By Catherine M. Zehner, CDT

The DogSmith of Florida's Emerald Coast

Delta Society Pet Partner, Member, IAPDT

AKC CGC Evaluator, Member, APDT


As a dog trainer, I am constantly on the hunt for tasty, nutritious and affordable treats.  Unfortunately, I have found that “tasty,” “nutritious” and “affordable” rarely come in the same package.

Santa brought me the solution this holiday season – a food dehydrator!

Before you yawn, “ho-hum,” read on:  I can make a gallon freezer bag full of treats for less than $5 – with all human-grade ingredients right out of my pantry/refrigerator. (You can also make human treats too, such as beef jerky, dried fruits, fruit roll-ups, trail bars at a huge cost-savings.)

A dehydrator works by forcing hot air over food, removing the moisture. As a result, your treats are dried, so there is no refrigeration necessary.  This is a big bonus for avid dog people who might occasionally on a hot summer day leave the treat bag in the car.  With homemade dehydrated treats, you not only don’t have a stinky mess to remove – you can still use them!

And the best part is – your dogs will never know the treats are good for them!  But you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that only foods that meet your standards have gone into these treats. You’ll never have to worry about missing a pet food recall alert. I use these treats with so many different dogs, that I always use oats as the starch since many dogs are sensitive to corn, wheat and soy products.  Knowing what’s in my treats gives me great peace of mind when dealing with dogs that may have allergies.  However, if your dog isn’t sensitive to those ingredients, you can use flour or corn meal.

The sky is the limit as far as the recipes.  They can be as simple as dehydrating sliced deli meats to more elaborate recipes using cooked vegetables and meats.  The favorite so far is simply  chicken breast sliced through my food processor and dehydrated with nothing added.  Runner up was a leftover Boston butt roast that we smoked one weekend. Tired of eating barbecue, I sliced it up and dehydrated it. Instant dog treats out of leftovers! And I looked like the pied piper at the dog park the next day.

I’m still experimenting, but I’ve had about two dozen canine quality-control inspectors indicate to me that these also are favorite recipes.

Happy drying, and “Bone Apetit!”