In order to offset our escalating dog-ownership costs, I made the commitment to stop buying dog treats. Instead, I would make them all myself. The only exception to this is Fromm’s Pork and Peas Kibble, which at four dollars a pound is vastly more economical than anything I can make. Otherwise, all of the treats that Silas can eat tend to be quite pricey.

Because Silas is picky and has a sensitive stomach, and because I’m kind of lazy about actual baking, this mostly has me slaving over chopping turkey up into the dehydrator. Recommended equipment: a great pair of kitchen scissors.

If you can get it, turkey breast is far and away the easiest. The trick to turkey breast is to cut it across the grain of the meat. Then, you can leave the treats in long strips and break them up as needed. If you cut with the grain, you won’t be able to break the treat up once it’s dried. Also, trim out any connective tissue or fat, because they don’t dry well. The great thing about these treats is that they require minimal chopping and are very dry and clean, with minimal stink factor. The down side is the price. Because I can only find added-sodium free turkey breast at the fancy grocer, it’s $6-$7/lb. By the time you dehydrate it, this is not significantly cheaper than store-bought treats.



Next up on our order of preference is turkey hearts. Turkey hearts are cheap if you can find them–one pound, which yields three or four ounces of treats, costs less than $2. They require more cutting work than turkey breast, though. You have to remove whatever fat is on the outside of the heart. Also, you can’t break turkey heart once it’s dehydrated, so you have to snip it into fairly small pieces if you want training-sized treats. If you do a good job of trimming off the fat, these are also clean and non-greasy enough to carry in your pocket. They are a little smellier, though.

From time to time I break out the big guns–liver. I hate chopping liver to dehydrate. It is so slippery and gross. It also makes your entire house smell like cooking liver, and liver smell will permeate anything that you carry treats in. Don’t put it in your pocket loose! The real trick with liver is to use the solid dehydrator trays that they recommend for fruit jerky. On the mesh trays, the liver will ooze down between the bars and be very difficult to remove. (Sorry if I just ruined fruit rollups for you forever.) You can break liver up once it’s dried, but make sure that you get the pieces thin enough to dehydrate properly. Even fully dry, liver doesn’t keep quite as well as the others–I try to store it in the freezer and grab a handful at a time. Dehydrated liver still packs a good nutritional punch. It’s especially useful for raw fed dogs who don’t really like raw liver. Just watch how much you give at one time–it can cause a little stomach upset.

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17 thoughts on “Homemade

  1. Really grateful you didn’t show the actual cutting up of the turkey parts.

    I don’t think I could handle the smell in making those. Occasionally I’ll buy Blueberry dehydrated beef or bison from the same company that makes her dog food (Acana) but I have to hold my nose every time I open the bag. Dogs go nuts for those treats though and they really are healthy!


    1. The turkey breast really has no bad smell at all–if anything, it smells a little like actual roasting turkey. The others, not so much. Turkey hearts are like cooking beef. Liver is . . . livery.

      I did briefly consider doing a demo on how I portion out whole raw turkeys, but I decided that no one wanted to see that.


  2. Liver is the only thing I’ve dehydrated and you’re right,,,it stinks…and it’s a major pain to cut up and I found it almost impossible to break up once it’s dry…but boy do dogs love it


    1. Huh–my dehydrated liver breaks pretty easily. It probably depends on how thin you slice it. The freeze dried stuff from the store is hard, though–it just crumbles to dust, if you can get it to break at all.


  3. Ah liver, the treat of choice for many in the show ring. I think most people who use it microwave or bake it until it is pretty well done. If I cook for the show ring, I usually just make regular chicken. Works as well and doesn’t gross me out…lol. Good for you for making your own treats!


    1. Liver really is gross. Although, true fact, my *favorite* part of Sundays as a little girl was breading chicken liver for my grandma to fry. In hindsight I realize that she, wisely, gave out that particular task to little girls so that she wouldn’t have to handle the raw liver.


  4. Dehydrated liver is a HUGE hit in our house! But not homemade. I can barely put together a decent meal for myself, so cooking for the dogs is… well, unlikely to happen. Though maybe that’s where I could start to home my cooking abilities – I bet the dogs would be generous judges of my efforts.


  5. There are only certain treat brands we trust and all of them are made in the USA. My mom doe snot like liver so fir sure she will not making a treat with liver on it. Best homemade treats are dehydrated. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar


  6. Elka LOVES liver. There was a time in her puppy days I was using it (and I forget what else) to supplement, because just kibble wasn’t enough for her, and I didn’t want to just feed her kibble until she got the runs. It was like magical space food, that liver was.


    1. Because puppy Silas didn’t really want to work for food, we had to carry really awesome treats to puppy kindergarten. His instructor had a beautiful Australian Shepherd puppy, who had huge olive green eyes. I think that puppy stared at me, herding dog style, for the entire class.


  7. Hehe…you got me.

    I was stopping by to invite you to our NaNoWriMo event, and got completely sucked into the dehydrated turkey advise. I’m particularly interested in it because one of my dogs is on a raw food diet, and she’s so much better I’m scared to give her anything else. I’ve been pondering a dehydrator, but really don’t know how to dehydrate anything.

    You can bet I had a notebook out for this one. I think the comments were almost as helpful also. Good job!


    1. I love my dehydrator. Basically: chop some stuff up, toss it in. Just make sure that your dehydrator is set hot enough to kill the bacteria on meat. People who really worry about that kind of thing sometimes cook the meat first, then dehydrate it, but I’ve never seen the need. There’s a post around here somewhere called “Should I buy a dehydrator” that has more of the details. If you can only feed expensive single-ingredient treats, the dehydrator pays for itself in a few months.


  8. These days I don’t blink an eye at price, the problem is pickiness. I’m hoping she’ll go for dehydrated organs since she won’t eat them any other way! I’ll try and pick one up some time this month and let you know how it goes.


    1. I wouldn’t care so much about the price if Silas didn’t eat so many. We do a lot of treat-based training still.

      I have had great luck with the Fresh Is Best brand dehydrated treats. But, honestly, I have never seen a dog turn down freeze dried liver. I carried some to puppy class once and almost got mauled.


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