I’ve been asked about the kinds of food and treats I provide for our dogs because they “always seem to have such great coats.” The answer is very normal and boring: we buy a no-grain dry dog food produced and distributed by an American company. Our older two Border Collies have allergies to grains and prompted a switch to no-grain foods about four years ago. It’s been such a successful change that we have been amazed too.
Since switching to no-grain food, we noticed that not only did the more obvious signs of allergies clear up, but so did several other things we never considered may be tied to their dog food. Gilley was most allergic and his allergic reactions were: a nasty body odor, constantly licking his front legs and feet, BAD dog breath; and a dull, oily coat. Buzz had discolored whites of his eyes-often yellowy, bad belching; and emitting noxious fumes from his rear end that could peel paint. Within less than two weeks of switching to the no-grain dry dog food, all their symptoms were gone! Cinder has been raised on the same food just because it made the most sense to keep all the dogs on one type of food as long as we can. Ever since the switch, their coats are wonderful too.
As for treats, our dogs get a LOT of them. I like to make homemade dog cookies and the basic recipe for them is here: Easy, Cheap, "Hypoallergenic" Homemade Dog Treats. I’ve since altered some of the ingredients and methods to find what works. You can basically add flavors by substituting different meat broths or replacing peanut butter with yogurt, apples, carrots, or bananas. I also use cheeses like cheddar or parmesan in addition to or replacement for peanut butter.
I realize most people don’t really want to bake their own dog cookies so I also get lazier in the summer because I don’t want to spend my time in the kitchen. For those who still need a no-grain treat for your dogs, usually rice and oat based items can be used. I have used plain Cheerios (the others have sugar the dogs don’t need), Rice Chex, and Oat Bran cereals. Our dogs love these cereals just straight out of the package, but if you want to make them more interesting, dust some powdered cheese (like you get for popcorn) on it and watch them scarf those cereal bites fast!
For somewhat higher value treats, I like using dried beef liver. You can find the recipe for that here: Easy, Cheap & Safe Homemade Liver Treats But, for those who don’t want to make the liver treats (which are actually really cheap and highly nutritious), I’ve begun using human turkey sausage snacks or turkey pepperoni. The dogs love the turkey sausages or pepperoni, it’s relatively inexpensive; and it keeps really well in the fridge. You can also cut them into small bits to extend the value because all a dog needs for a treat is a piece big enough to taste, so the pieces can be pretty small. Treats aren’t supposed to be or supplement food – they are rewards and only need be big enough to provide a tasty little bite.
For cool summer treats or as great PUPPY TEETHING treats, I make frozen yogurt cubes. We don’t give them a cube without inserting the cube into a Kong toy though! Putting the cubes in a Kong toy takes them a little longer to eat and keeps them occupied for about 10-15 minutes. You can find this idea explained here: Kong Toys are Wonderful Things I use the cheapest vanilla-honey Greek yogurt to make the yogurt cubes, but other flavors like banana and blueberry are okay too. I have also used some light fruit juices to make frozen cubes too. While they enjoy any of the cubes, I think our dogs prefer the yogurt cubes. I have even made frozen peanut butter yogurt cubes by mixing very soft peanut butter with plain yogurt – our guys love those! Once again, if you buy the cheaper Greek yogurt in a large container, it’s a fairly fast and easy frozen treat that’s also inexpensive. One trick I’ve learned is that it’s ultra-easy to fill ice cube trays with the yogurt if you put the yogurt into a piping bag or a plastic baggy with a small snip off a bottom corner so you can use it like a piping bag to fill each ice cube space in the ice cube trays. You can spoon it into the trays, but piping it in is faster and easier in my opinion.
There you have it – all the food and treats we provide for our dogs. Our treats are very easy and the amount of homemade treats is so much higher than the amount you get when buying the store bought treats. Aside from that, we know exactly what we’re feeding our dogs, unlike a lot of the store treats with questionable ingredient lists. It’s also very hard to find cheap no-grain dog treats in our area so we don’t have to make special trips to pet stores to hunt for them, only to pay outrageous prices for small quantities of treats.