Who wants a special treat? We’re baking up some tasty homemade dog treat tips and tricks. This instalment in our current FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting topic about DIY dog treats is our introduction to making homemade baked biscuit (cookie) dog treats. I’ve broken things down for the extra special treatment (sorry…couldn’t help myself) this category deserves as one of the most popular and varied types of homemade dog treats. Today’s post is an introduction to making homemade baked dog treats, and then we’ll look closer at shelf-life, storage, and decorating in follow-on posts posts.
Biscuits vs. Cookies
Baked dog biscuit treats? Baked dog cookie treats? It’s all the same to us, furfriends! Depending on where you live, similar types of human treats may be referred to as biscuits and/or cookies. Biscuit is the usual word in our part of the world. When we talk about these types of treats here on the blog, we’re talking about small flat-ish baked dog treats. They’re much like a human biscuit or cookie in appearance, but usually very different in the ingredients and flavours. Ready to sniff around for the scoop on making biscuits or cookies for dogs? Let’s paw our way through the pantry and into the dog treat kitchen!
Dog Biscuit Treats vs. Human Biscuits
Baked biscuit dog treats often look like little cookies, but dog-friendly baked treats are typically made without added sugar, are lower in fat, and are often (not always) a very different scent and flavour mix than we humans would enjoy. The baking science is similar though, and we’ll dig into the different ingredients and the role they play in mixing and baking homemade biscuits.
Making Biscuit-Style Homemade Baked Dog Treats
Homemade baked biscuit dog treats come in all sorts of flavours, shapes, sizes, and textures. You can find some biscuit dog treat recipes you’d like to try (from here or elsewhere), customise a recipe to better suit your preferences and pet, or create your own special recipe. The latter might feel intimidating if you’re not an experienced baker, but dogs are generally very forgiving treat tasters. Baking biscuits is something that many of our readers will already be familiar with from making cookies for people, and homemade dog treats are very similar but usually with different flavour profiles. Haha! Like cookies, baking bisuit treats is also a family friendly activity, other than perhaps a little mess, if you have kids who’d like to help out with making or shaping some treats.
Baked Biscuit Dog Treat Ingredient Options and Functions
To help understand common ingredients and the roles they play in recipes, here’s an intro to key ingredients for making biscuit-style homemade baked dog treats. See our post on choosing ingredients for homemade dog treats for more detailed information.
No matter what the recipe combination, baked biscuit treats almost always include some sort of flour or equivalent to provide structure. If this added carb content doesn’t suit your pup’s feeding plan, consider some of the alternative types of homemade dog treats instead. There are lots of different treat options, and many can be made without flour.
Although our dogs have never shown an intolerance to wheat or gluten, brown rice flour is my preferred flour for making homemade dog biscuit treats. I occasionally use oats, oat flour, coconut flour, and others for special purposes. Rice flour is gluten-free, but in the right combos, it creates a good working dough texture for handling and shaping into decorated dog biscuits. I also like that less rice flour is needed in a dough mixture compared to many of the other options, which means each treat has more good stuff and less carb loaded flour. Although I like using brown rice flour in treat doughs, I prefer white rice flour for dusting when rolling. It’s smoother than my preferred brown rice flour, which is locally milled and somewhat coarse.
Different flours behave differently during making and baking. If you’re trying to substitute in a recipe, check a flour substitution guide online and be prepared to adjust your ingredients. Different flours have different absorption, different binding needs, will create different dough (and finished treat) textures, and may affect cooking time and/or temperature needs.
Binders help to hold the treat together and give structure. They’re important in most baking recipes, but extra important if you’re using gluten-free flours. Eggs are commonly used; however, ground flax, chia seed, gelatin powder, and many flavoursome liquids and purees can also act as binders in addition to adding scent, taste, and value, as noted below. Without binders, the treats will crumble when the moisture is baked and/or dehydrated out of the dough. Most gluten-free flours need extra binding support for a workable dough during prep and structure after baking.
Doggone Delicious Add-Ins
Ingredients that add scent, flavour, and nutrition are key to making an appealing and healthy dog treat. There are many options for baked dog treats, including cooked meat, cooked or tinned fish, dairy, broth or stock, nut butters, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and more. Anything yummy and dog-safe is fair game in our experimental dog treat kitchen. Ingredients can be pureed or used as chunky add-ins depending on the type of treat and your preferences.
When using prepared foods as treat ingredients, check their ingredients and nutritional content labels. It’s important to ensure their ingredients are suitable and safe for use in dog treats. Avoid unnecessary added sugars and salt, and be vigilant for dangerous ingredients such as the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is particularly dangerous for dogs.
Depending on the moisture content of your binders and add-ins, you might need to use some additional liquid to mix a good workable dough consistency. As noted above in the binding section, bear in mind that it’s important to balance moisture and flour with sufficient binding to avoid crumbly baked treats. Having problems? See the troubleshooting section below for some of the common issues.
Additional Fats and Oils
As noted in our post about choosing and using dog treat ingredients, many dog treat ingredients already contain some fats. I try to avoid adding extra oils and fats to homemade treats, where possible. Generally, it’s just the base ingredients. I’d rather slide in an extra yummy and nutritious fatty add-in instead. Peanut butter? Yes, please! Homemade stock? Doggone delish! In baked biscuits where the base ingredients are a little lacking in fats, a touch of olive oil, butter, or other oil may also occasionally be used.
Baking Homemade Dog Biscuit Treats
Baking times and temperatures will vary with recipe, shape, and size. I’ll talk about tinting, shaping, and decorating homemade baked dog treats in the next post of mini-series. My personal preference is to lightly bake treats. The dogs can enjoy them as soft cookie-style treats but most often, I dehydrate them after baking into a crunchier treat. Baked treats can be left in the cooling oven for a slightly crisper texture or placed in a food dehydrator (affiliate link) and further dried. Totally optional, of course!
Sound a bit tricky? Don’t worry, furfriends. Baking homemade dog treats is easy and fun. We walk you through ingredients, options, instructions, and the steps above in the individual posts for all of our baked biscuit and cookie dog treat recipes.
Shelf Life and Storage
Shelf-life and storage depends on the type of treat, preparation, and storage, but homemade treats have a limited shelf-life. Unlike preservative packed and/or commercially dried treats, shelf life is limited for most homemade dog treats. Depending on the type of treat, they’re typically best used within a few days and frozen for longer storage. I usually freeze our baked dog treats. I’ll be sharing more about baked biscuit dog treat safety and storage later in the mini-series.
Troubleshooting Common Baked Biscuit Dog Treat Issues
Dough Consistency and Handling
Treat ingredients will vary in moisture and consistency depending on your chosen product. How ingredients are measured, any substitutions or omissions, and a host of other factors can all affect the consistency of a dough. To help, we recommend working incrementally when mixing wet and dry ingredients.
When working with gluten-free flours and low-fat dog treat doughs, we like resting the dough after mixing. A little rest can help to ensure consistent hydration (absorbing liquid into dry ingredients) and improve general handling. After resting, I like to knead the dough thoroughly and, if needed, I can tweak the moisture or flour. I work with most doughs at room temperature. Unlike doughs for human cookies, there are no/few butters or other fats to chill for consistency.
Planning to cut shapes? Not all biscuit dog treat doughs are suitable for roll-and-cut use. Some are too soft, crumbly, or chunky textured to be handled this way, and are better suited to ball-and-flatten use or pan baking. Coconut flour for example, although a healthy flour, is one that I only use for ball and flatten treats. Some doughs can also be too chunky to cut smoothly or difficult to separate cleanly because of textured add-ins. Check out our post on simple shortcuts for making baked dog treats for ideas on ways to form or shape easy treats.
A lack of moisture and/or binding can result in crumbly dog treats. As the treat bakes, moisture evaporates from the dough, leaving behind the dry elements of your ingredients. Baking conditions (temperature and time) and/or post-baking dehydrating can make things even crumblier since removing additional moisture relies heavier on residual binding to give stability and structure. Low-fat gluten-free dog treat doughs are especially vulnerable. They benefit from including extra binding ingredients, which is one of the reasons that I often include flax, chia, gelatin, dairy, and purees along with eggs. Including ingredients with a little extra fat can such as pureed meat or fish, dairy, peanut butter, cooking oil, etc. can also help.
The shape and size of the treat can also be a contributing factor. The thinner the treat, the more vital that structural support becomes. The same applies to vulnerable cut shapes with narrow sections, protrusions, corners and tips, etc. When I first started making roll-and-cut treats, I rolled thin treats thinking it would be better for crunch; however, these were frustratingly vulnerable to cracking and crumbling (especially the long narrow bone shapes). Thicker treats that are baked lightly then dehydrated are my go-to method these days. My dogs sometimes enjoy soft cookie-style non dehydrated treats, too. Variety is the spice of life!
Because many dog treat doughs tend to be lower in fat and are often made with gluten-free flours, they’re particularly vulnerable to crackling or crazing across the surfaces when baking. Surface cracking occurs when the exterior of the treat dries and hardens during baking while the body of the treat continues to shift, spread, rise, and/or contract. Dough moisture, density, thickness, flexibility, handling, and baking conditions can all be contributing factors. Including a small amount of additional fat in the mix or lightly spritzing the surface (oil or water) prior to baking can sometimes be helpful if crackling is considered undesirable for the finished treat. Lightly baking (and then dehydrating if you want a crunchier treat) may also be helpful.
Over/Under Baking Times vs. Recipe Recommendations
The baking time for any given treat will vary depending on the shape and size of the treat and the set temperature, so your homemade treats may take a little more or less than the recipe author. Recipe substitutions, temperature of the dough, type of baking pan, liners, and placement in the oven can also be factors. Actual oven temperatures may vary greatly from the dial setting. If you’re experiencing issues routinely with different types of baking, it might be worthwhile checking with an oven thermometer.
Generally, the smaller or thinner the treat, the shorter the baking time. But treats that have been cut into shapes with small tips and protrusions are also prone to browning in these areas due to baking faster than the main body of the treats. If you’re making complex shapes or mixing different sizes of treats on the same pan, bake with extra care.
Keen to Try a Few Treats?
Ready to hit the kitchen? We have all sorts of treat related posts here on the blog. You can sniff around our DIY dog recipes, use our categories and tags to navigate, or use the internal search function to look for specific types or treats or treat ingredients. You can also hop over to our DIY Dog Treat Recipes board on Pinterest for ideas from here and all around the web. We’ve also started a Pet Chef Help board on Pinterest with handy links on things like ingredients, substitutions, conversions, tinting, and more.Check out the full mini-series topic for an introduction to the main categories of different homemade dog treats we make and share here on the blog:
- Why (and How) to Make Homemade Dog Treats
- Frozen and Chilled Homemade Dog Treats
- Homemade Gelatin Gummy Dog Treats
- Homemade Dehydrated Dog Treats
- Homemade Birthday and Special Occasion Dog Cakes
- Homemade Baked Biscuit (Cookie) Dog Treats
- Decorating Homemade Baked Biscuit Dog Treats
- Homemade Baked Dog Treat Shelf Life and Storage
Hungry for more tasty treats? There are all sorts of homemade dog treat ideas in our blog archives. You can also use the category and tag labels to find recipes that might be of interest or use our internal search tools to find something specific. Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas from treats that we’ve made ourselves for our pets, but different animals have different preferences (likes/dislikes), just like people. 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.