakes -- and other treats -- she recommends avoiding ingredients like sugar, unhealthy fats and anything with preservatives. There are also ingredients that should be on your "no-no" list when you're shopping for your dog's homemade treat batter. For example, avoid putting chocolate, any type of caffeine, raisins, grapes, avocado, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, raw meat, onions, garlic and salt in your cart. Some of these ingredients can really upset your dog's digestive system, and cause severe illness or even death.
Doggie cookies are another great treat for your small pup. Various dog cookie recipes contain ingredients that range from carrots to cheese to bananas and even meat. Liz Palika, author of "The Ultimate Dog Treats Cookbook," says treats that have meat in them should be stored in your refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Since we're talking about small pups, it's important to remember that, though they may sometimes seem larger than life, they have small tummies, so their treat needs are different than those of their larger furry friends. That's why it's advisable to use smaller, dog-specific cookie cutters -- which come in shapes like bones, fire hydrants, dogs and other images -- to control the portion sizes. You can find cookie cutters specially geared toward smaller dogs ranging in size from about 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 centimeters) long. Palika also says that smaller treats won't need to stay in the oven as long as treats made for larger dogs.
Potato, potahto. There's not too much difference between doggie cookies and doggie biscuits except for an ingredient here -- and there and their shapes. Both can be made using dog cookie cutters and both can make great treats for your small pooch.
If you're at loss as to what you should include in your biscuits, books like "The Everything Cooking for Dogs Book: 150 Quick and Healthy Recipes Your Dog Will Love" by Lisa Fortunato can help. But one ingredient often found in dog biscuits that's sure to please is peanut butter. Peanut butter is a healthy fat for small dogs, though you should try to use the sugar-free or organic varieties whenever possible. And remember that size does matter. When making doggie biscuits and other treats for small and toy breeds, Trochez-Brown says it's critical to take the size of your dog's mouth into consideration. For example, making a 6-inch (15-centimeter) peanut butter biscuit is probably not ideal for a 4-pound (2 kilograms) pup -- a treat that large could easily become lodged in his throat. Treats 3 inches (8 centimeters) and smaller are much better for your petite pooch.
2: Bacon Treats
Perhaps nothing says "good job" to your small dog better than an old-fashioned piece of bacon, and homemade treats made with bacon are sure to make his tiny tail wag, too. When preparing the crunchy treats, try to use bacon that you cook yourself or real bacon bits just like the ones you use in your own salad. Also, including moderate amounts of cheese in your recipe can add a little protein to the treat. A word of caution about cheese, though: Use it sparingly, because as Vetinfo.com notes, many dogs are lactose intolerant and large amounts of dairy can result in diarrhea, bloating and other digestive issues. Even if you're pretty certain lactose intolerance isn't an issue, using smaller portions of cheese for smaller dogs is always best.
Trochez-Brown also advises dog owners to stay away from incorporating jerky or hide in treats for small breeds because they are usually too tough for them to chew.
The mother of all homemade treats is a doggie classic: the bone. Dog bone treats are definitely not like the scraps of bones that dogs like to eat from your dinner table (which potentially can be dangerous, by the way). These homemade bones are easy to make, and chances are you probably already have many standard bone recipe ingredients in your kitchen: eggs, whole wheat flour, margarine and powdered milk. You can also experiment with sesame seeds, cheese and peanut butter to tempt your pooch's palate.
The best way to introduce your small dog to these bones and other homemade treats is to first find out what ingredients they like, which may take a little trial and error. Your dog's not much of a meat eater? No worries. You can whip up vegetarian bones with a few carrots, some parsley and cheese. Once again, small dog cookie cutters can be used to make bones the perfect size for your pooch's mouth. It'll be one bone your pup won't want to bury.