DIY High-Value Dog Treats

High-Value (2)I love to cook. Not because I like to show off my mad skills in the kitchen, but because I love feeding my friends and family. It’s how I show them I care. The same goes for my pets! The first treat we ever gave Gremlin were homemade peanut butter banana oatmeal cookies. They were actually meant for Matthew and me as a low-fat, low-calorie cookie option, but ended up peanut butter banana flavored pucks. Gremlin LOVED them!

Since I recently talked about the importance of high-value treats for high-value training, I thought I’d create a simple recipe that you can make at home. You only need a few ingredients and you should be able to find them at any grocery store: liver, eggs, and whole wheat flour (or gelatin).

The trial and error process was a bummer for me but great for Gremlin! He was so attentive and well-behaved while I was making these!

High-Value Training TreatsFirst, I combined liver, oat flour, and eggs. These turned into (seemingly) chewy liver flavored oatmeal cookies. Gremlin loved them but a friend’s lab refused to eat them!

Next, I tried just liver and egg. These were wet and spongy to the point that they would turn to mush in your fingers. Gremlin loved them.

Then I tried liver, egg, and gelatin. These were closer! The egg gave the liver some lift so I didn’t end up with a meat roll-up like last time and the gelatin helped to make them more solid for easier handling, but they were still a little fragile. After cutting them up and letting them cool in the fridge I realized that these actually make for an extra high-value treat and they aren’t as greasy and hard to handle as you might think. Needless to say, Gremlin loved them!

FINALLY! I combined liver, eggs, and whole wheat flour. This combination turned into a very sticky meat goo in the food processor, so you’ll definitely need a rubber spatula to get it all out. Don’t be shy about spreading it onto the greased foil or parchment paper nice and thin because the meat goo rises like nobody’s business! I was pretty surprised.

liver cookies for training

Here is the recipe for the liver cookies:

20 ounces of chicken livers (Purdue pre-packages exactly this amount)

2 eggs

2.5 cups of whole wheat flour

Combine all three ingredients in your food processor and spread onto a lined and greased baking sheet. This cooks at 350℉ for around 20 minutes or until mostly brown. Allow it to cool before cutting.

Alternative recipe for liver jello:

If you decide to use the gelatin instead of the flour, use one package of gelatin (or one tablespoon) for every two cups of  liver and egg (3 eggs for this version) puree. I put these in at 350° until browned (around 20 minutes). Allow these to cool on the counter until they can be put in the fridge to allow the gelatin to set. Use a paper towel to remove extra moisture before cutting.

Using gelatin instead of flour makes these meatier

Using gelatin instead of flour makes these meatier

***Never add salt or extra fats like oils to your treats as these are very unhealthy for your dog***

So, now that you have delicious high-value treats you’re ready to do some training! Now’s a good time to pick something that you want your dog to stop doing (like barking or chewing) or something fun like the amazing animals in a video from Use Your Clicker that I posted on my facebook page (like my page while you’re there!).

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to give these treats responsibly! The behavior that directly preceded getting the treat will be encouraged, so make sure your dog is calm or is doing exactly what you asked of them before giving the treat. 
  • Since these are food treats, be sure to train at an optimal time of day, which is likely going to be before their usual meal time, since they’ll be very hungry.
  • Adjust how much kibble you give at meal time based on how many treats were given during training. It’s just as unhealthy for dogs to be fat as it is for humans.
  • Dogs learn faster when the reward is given immediately after the action, so be on your toes! As your dog become more proficient at the task, you can begin a variable reward schedule, where you give treats at unpredictable rates.

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