Bake your own Dog Treats: Salmon and Parsley Bites

As mentioned previously I have just dipped my toe into the strange world that is cooking for your dog. It probably won’t be a regular thing, but I thought I should share the recipe here, along with our verdict, in case any body else wants to try their hand at baking dog treats.

I have adapted the recipe from Henrietta Morrison’s book Dinner for Dogs.  I chose salmon because it contains high levels of omega-3 which promotes a healthy skin and coat as well as brain function.  I added parsley because it contains vitamin C, is supposed to help with bad breath and makes the end result look more interesting.  The original recipe called for plain flour, but many dogs are wheat intolerant and it can make others itchy, I have gone with spelt flour because if you’re going to the trouble of cooking for your dog, you might as well make it hypoallergenic.

Ingredients

200g tin of salmon or tuna in oil

(1 tbs olive oil. If, like me, you could only get salmon in water)

Handful of parsley, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

100g spelt flour (or plain flour)

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.

2. Tip the salmon with it’s oil (or drained salmon with olive oil) into a bowl and use a fork to break into small flakes. If you find any pieces of bone either remove them or crush them into small pieces with the fork.

3. Add  the parsley and the beaten egg and mix well.

4. Add the spelt flour and mix until it comes together in a dough.  If you are using spelt flour rather than plain flour you may find the dough is quite wet and you need to add a little more flour until it is easy to work with.

5. Knead the dough and roll it out on the work surface until it is around half a centimetre thick.  Use a small cutter to cut out shapes, or cut into small squares with a knife. Place the treats on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

6. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Our Verdict

The treats were fun and easy to make and BlindDog was in the kitchen looking hopeful the whole time I was cooking.  The treats looked pretty good when they were finished and given Henrietta Morrison’s mantra of never feeding her dog something she wouldn’t eat, I felt obliged to try one. It was actually quite good, especially with the addition of the parsley, although the idea of a fish flavoured biscuit was a bit strange.

BlindDog chomped on the treats with relish so it was definitely a thumbs up from her.  The recipe does make a lot of treats, easily more that BlindDog should eat in two weeks, so I have put half of them in the freezer.

If anyone else has tried cooking for their dog, we’d be keen to know how you got on!

A Real Dog’s Dinner: Should You Cook for your Dog?

Dinner for DogsToday I baked for my dog. To give you some idea of the severity of this situation I hardly ever bake for my other half, for my friends or for myself.  But today BlindDog got freshly baked salmon and parsley biscuits and this is a dog who will eat anything and everything put in front of her, including things she finds on the street.

The only semi-rational explanation I can give for this sudden onset of baking madness is that I have been morbidly curious about Henrietta Morrison’s cookbook for dogs ever since it came out.  The book, called Dinner for Dogs, along with the dog food brand Lily’s kitchen, which was founded by Morrison when her dog Lily went of her food and Morrison realised how poor the quality of most commercial dog foods is.

The whole concept goes hand in hand with the whole food and organic revolution in the human food market, and Morrison’s reason for starting Lily’s kitchen and writing Dinner for Dogs was that she wasn’t prepared to feed anything to her dog that she wouldn’t eat herself.

The book is full of ‘easy’ recipes to cook for your dog from cupcakes to birthday cake, from everyday stews to Christmas Dinner.  Morrison also translates some common ingredients of dry dog food and reveals that a lot of commercial brands contain ingredients that are unwholesome sounding and difficult for dogs to digest.  She also gives a good comprehensive list of ‘human’ foods that are suitable for dogs along with their benefits (although this section gets a little ‘health-food shop’ in places).

Every time I look at the book I have to add the mental hashtag #firstworldproblems because, to be honest, most people have other things to worry about. And I don’t think I’m going to ‘try to cook for your dog at least once a week’ as Morrison suggest because I’m too busy aiming to cook for my other half that often! Morrison herself admits that the recipes included in the book are intended as a supplement to a nutritionally balanced dog food and should not be the dog’s sole diet.

The main benefit of this book is educating people who don’t feed their dogs well, by highlighting the pitfalls of feeding a low quality dog food and the dangers of feeding your dog the wrong kind of human food. Some of the recipes might be nic

e for a special occasion but there’s no way I’m going to be cooking for BlindDog several times a week! Even though the recipe I tried was easy and fun to make, and even though BlindDog loved eating the result, I couldn’t help feeling that I could have spent the time better by actually doing something fun with her.

bone-shaped-homemade-dog-treats

The book is at best a bit of educational doggy fun which is helping promote the Lily’s Kitchen brand and at worst something to make doting owners feel inadequate. I would advocate feeding the best quality dog food you can afford and investing in your dog by spending time with her.

You can find the recipe for Salmon and Parsley Bites here, along with our verdict.

Product Review: Training Treat Ball by Good Boy

Treat BallThis was the first interactive toy we tried with BlindDog and overall I think it was £5 very well spent. The basic concept doesn’t require much explanation: the ball is hollow, with a opening in it and when you fill it with treats or dog food, the dog has to roll it around to get them out. The main benefit of this particular treat ball is that you can adjust the size of the opening to vary the difficulty or so you can use different sizes of treats or kibble.

The ball looks quite big next to BlindDog (It’s 12cm tall) but that doesn’t stop her at all, and I think it would be suitable for all but the very biggest and tiniest dogs.

The treat ball doesn’t come apart, but the adjustable opening makes it relatively easy to fill with kibble compared to treat balls with one small hole.  Filling with BlindDog’s ration of 1/3 cup of kibble is very quick and while it would easily hold a lot more food it would take a little longer.  I try and feed at least one of BlindDog’s meals from a puzzle toy every day so from that point of view the toy is perfect.

The best aspect of the training treat ball is it’s entertainment value.  BlindDog loves playing with it and will keep coming back to it after the treats are gone (hoping it’s refilled!?). In terms of physical exercise, she will chase after it all round the house, and I think it must be great for improving her dexterity and what I can only describe as paw-nose coordination!

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Interactive Dog Toys: Unlocking your Dog’s Potential

chess gameLate in life, BlindDog has become a convert to the concept of the interactive dog toy, and she’s converted me along the way. Let me tell you why.

An interactive dog toy is any toy where the dog has to engage its brain to work out how to get treats or food out of the toy. Arguably the dog has to interact with any dog toy, but truly interactive dog toys require a lot more thought (and usually a yummy reward).

The main reason BlindDog has embraced the trend at the ripe old age of ten, is that she is what experts call food motivated, and what I call greedy.  She will do anything for food.

Secondly, as she was a rescue dog, she never really learned to play when she was younger (with the exception of one specific squeaky toy, now long since lost), which is a shame as Bichons are usually very playful. So wrestling and chasing with toys that give her FOOD is a good replacement.

Also, as she can’t see very well any more, it’s great for her to have toys which smell of food and rattle from the dog biscuits inside so she can easily find them. I make no apologies for the fact that most of her toys were chosen to be as noisy as possible!

The reason I’m a die-hard fan of interactive toys is that I know when she plays with them she’s getting a great physical work-out, and its important for older dogs to have frequent gentle exercise throughout the day so as not to put to much strain on their joints.

Its also really easy to use interactive toys to feed your dog’s daily ration and keep them occupied at the same time.  This is great if your dog is on a low calorie or prescription diet and has to avoid other chews and treats that you might otherwise give them to keep them out from under your feet.  Your dog is having fun, using up energy and not eating anything ‘bad’.

Yorkie with mini buster cube

Finally, interactive toys are great for exercising dogs’ brains, something that is so important when your dog’s main ‘job’ is snoozing onthe sofa! People often forget that small dogs need a brain work-out too, not just bored border collies and labradors. I had always thought BlindDog leant more towards cute than clever, but she has been so quick to work out some of her puzzle toys that she’s clearly not just a pretty face!

Interactive toys can be expensive compared to other toys and for the uninitiated it can be difficult to know what to buy. But the enjoyment they bring to your dog (the break they give you) are priceless!  There’s also nothing to stop you using your imagination and making your own.  To help you chose what to buy, BlindDog and I will review some of the best interactive dog toys.

Are Small Dogs Bored Dogs?

A lot of attention has been given to dog behaviour recently, and specifically to the ways our dogs see the world (in our case, not too well!).  I’m thinking of programs such as Victoria’s Stilwell’s ‘It’s Me or the Dog’, Cesar Millan’s ‘The Dog Whisperer’ (although the less attention paid to him the better) and Dr John Bradshaw’s fantastic book, ‘In Defence of Dogs’.

We seem to be slowly catching on to the fact that dogs, descended from wolves and domesticated in order to work with us, get bored if they have nothing to do. A ‘naughty’ dog is usually a bored dog who chews the furniture, barks himself hoarse at the smallest noise and shoves his nose into everything simply because he hasn’t got anything better to do.

In all of these discussions the spotlight is on burly, boisterous BIG dogs.  In part this is because large breeds were bred to spend all day herding sheep, retrieving game or guarding homes and so they require a lot of mental as well as physical exercise. But its also big bored dogs cause big damage and destruction.

Little dogs tend to get overlooked and I have a feeling that as a result many owners are failing to adequately enrich their small dogs.  Perhaps because they don’t realize how important it is to stimulate their dog’s brains. Or maybe because if their dog is bored it’s just the dog that suffers and not their table legs?

I won’t deny that BlindDog is a lapdog and was bred to be expert at receiving cuddles, getting tummy rubs and sleeping on the sofa.  And believe me, she excels at all of these jobs.

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But BlindDog also has Water Dog and Poodle in her long ancestry, both dogs which were bred to retrieve waterfowl and assist sailors.  When BlindDog is splashing through puddles, racing over snow or following a scent through the undergrowth, you can really see the big, working dog behind the fluffy, teddy bear haircut.

When small dogs are bored they can turn into attention seeking, noisy, destructive (and sometimes aggressive) brats. They might be able to do limited damage, but there’s no limit on the damage being bored can do to them.

On this blog you’ll find lots of ideas for ways to keep any dog (big or small) enriched, engaged and entertained.