16 Beginner Dog Treat Recipes with 5 Ingredients or Less

24 Feb

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Over the last two years we’ve amassed quite an impressive collection of dog treat recipes—and we’re constantly thinking up more! Trying your hand at the humble and hard to screw up dog treat is a great way to play around with baking. After all, dog treats are just very stale, sugarless cookies and dogs aren’t the pickiest when it comes to pet food ingredients. It’s a perfect combination when you’re just starting out as a baker.

If you’re looking to experiment in the kitchen a little bit, consider trying a few of our beginner dog treat recipes! We’ve rounded up a a few classics and a few interesting flavor combinations to try, all with five ingredients or less.

One (or Two) and Done

These treat “recipes” are the easiest of easy to make, because they contain one ingredient, maybe two at the most. Got a sweet potato or a banana on hand? Then you’re ready to get started.

  1. Dehydrated Bananas: If it’s safe for dogs, you can probably dehydrate it into a delicious treat for them! We’ve given our pups dehydrated bananas and mangoes, but the possibilities are pretty endless.
  2. Sweet Potato Jerky: We discovered sweet potato jerky very early on, and its still one of Topher’s favorite treats to work out of a Kong. Or, if you’re looking for a way to literally spice up your jerky treats, these turmeric and coconut oil “fries” were a huge hit last year!
  3. Dog Bone Fillers: Once you realize how easy it is to fill or refill an empty dog bone, you may never buy filled bones again. Last year we tested out three easy dog bone filler recipes, and we continue to use them to this day!
  4. Mango Coconut Fruit Leather: Fruit leather makes a great dog treat, or a great people treat! While the strawberry fruit leather technically has three ingredients, you could definitely leave out the honey if your strawberries are at their peak ripeness.
  5. Chicken Protein: It’s easy to add chicken breast protein powder to a dog’s treat. It provides a boost to their immune system and gives them a healthy dose of the protein they need.

Beginner Dog Treat Recipes

We started making treats at home because we wanted dog treats that weren’t a mash of strange chemicals or fillers. Then we kept making treats because it’s so fun to invent new combinations! Here are some of the treats we go back to again and again, because they come together almost effortlessly.

  1. Vegan Greenie Treats: Our take on the breath freshening treat, without all the ingredients you can’t pronounce. Want more breath freshening power? Just add more herbs!
  2. Peanut Butter Banana Oat: An effortless treat for when your dog has cleaned you out of house and home (what? Is that only Topher?) that uses true staple ingredients in our households.
  3. Classic Frosty Paws: While it might still be a bit too chilly for a frozen treat recipe, our classic take on Frosty Paws should be on any list for beginners. Simply pop all the ingredients in a blender, pour the mix into molds, and freeze! Easy peasy.
  4. Strawberry & Carob: Think chocolate and strawberries, for dogs! The carob and buckwheat makes these treats delightfully dark.

For Sensitive Dogs

For dogs with sensitive stomachs or food allergies, finding store-bought treats that don’t set off those sensitivities can be difficult. These five recipes are meant for dogs who can’t handle things like dairy or gluten. The best part? There are no strange fillers or unpronounceable chemicals, either!

  1. Gluten Free Ginger Apple: We call this one the ultimate stomach settler. Great for a pup who’s been feeling under the weather or for a simple treat that won’t aggravate other allergies.
  2. Cinnamon Sweet Potato: Another grain free treat that will make your house smell divine. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t thinking about making a cookie version of this for ourselves.
  3. Vegan Sweet Potato: The ultimate treat for dogs with allergies, this contains no gluten, no dairy. Plus, it needs only three ingredients!
  4. Quinoa, Peanut Butter & Carob: Gluten-free flours can be a little tricky, but they’re worth it in the case of these carob treats. If you can’t give your dog eggs, you can substitute coconut oil instead.

Weekend Fun

If you’re looking to step up from the beginner treat recipes and start playing with some new ingredients like herbs or funky vegetables, try on some of these treats. With only five ingredients, they won’t set you back much at the store while still allowing the chance to work with something new and different!

  1. Beet Mint Dog Treats: Since Ivana posted this recipe, I tried beets and they are indeed quite delicious. Your dog will think so too, trust us.
  2. Rosemary Sweet Potato: Inspired by some delicious gnocchi, the rosemary in these treats impart some great health benefits in your pup.
  3. Apple Cheddar: Cheese and apples don’t sound like a great combination, but Topher goes wild for these apple cheddar treats. Although, it might just be that sweet, sweet bacon grease.
  4. Beef & Carrot: Okay, I cheated by adding this dog treat recipe, since it has six ingredients—but these are a big favorite with Topher, and a fun treat to whip up on a weekend. Especially so if you’re like me and dabble in growing your own herbs.

5 Things Purebred Dog Owners Are Tired of Hearing

22 Feb

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I always get a certain sense of anxiety whenever I find myself inspired to write a piece specific to purebred dogs. Truth be told, there can be a lot of negativity. Whereas owning a rescue tends to be seen as a noble, even heroic endeavour (and it is!), owning a purebred dog can sometimes be seen as an act of vanity.

Actually, it’s the negativity that made me want to write this even more. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting dog owners of both sides of the spectrum and everywhere in between, which means there’s a good chunk of the Good Dogs & Co. community that are proud purebred dog owners who have done everything right (breed research, breeder research, etc.) and still get bombarded with questions.

Below are five things purebred dog owners are tired of hearing—but we’re also more than happy to answer these questions when they come from a place of genuine curiosity, and not with a negative inflection. All of that to say: if you’re thinking of getting a specific breed of dog, go on and ask anyone and everyone who already owns that breed every question you can think of. Being informed is a big deal.

Doesn’t that breed have health problems?

Yes, because my dog is of a well-established breed, there has been enough data collected to determine which health problems are common. That’s why I spent time searching for a good, reputable breeder who is aware of such problems, and thus has tried to better the breed through meticulous and thoughtful breeding pairs.

How much did you pay for him/her?

As much as a dog from a reputable breeder costs.

No, really! I mean, have I scoffed at the price I’ve heard for certain purebred dogs? Sure. But the people I know (and also from personal experience with Archer) who have done the research, vetted a few breeders, and decided on one they really feel comfortable with… the price you pay is what you—personally—are willing to pay for that dog. It’s your choice, not mine or anyone else’s. Whatever makes sense to you is what is reasonable.

Have you bred him/her yet?

No, and I don’t ever intend to. I purchased a family pet, not a dog prostitute.*

Why didn’t you crop his ears/dock his tail?

Because I—like many other people in developed countries, aside from Canada and the United States—believe cosmetic alterations like cropping a dog’s ears or docking their tail is cruel and unnecessary.

If you aren’t adopting a rescue, you’re part of the problem!

Thank you for your negativity.

There are two things that bother me about the rescue vs. purebred dog debate. The first is a blindness to the need for purebred dogs—that is, dogs bred for a specific purpose. Take our newest Good Dogs & Co. office pup (who belongs to my friend), Sirius. After much research, my friends knew they wanted a dog who could hunt, but also one with high energy to be a running buddy. A Vizsla made sense for their lifestyle. Could they have found a high-energy dog in a shelter? Probably. But the hunting quality is a little more tricky.

In that sense, comparing purebred dogs to rescues is a lot like comparing apples to oranges.

The second thing that bothers me in this debate is the just the pure negativity. Don’t yuck my yum. I adore my purebred dog, and you adore your rescue—and that’s a wonderful thing.

* This seems to be a question heard by all dog owners with fit, good looking dogs. Lucy gets the same question when walking Topher, and we kinda-sorta-maybe know what breed he is, probably? I see red flags the minute a stranger asks me if I’ve already bred my dog, or want to breed her. The answer is no, and go away please.

Introducing TruDog: A New System for Complete Health

17 Feb

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Around this time last year, my husband and I had to really crack down about our own nutrition. It required a fair amount of work to shift our eating and cooking habits, but the results have made those changes more than worthwhile. All these changes got me thinking about our pets’ eating habits as well: not just what we were feeding them, but how and when as well.

I’ve always been pretty picky about what we feed our animals, but that came more from the knowledge that we wanted to stick to a certain level of quality and avoid common health pitfalls—obesity being the main one—for our dog and cats. But did my general desire for quality translate into a diet that meets all of Topher’s needs?

Even though I’ve been doing research on this question for a few months now, I’m still working on my final opinion. But today I’m very pleased to introduce TruDog, a company formed by one family that set out to answer a very similar question: we’ve been taking care of ourselves, nutritionally, but what about our dogs? They depend on us for their diet, so how well are we really feeding them?

Freeze Dried Real Ingredients

TruDog’s food products are made by freeze drying real ingredients: beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver, etc. Freeze drying is a delicate process that preserves the structure and nutritional integrity of fresh whole food. Only water is removed, preserving the characteristics and natural nutrition of fresh real food. This process creates a freeze-dried, “raw” product that needs no refrigeration. Simply store it in a cool, dry place and, before feeding, just add water. Precise feeding instructions are included with every pack that are effortlessly easy to follow.

We knew this product would be a hit when we had to hide it away to keep our dogs and our cats from finding and ripping the bag apart. In fact, Ivana’s cat Ace chewed on the bag itself before she could even open it!

No Fillers, Ever.

TruDog’s food products are wheat, gluten, corn, and soy free, and that’s just the beginning of the list of things they don’t include in their products. This makes them an ideal choice for dogs who have digestive issues or allergies. We know how important a good diet can be for keeping a more sensitive dog healthy and symptom-free, and love seeing companies working on making the pet food industry a little safer for these dogs.

A System for Complete Health

TruDog’s food products are designed to be fed on their own or as a mix-in with other products. All their product lines are meant to be utilized in conjunction with each other, providing optimal health and peace of mind for owners. Each product manufactured is carefully scrutinized to ensure it’s not overlapping other products—in the end providing a complete system that works.

While switching large dogs like Topher and Archer completely over to a TruDog diet would be pretty pricey, the supplements and the variety of products allow us to make sure our big dogs are getting everything they need out of their daily meals.

Made in the U.S.A.

All TruDog’s food products are made in Wisconsin using U.S. sourced ingredients. Their beef and bison are free range and grass fed, antibiotic, and hormone free. The TruDog family is committed to a lifestyle that provides the opportunity to live a life full of abundant health and happiness, inspired in no small part by their beloved Great Dane, Truman. After discovering Truman had a tumor in one of his legs, the family fought valiantly for his livelihood. After an agonizing six month battle, including surgery to remove his leg, they lost him to cancer.

This tragic loss provided the inspiration behind TruDog, to offer a healthy alternative dog food for dogs everywhere. If you ask us, they’re doing a wonderful job.

Puppy 101: Recall

15 Feb

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Puppies are clean slates of fluff. They don’t know what it is to be a good dog—ahem, an obedient dog—but they’re eager to learn and ugh, do they have to be so cute? One of the most important (perhaps the most important) commands you will teach your puppy will be recall, and it’s important to maintain a positive training regimen for your recall command throughout your dog’s life.

Archer’s new best friend, Sirius, just started puppy school a few weeks ago. Due to scheduling with the classes, and his vaccination schedule, this was the earliest he could enroll—at nearly six months old. In this time, his training has been done at home with focus given to various different commands—specifically, recall.

Being a vizsla (a Hungarian hunting dog), it was important that Sirius learned good behaviour on offleash trail walks, and Archer has made for a great teacher in this respect. As a hunting dog, we’re already seeing that he is prone to chase small game and get over-fixated on scent trails—because of this, it was crucial that he be familiar and responsive to recall.

So how do you teach a puppy good recall, and ensure they are always responsive to your cues? Well, puppy school is absolutely great for a focused training environment, but good recall should start early, with continuous training and reinforcement throughout the dog’s life.

Start Small

When first starting good recall, start your training in a quiet, distraction-less room. You want the bulk of your puppy’s attention on you. Starting brand new commands with puppies can be difficult, so it’s important to associate the exercise with nothing but positive experiences. In a quiet room, there are very few chances for your puppy to “fail” or become so distracted he doesn’t notice you. Be patient and be positive.

  1. Wait until your puppy is coming toward you on his own.
  2. When he is close (within a few feet), say the word “come” (or whatever you wish your recall word to be).
  3. Praise your puppy when he reaches you.

Regardless of how long it took for your puppy to come to you, the reward should always be the same. High praise and lots of affection. You can also up the ante with a treat, toy, getting excited, or even running away from your puppy (their instinct will be to chase after you) to help reinforce that coming back to you is a good, positive experience for them.

Reinforcing Your Recall Cue

A great way to reinforce your recall cue (the word “come,” for example) is to play a sort of game with your dog and another person. We did this in puppy school, which was always a little interesting. Some dogs became distracted by the other puppies in the class, while other dogs knew exactly what to do and charged to their owners with a full head of steam. Don’t be discouraged if your pup becomes distracted, just remember to always praise them when they eventually (even if it takes a really, really long time!) come to you.

This training exercise requires two people. Both people should be someone your puppy is familiar with and trusts.

  1. One person sits with the puppy at one end of a room (or yard, depending on how difficult/distracting you want to make this!) and the other stands or kneels a fair distance across from them.
  2. The person with the puppy holds them by the collar to prevent them from moving.
  3. The other person begins to get excited (can use toys, slap their legs to make sounds, etc.) and draws the puppy’s attention to them, without saying their name or recall cue.
  4. When the person holding the puppy is satisfied they are focused on the other person, it’s time to finally say their recall cue. For us, it would be “Archer, come.”
  5. The person with the puppy will release the puppy. With all the excitement, the puppy should run right to the other person.

This is how you reinforce your recall cue. Try 20 feet and grow the distance as your puppy gets better and better with the command. Remember: more distance means a greater risk of distraction! Start small, then gradually increase your distance. If your puppy falters and becomes distracted, close the distance and start over again.

Vocal Cue + Hand Signal

We always encourage building hand signals into your vocal commands. Dogs are visual creatures, they react to our body language more than we realize. It’s good to incorporate hand gestures in combination with vocal commands. Once your dog is familiar with their verbal recall command, you can start including a hand signal along with the verbal command in your training.

As with the verbal recall command, begin their training in a quiet, distraction-less environment and keep a short distance between you and your dog. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog to increase the difficulty and possibility for distraction.

When you start your training, remember to use their name + recall command + hand gesture. Make sure your hand signal cannot be confused with another hand signal you’ve already used with your dog for another command.

Give Them Foolproof Opportunities

When outside and offleash (whether it’s in the yard, an offleash trail, etc.) and there are limited distractions, give a recall command when your puppy is relatively close. These are situations where he is most likely to succeed, so it helps reinforce the command in a one-on-one environment, even if though there is some wiggle room to fail.

Be patient. If he take a little time to sniff a tree before returning to you, that’s okay! If your puppy does ten things before returning to you, or takes a few minutes, just remember that one key aspect: he came back. Praise him for coming back to you, always.

You Are Not More Interesting Than Other Dogs

One recurring theme with puppy training, is that it’s easy to get discouraged. Puppies are just bubbling with excitement, and are terribly curious—which can make training difficult. Instead, remember to have patience and to embrace the distractions as they come. Use them to enhance your puppy’s learning experience.

Don’t set your puppy up for failure by attempting a recall command when he is clearly distracted/overwhelmed by another situation. Typically, this means playing with other dogs (or people!). Odds are, your puppy will not respond to your recall command. Does that mean your training is slipping? No! It just means that you’ve put your puppy in an almost-impossible situation where he just can’t succeed (other dogs are way cooler than you are, and you know it).

Wait for a lull in the action, then attempt a recall command when you know you can get your puppy’s attention.

This makes for a tricky but rewarding exercise for your puppy. It can be a difficult exercise to master, and in this situation, treats are a great reward.

Things to Avoid

I don’t mean to sound like a hippie with my peace, love, and happiness mentality, but it really is vital when dealing with recall. It needs to be a positive experience for your puppy, and patience is key.

  • DO NOT chase your puppy. Your dog will think it’s a game, and the inclination is to run further away from you.
  • DO NOT reprimand your puppy or be negative in any way. You want to reinforce the idea that coming back to you is always (always!) a good, positive experience. Is it annoying when your dog ignores you? Sure. But to reprimand him for being tardy in returning is sending the wrong message to your dog. Simply put: if he returns to you, no matter how long it took, he’s a good dog.

6 Reasons to Stick to Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

3 Feb

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Before starting to work with a training company, I didn’t have any particular philosophy on training styles or a preference towards techniques for figuring out how to get Topher to behave. However, one thing I knew: we would not be using any kind of force collar like choke, prong, or shock collars. Later, we updated that “not under any circumstances” list to include things like dominance rolling and hitting. Instead, we’re sticking to positive reinforcement dog training.

Though you might not expect it given his size (and his bark), Topher is a dog who shuts down at the drop of a hat. Our big oaf is eager to please, but he’s also easily scared and came to us brimming with anxieties. To work with Topher is to constantly take baby steps, making progress by overcoming these fears a bit at a time. However, even without our large dog’s equally large anxieties, the decision to stick with positive reinforcement dog training is a no brainer.

What Is Positive Reinforcement Dog Training?

Positive reinforcement training, in a nutshell, is all about rewarding your dog for behaviors that you like, so there’s a better chance of that behavior being repeated. By praising good behavior and redirecting any unwanted behaviors, you change your dog’s habits without the use of force.

The more I seek out information on dog training, the more convinced I become: we’ll stick to positive reinforcement for the long haul. Here are a few reasons why.

It Strengthens Your Dog’s Bond with You

Here’s the tricky part of positive reinforcement training: before you can begin redirecting and solving your dog’s “bad” behaviors, you must first find out the causes of those behaviors. Only then can you work on how to change them, by giving your dog opportunities to learn and act differently. By connecting with your dog and working out these problems using humane methods, you strengthen your bond through mutual trust, affection, and encouragement.

The strongest bonds between dogs and their people are based on kindness, not dominance or fear. If your dog trusts you and feels good around you, they’ll be happier, more confident, more well behaved, and more responsive to your cues in the long term.

It Helps You Understand Your Dog

To change a dog’s actions using positive reinforcement requires an understanding of life from the view of your dog. First, you have to identify why they’re doing a certain behavior. Dealing effectively with those behaviors won’t work unless you know their root cause. When you know why, you can move onto the how: what can you do to treat of change this behavior? Answering “how,” will always lead to a greater understanding of your dog—which will help you learn how to communicate with them more effectively.

It Teaches Cooperation

By building the relationship with your dog positively, you’re teaching your dog to cooperate with you instead of teaching them to be submissive or suffer the consequences. A dog whose been constantly yanked around by their leash may eventually learn that yanking and pulling means they shouldn’t pull, but it won’t mean that dog has learned to cooperate or understand what you’re asking of them—to walk beside you, or to give you their attention—they’re simply avoiding certain behaviors out of fear.

Consider this: your dog doesn’t come into your home with all the knowledge of how you want them to behave. They make it up as they go. It’s up to you to teach them what you expect of them and how to cope with any situation that may come up by framing these lessons with positive experiences. Otherwise, you’ve got a dog walking on eggshells, never knowing what they’ll be yelled at for next.

It’s Less Stressful for Your Dog

Recently, positive training methods have proven to be more beneficial to our bond with our pets, in addition to having a positive effect on animal welfare in general. A 2014 study even showed that dogs trained using forceful or aversive methods show more signs of being stressed by these encounters than their positively trained counterparts. While its the first study to have been confirmed by a trained, observing researcher, it upholds several other studies that claim positive training strengthens our bonds with our pets and significantly lowers their stress.

It’s Safer for You and Your Dog

Many pet owners may not realize that punishing your dog in a dominant or aggressive way can actually increase the chances that your dog will respond aggressively. In 2009, a study conducted on the effects of confrontational training methods found that those owners who were the most aggressive or dominant towards their dogs experienced the most returns of aggression from their dogs.

Since then, there have been several other studies confirming similar findings: attempts to “assert dominance” using aggression or force results in even more aggression from our pets. If we can teach so many different undomesticated animals to respond to cues using only positive reinforcement, certainly we can teach our own pets without the use of aggression or force.

It Doesn’t Mean Total Anarchy

There is a common misconception that positive reinforcement creates an environment where owners indulge their pets in whatever behaviors they see fit, good, bad, or even ugly! Force free training doesn’t mean becoming a door mat for your dog; however, it does mean teaching your dog how to make good decisions without bullying, force, or domination. It takes patience and hard work, but in the end positive training sets your dog up for success that is long lasting and healthier than any dominance method we’ve seen.