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Bone appetit: Making homemade dog treats can be a pet project for the holidays

Sunday, December 06, 1998

By Virginia Phillips

Of course you are more likely to be interested in the notion of homemade dog treats if you have a dog. But there's something in this for you even if you don't have a dog. You just have to like a dog. You'll soon find out that going to the slight trouble of putting someone else's esteemed mutt on your holiday doggie-treat distribution list will bring a twinkle, if not a tear, to the eye of that person.

  Make a feast fist for a dog (photo styled by Marlene Parrish; Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette)

And you will see that going around at the holidays dispensing canine confections you made yourself is a fine way to solidify relationships - with the pets, obviously - but also with pet owners, who just may include employers, neighbors, objects of affection and friends.

Some of these recipes - from a dog's point of view, the standouts - involve liver. In preparing these, there will be a brief Sweeney Todd moment, as you simmer the liver and then whirl it in the food processor, when you may ask yourself if you like any dog that much. But the mixture stops smelling livery the second you add the other ingredients, and you will be more than repaid by your dog's - make that any dog's - pure pleasure in the finished product.

The ingredients are straightforward: whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, whole or dry milk, eggs, margarine, peanut butter, meat broth. You can decide whether you will take the trouble to roll and cut those adorable dog-bone shapes or will opt instead for a recipe that lets you pat the dough quickly into a jelly-roll pan to be baked and cut into bars.

"Bone" cookie-cutters in several sizes are widely available in craft, cookware and houseware stores.

If you are a slight nut case and want your cookie bones to look really nice (for whose benefit, we are not sure), you can glaze them. One large egg, beaten, combined with 2 tablespoons of milk, brushed on prior to baking, results in a glossy finish.

  Cookbooks for canine treats

These soft-back books on canine cooking make inexpensive accompaniments to your homemade dog treats. The following are from Check bookstores for others. If recipe ingredients include onions, which have recently been found to be capable of causing severe anemia in dogs and cats, simply omit the onions.

"Dog Treats," Doubleday, 1997, by Kim Campbell Thornton, $7.95; from Amazon, $6.36.

"No Barking at the Table," Howell Book House, 1996, by Wendy Nan Rees, et al. $9.95; from Amazon, $7.96.


You may note that none of the recipes includes onion. That is because onion can damage animals' red blood cells, causing a serious blood disorder. Dr. Dana Kellerman, a board-certified veterinary doctor of animal internal medicine at Pittsburgh Veterinary Internal Medicine, confirms that onion, even in small amounts, may cause hemolytic anemia and should never be given to dogs - or cats. Garlic, however, has not posed a problem, the animal internist says.

Another serious mismatch is Dalmatians and liver. They can't digest it properly, so give polka-dot pups another type of treat.

Canine confections that include meat or meat broth should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will keep well for two or three weeks. They can be frozen perfectly for longer-term storage.

You may want to make a couple of varieties of goodies, and tuck them into (dog-chewable) stockings, along with an inexpensive paperback on canine cuisine. Or you can simply package them in see-through holiday treat-bags available at crafts stores.

Canine Cookie Bones

Bull mastiff, collie mix, black lab, German short-hair, tiny terrier all lost their dignity over these. The mastiff sat in front of the refrigerator and whined. This dough is very workable. Gather scraps, and reroll till finished.

11/2 pounds beef liver

3 cups water

21/4 cups toasted wheat germ

About 21/4 cups whole wheat flour

In a 3-quart pan, bring liver and water to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until liver is no longer pink in center (cut to test) about 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer over a bowl (reserve 11/2 cups of the liquid). Cut liver into 1-inch pieces.

Put liver in a blender or food processor; whirl, adding reserved liquid until smoothly puréed. Scrape into a bowl. Stir in wheat germ and 21/4 cups flour until well moistened. Add a bit more liquid if dough is crumbly. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough 1/2 inch thick for large or medium-size bones, 1/4 inch for small bones, and cut out with a dog bone cutter. Place bones closely on greased baking sheets. Bake in a 350-degree oven until browned, about 20 minutes for large or medium bones, 15 minutes for small bones. When all are baked, return all to turned-off oven for 3 hours. Refrigerate airtight up to 2 weeks, freeze for longer storage. Makes 3 to 4 dozen, depending on cutter size.

Based on a recipe in Sunset Magazine

Wover's Wee-Ward

This dough may be patted out onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and cut into small bars after baking. Redolent of meat, cheese and garlic, a human might yip for these. The question has been raised, "Give garlic to a dog?" Only if you're having some, too.

3 pounds liver or chicken simmered in water to cover until no longer pink (cut to test)

1 cup whole wheat flour

4.25-ounce jar minced garlic in oil, or 8 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic

2 cups white flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

About 11/2 cups ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray foil-lined baking sheet with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Cut liver or chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place with garlic in food processor or blender and whirl until smooth. In large mixing bowl, combine with whole-wheat flour, white flour, corn meal and Parmesan. Mix with large spoon or hands until smooth. Spread on baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes. Leave in turned-off oven till cool. Cut in diamond-shaped bars, sized to the recipient. Refrigerate airtight up to 2 weeks; freeze for longer storage.

Good-Dog Peanut Butter Biscuits

These crunchy, whole-wheat treats take about 30 minutes to make and smell so good you may nip away with one. The rich, crumbly dough works well rolled a little thicker, up to 1/3 inch, and using a small cutter.

11/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/4 cup raisins, optional

11/4 cups smooth peanut butter

3/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two or three cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, sugar and raisins, if desired. In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat peanut butter and milk together until combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly. On the same surface, roll dough 1/3 inch thick, dusting with additional flour as needed, and cut into bones or other shapes. Transfer to cookie sheets, placing about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for about two minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely. Store well-wrapped at room temperature for two to three days or refrigerate or freeze.

Makes 3 to 31/2 dozen 3-inch dog bones.

Adapted from "Dog Treats" by Kim Campbell Thornton

No-Bisco Milk Bones

In a time when dogs are lashed to the treadmill to shed unwanted pounds and forbidden their favorite fat-laden treats even at the holidays, you can still offer these relatively low-fat milk bones. Especially if you use a small "bone" cookie cutter.

3/4 cups hot beef or chicken broth or meat juices

1/2 cup margarine

1/2 cup powdered milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 egg, beaten

3 cups whole-wheat flour

In a large bowl, pour hot water over margarine. Stir in powdered milk, salt, sugar and egg. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Knead 3 to 4 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to make a very stiff dough. Pat or roll to 1/2-inch thickness, and cut out with dog bone cutter. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. Return all cookies to turned-off oven and allow to dry out at least 3 hours until hard.

Here, Kitty!

Equality of the species demands that kitties be served. Make these little morsels and see a cat smile - if the dog doesn't get to them first.

11/2 cups cooked, boned and skinned chicken or turkey

1 large egg

2 tablespoons regular-strength chicken broth

1 cup cornmeal

About 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

In a blender or food processor, whirl chicken, egg and broth until smoothly puréed. Scrape into a bowl. Add cornmeal and 1/2 cup of the flour; stir until well moistened. Cover dough and refrigerate until firm enough to handle, at least 2 hours. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 1/2 inch squares or triangles. Scatter slightly apart on 3 greased 12-by-15-inch baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees until golden around edges, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and stir nibbles in pans. Let cool in pans. Refrigerate airtight up to 2 weeks; freeze for longer storage. Makes 3 cups.

Sunset Magazine

Virginia Phillips is a free-lance writer and translator living in Mt. Lebanon.

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