Tuesday, 17 September 2019
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Frozen and Chilled Homemade Dog Treats

Frozen bone shaped dog treats marbled with carob in a bowl on a rustic wooden table

It's another special segment of our FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting topics, and this week we're sharing (and drooling) all about DIY dog treats! If you're looking for an easy place to start, frozen (or chilled) dog treats are some of the easiest treats to make. Here's an introduction to making frozen and chilled treats, safe treat storage, and a few handy tips and tricks.

Making Frozen Dog Treats

Frozen pupsicle dog treats are some of the easiest treats you can make. Any dog safe liquids (or semi-liquid) will work, and the options for flavour combinations and add-ins are endless. Perhaps the best part is that it's almost impossible to mess up a pupsicle "recipe" since you're just freezing things.  If you're working from frozen dog treat recipes, ingredients can be easily scaled to suit and you can adjust the mixture ratio measurements in any way you'd like to suit your pet and personal preferences. It's also very easy to make up your own recipe.

Dog-friendly base liquids include dog-safe stock or broth, plain yogurt, various milks, pureed fruit, pureed vegetables, or even plain water. Tip: If your base is thick, you may find it helpful to water the mixture down for easier mixing and/or to avoid air pockets in your treat. You can also do this if you'd like the treats to be a little lighter.  Liquids can be mixed, layered, marbled (if thick) and/or other ingredients can be added to the base for scent/flavour, extra nutritional value, or just because you feel like it. You can experiment with compatible flavours using carob powder, herbs, spices, chopped cooked meat or fish, tinned fish, chunks of fruit or veggies, or anything yummy and dog safe.  Tip: Thick ingredients like, peanut butter, can be easier to blend if you incrementally mix in some of the base liquid. This method (or diluting) is also helpful when adding powders, especially if you want an even distribution and colour. 

Caution: Go natural or take care when shopping to avoid artificial sweeteners in ingredients like yogurt or peanut butter for your dogs – xylitol (also identified as sweetener E967) is particularly dangerous for dogs.

Popsicles are meant to freeze firm, so silicon molds or ice cube trays make good options for freezing in single serving treat sizes.  Tip: If you're including something stinky, like pureed fish, in your treats you may want to use a designated dogs-only mold or ice cube tray. Strong scents and flavours may linger even after cleaning and infuse into future contents. You can freeze an edible "stick" into the treats, if you wish, but unless you're going to try and hold the treat the whole time, there isn't much point. :) Popsicle licking can be messy business and best enjoyed in a bowl or outdoors. Tip: Our dogs don't use food/treat filled chew toys or boredom busters; however, if you use a rubber Kong-style toy or similar with you dog, plugging the end and making a frozen Kong can be good cooling boredom busting fun for a sizzling summer day.

If you want to make a slightly softer ice cream dog treat, spread your treat mix thinly on a lined pan (this will make it easier to break up later) and freeze. Crumble the frozen mixture into a food processor. Whiz it well and serve. Alternatively, place in freezer-safe container(s) for storage until serving.  Tip: Depending on your mixture, if re-frozen in a large container instead of as single serve, you may need to allow it a little time to soften before scooping.  You can make homemade human ice cream and sorbet this way, too.  

If you'd prefer a softer serve ice cream texture, prepare as above but add plain yogurt (or another dog safe liquid that suits your treat flavour and preferences) to the frozen mixture whilst blending and serve straight away without re-freezing. Tip: The frozen mixture can be prepared, frozen, and then stored for preparation as single serving soft-serves.  You can also prepare dog-friendly milkshakes and smoothies by further diluting a treat mix, as blended for soft serve above, or by using dog-safe ingredients in the same way you would for making a human smoothie. In the summer, I like to freeze plain yogurt cubes and use these with frozen fruit and milk to make myself smoothies that are also safe for sharing with the boys. 

Frozen fruits or veggies can also be yummy treats on their own. You can experiment with ready-frozen dog-safe foods or make your own. Frozen banana slices are one both you and the dogs might enjoy sharing! To help with small quantity use when baking, spread and freeze on lined tray, then transfer to a container for free-flow use. Dogs can also enjoy other types of homemade treats straight from frozen storage, but defrosting to ambient temperature increases the scent which improves the yum factor.

Caution: Some dogs don't like cold treats, so if you dog doesn't enjoy frozen goodies there are plenty of other yummy options for treats. Other dogs love them a little too much. Highly aggressive chewers or dogs with dental issues may be better with softer options to avoid damaging their teeth. 

Safe Storage for Frozen Dog Treats

Homemade frozen dog treats should (of course) be kept frozen. :) Once you're newly made treats are frozen solid, they can be removed and transferred from their trays or molds into a sealed container and returned to the freezer until use. Tip: Depending on their shape and size, when freezing treats stacked in a container, you may find it helpful to use baking/freezer payer between layers to reduce the risk of treats sticking together. Alternatively, after removing, spread them out on a suitable plate/pan and refreeze to take away any softness or condensation before swiftly popping them into their container.

A variety of homemade frozen dog treats

Making Chilled Dog Treats

Ingredients that set firm without freezing, such as carob drops, coconut oil, or gelatin (we'll talk about gelatin gummies in a separate post) can make great chilled treats as an alternative to frozen cool-down treats.
  • Carob can be melted, set, and kept at cool ambient temperatures or refrigerated (check out our homemade dog Easter egg carob treats for an example) or used as an icing or dip for other dog treats.  Add-ins in most carob drops, however, make this a special naughty indulgence to enjoy in moderation. Make a small batch, store for future nibbles, or share with friends.
  • Coconut oil can be melted and set, but is best kept cooled to ensure it maintains its firmness. If you're into supplementing your dogs with coconut oil, setting it turns that supplement into treats. Pawfect!  I usually have a jar of small homemade coconut oil dogs treats in the fridge. Our dogs enjoy them plain, and I'll occasionally do a special batch with add-ins such as carob, peanut butter, or turmeric. Tip: An an oil, coconut oil is difficult (or impossible) to mix with many liquids and powders. Expect some floating or setting of solids, and allow the mixture to thicken before you pour to set if trying to create a suspension.
  • Truffle -style dog treats (bliss balls), can also be made using dog-safe ingredients and kept chilled.  Unlike the more stable treats above, refrigerated life will be limited by what you include in the mixture.

Safe Storage for Chilled Dog Treats

Homemade chilled dog treats that have a limited fresh storage life, like fruit/veggie truffle treats, can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for short term storage, and can be frozen for longer term storage. Refrigerator life varies depending on the treat type and ingredients used, but generally a week or less. 

The exception is chilled coconut oil treats, plain or made with stable add-ins, which can stay refrigerated for a very long time without degradation. I've never had an issue (although consumption makes for quick turnover at our place, but the theoretical safe life would likely depend on the best before of your ingredients. These can also be kept frozen, if you wish.

A variety of homemade dog treats

Check out the Homemade Dog Treat FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting mini-series for more information on treat making, storage, and more: 

Ready to hit the kitchen? You can use our DIY Dog Treat Recipes navigation page to start your explorations, dive straight into all of our homemade dog treat related posts in the blog archives, search the blog from our sidebar, or hop over to our Pinterest for tons of other ideas. 

🦴 Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas here from treats that we make ourselves for our pets, but different animals will have different preferences (likes/dislikes) and dietary needs. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what's suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.

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