Looking for a special gift for a friend – or, better yet, a friend’s dog? We’ve put together this helpful gift guide for dogs, and everything is homemade: homemade dog treats, training treats, or grooming products. You’ll save a bundle, improve the quality of the products, and even have fun customizing them. Healthy homemade dog treats can be customized with fun cookie cutters, and you can pick your ingredients to match the lucky dog’s diet and tastes.
For homemade grooming products, see our article, DIY Gifts for Dogs: Homemade Dog Shampoo.
Jump to: Homemade Dog Treat Recipes
How to Make Dog Treats
Years ago, wheat was the main ingredient in dry dog foods and biscuits. To meet the demand for gluten-free foods and treats, some manufacturers substitute peas, beans, and other legumes for wheat and other grains, but those ingredients have become controversial, too. Today, a range of alternative flours are widely available, making it easy to create biscuits and treats for dogs with any sort of dietary restrictions; you can easily make treats that are free of gluten, legumes, fat, sugar, nuts, or salt. Experiment with substitutions!
When making homemade dog biscuits, combine dry ingredients with a mixer, food processor, or by hand, then add other ingredients to create a stiff or soft dough. Line cookie sheets with kitchen parchment paper or lightly grease them before baking to prevent sticking.
Stiff doughs can be rolled flat with a rolling pin and shaped with a cookie cutter, pizza cutter, or knife. Alternatively, shape stiff dough as a log or cylinder, wrap it in plastic wrap, refrigerate until firm, then slice the roll into discs and bake.
Soft doughs can be pushed through a cookie press to create different shapes or rolled into balls and pressed flat with your hand or the tines of a fork.
If using a silicone mold, spray it lightly with oil to prevent sticking, then add the dough and press firmly.
Leaving treats at room temperature for a day or two after baking helps harden biscuits, making them sturdier and crunchier. Depending on ingredients, home-prepared dog treats may last several days to a week or more at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator. For long-term storage, freeze in air-tight containers.
For holiday baking, mix cookie doughs ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze them until a few days before gift giving, then bake and gift-wrap.
Ingredients that are perennial dog favorites and are delicious additions to homemade dog treats include peanut or other nut butters, carob (which tastes like chocolate but is safe for dogs), shredded coconut, carrots, cheese, bacon, and diced or pureed meat, fish, or poultry.
Avoid adding ingredients to your DIY dog treats that are not dog-safe. These include chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, and the sweetener xylitol (check peanut butter labels to avoid products containing xylitol).
Homemade Dog Treat Recipes
To test recipes for this article, I used all of the ingredients mentioned here in a variety of cookies, crackers, and training treats, which were enthusiastically tested by 30 dogs of different sizes, breeds, and ages. Here are their favorites:
Homemade Sweet Potato Dog Chews
Sweet potato chews are incredibly easy to make, cost a fraction of what you’d pay for them in a pet supply store – and most dogs absolutely love them. If you’ve ever picked up a $20 bag of sweet potato chews and thought you could make them yourself for a lot less, you’re right. In fact, nothing could be simpler. Here’s how to make these dog treats.
Cut raw sweet potatoes or yams into slices (lengthwise or crosswise) between 3⁄8 and 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 250° F for an hour, turn slices over, bake for another hour, and repeat until they’re completely hard. Or let them finish drying in a food dehydrator set to low heat. Once completely dry, these chews have a long shelf life and do not require refrigeration. Several of my tester dogs preferred these to all the other treats.
Gummy Gelatin Dog Treats
Gelatin is the key ingredient in sweet or savory dog gummies. Unflavored gelatin powder is available from Great Lakes, Knox, and other widely sold brands. Compare labels if you prefer gelatin from grass-fed cattle. Gelatin is recommended for aging joints, increased mobility, improved digestion, strong bones, and skin and coat health. Unfortunately, gelatin does not freeze well. Use these homemade dog gummies as training treats or additions to your dog’s dinner.
To make gummies for dogs, sprinkle 2 tablespoons gelatin powder over 1⁄4 cup unheated
coconut water, bone broth, soup stock, or other liquid and let stand a minute or two until the gelatin is absorbed. Heat 1⁄2 cup of the same liquid until almost boiling, add it to the gelatin, and stir.
If desired, add 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup chopped meat, fish, chicken, pumpkin puree, or other additions. Pour into a lightly oiled silicon mold, loaf pan, or tray. Refrigerate until firm. Remove gummies from silicon molds. If using a loaf pan, remove the single slab of cold gelatin and cut it with a knife or cookie cutters. Refrigerate gummies, tightly sealed, for up to 2 weeks.