Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Easy, Cheap & Safe Liver Treats for Puppies and Adult Dogs

     The dog food and dog treat business is a booming one with hundreds of varieties of food and treats for every taste, budget and need. It's easy to be confused and overwhelmed on what to get when there are so many choices. If you follow online alerts regarding the pet food and treat industry, you can also be overwhelmed and terrified by the various recalls.  When you add the recommendations of veterinarians, trainers, and well-meaning friends, it can be even more confusing. Raising dogs most of my life, I've learned a few things and one of them is that I can make my own dog treats and that's what I do most of the time.
     We need to pinch pennies, but not by giving Cinder or the adult boys cheap store bought treats full of stuff we can't even pronounce. During training you want high value treats that will motivate them to do things, but the treats should be small enough they don't have to spend time chewing and they don't choke on it if they're excited. Rewards should be quickly and easily given and consumed to facilitate staying on task. I've found that beef liver is that perfect high value training treat.
   Beef liver is relatively inexpensive and easily found in grocery stores. I buy several pounds  at a time because it cooks down to about 1/2 its original size.  I spray a large baking pan with a cooking spray; lay the liver flat on the pan; and place it in a 250 degree oven for about 4 hours (turning it over after 2 hours). The goal is to thoroughly cook and dry the liver to a jerky-like consistency.  
Once cooked, I cut it into very tiny pieces and place it in a sealable container like a jar or plastic cannister. I don't put the lid on for several more hours, until the liver is thoroughly cooled and aired. Once cooled, I seal the container and store it in my fridge. They can be frozen too, but once thawed, need to be used fairly fast so I freeze them in small batches. 

Raw liver ready to bake
Baked liver

Liver cut into tiny pieces

Liver treat cannister 
There is another bonus treat to be had from baking the liver! I've found that the liver typically leaves a layer of dried meat juice baked on the pan. Rather than waste that, I boil a small pan of water and fill the baking pan with boiling water. Then I take a spatula and scrape the pan to remove the baked on meat drippings. Instead of dumping that out, I dump that livery soup water into a container and save it to use as a sort of gravy to pour on the dogs' dry dog food once every couple of days. Liver is a very rich organ meat and it can cause upset tummies or loose bowels if they have too much or too often, but it's a yummy and healthy treat to moisten their dry food. 

Baked on liver drippings w/ hot water
Baking pan after dumping hot liver soup into jar-not clean, but easy to clean!
      For roughly six dollars of liver, I get enough treats to last 1-2 weeks for three dogs AND I get the liver soup that cleans up the baking pan and doubles as a dry food gravy that lasts about 3 weeks in the fridge. The benefits are:
  • I save money by buying fewer or no store bought treats.
  • I know the ingredients used and don't have to worry about whether or not they're safe.
  • I can vary the sizes to suit my dogs' needs.
  • We get both the liver and the liver stock from each batch, making it an even better value.
  • Liver is rich in protein and other vitamins that benefit the dogs coats and overall health.
      I'll gladly spend 30 minutes of my time and a little effort (very little) to save a lot of money, peace of mind; and ensure my dog treats are safe for my dogs. I can't get better treats cheaper anywhere! 
     Raising Cinder may come with some challenges, but deciding on her training treats isn't one of them!
Remember to keep your eye on the countdown because we're picking up Cinder this weekend and the time is ticking away quickly as we anxously wait for our fuzzy little puppy girl to come home!


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