We’ve been DIYing a lot recently, so here is something tasty to break things up on the blog! Mmmm…jerky! Here’s how to make homemade dehydrated chicken jerky dog treats with a doggone delicious (optional) strawberry mint wet rub marinade. Jerky is doggone irresistible to our boys, no matter what the flavour. I’ve been trying to channel “What would Oli do?” inspiration on treats recently, and this jerky combines chicken with strawberries. They’re one of his favourite fruits. You’ve got to be very quick to beat the dogs to a berry in our garden!
Protein and Senior Dog Diets
Dogs (excluding special medical conditions) benefit from a healthy high-protein diet. Quality meats are a good way of adding extra protein to their diet and feeding plan. As dogs age, like our very special senior Oli, they slow down and burn less energy on exercise and play, but this doesn’t mean their bodies don’t need less protein. Many veterinary professionals actually recommend a high quality protein-rich diet for seniors to help maintain muscle mass and support organ/immune function in their golden years. And as the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Which means you are what your food eats if you’re a carnivore, so whether it’s for you or your pets always shop consciously.
Choosing a Meat for Making Jerky Dog Treats
When making dog jerky, I usually opt for beef, lamb, or fish. These chicken treats are an exception because “What would Oli do?” Haha! Our dogs love chicken and it’s a moderate purine meat for their Dalmatian diet, but since they often get chicken as part of their homemade breakfast add-ins, I like to use other things in their treats for variety.
I also dislike handling raw chicken. Which is why even though my dehydrator is capable of heating meats to the suitable temperatures for safe jerky making, I still took the extra preparatory step of pre-heating my chicken for added safety as noted in the optional steps below. Healthy dogs are rather robust about their edibles and many people raw feed their dogs, but when it comes to treats for our boys, I tend to be cautious. Remember that in addition to munching dogs, humans will also be handling the jerky when giving out treats so be safe, both furfriends and families.
Plain vs. Marinated Jerky
Homemade dog jerky is very easy to make it is a great healthy treat option. There is absolutely no need to marinate at all. In fact, straight up plain and simple jerky (usually beef) is our go-to meaty dog treat. But experimenting with marinades can be a fun sometimes as well. Chicken can, of course, be dehydrated without marinating. The wet rub marinade is not necessary, but it definitely smelled better than plain chicken to my non-meat-loving nose. I was going to use blackberries (Oli LOVES blackberries), but feared staining the dehydrator trays. So, I made it with strawberries, paired with a hint of mint. The optional mint and parsley are dog-friendly herbs, but the herbs also help the strawberry rubbed chicken look like a marinade, not just gory pink chicken. Not that the dogs care about such things! Haha!
Anytime you see a jerky marinade here on the blog, it’s optional.
DIY Dehydrated Chicken Jerky Treats for Dogs
Chicken Jerky Dog Treats with (Optional) Wet Rub Strawberry Mint Marinade
You can adjust the volumes and/or amount of any ingredient to better suit your dog or personal preferences. If you don’t have a dehydrator (affiliate link), you can place your meat on a wire rack over a lined baking tray and use the oven to replicate the function of a dehydrator. Note that it is recommended to pre-heat meats to ~75C then dehydrate at ~60C. Refer to the safety information and links below.
Scale the (optional) marinade ingredient amounts and/or adjust ingredients to suit your chicken volume and personal preferences (and dog preferences) on flavours.
- Lean quality raw chicken (cleaned, deboned, and thawed, if applicable)
- 1/4 cup strawberries (fresh or thawed from frozen)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- Sprinkle of ground black pepper
Making the Treats:
Preparing the chicken:
- Remove any obvious fat and slice meat into thin strips or small pieces, trimming off any excess fat if required.
- Place chicken in a glass dish (or Ziploc bag, if you prefer).
- Combine the marinade ingredients and puree until smooth.
- Combine the marinade with the chicken and mix well to ensure the chicken is thoroughly coated.
- Cover the container and place in the refrigerator to marinate (minimum 1 hour recommended minimum and no longer than 24 hours). Mix periodically to ensure all the pieces are well marinated.
Preheating for added food safety (optional):
Preheating the chicken is optional for added food safety, as noted above. Precooked jerky may have a different texture than dried from raw, but my dogs certainly aren’t complaining!
- Preheat oven.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator and drain excess marinade if/as needed.
- Arrange strips in a single layer on a prepared baking tray (or trays).
- Place tray(s) in the oven and bake the chicken strips briefly, using a meat thermometer to sample check that the temperature inside the strips has reached at least 75C. Time to reach 75C internal will depend on the ambient oven temperature, thickness of the strips, and exposure of the strips.
Dehydrating the prepared chicken:
- Once ready to dehydrate, arrange the prepared pieces onto the dehydrator tray. Maximise your layout for volume and efficiency, but make sure to allow some space for good air circulation through the racks for efficient and consistent dehydration.
- Dehydrate according to your specific dehydrator’s settings/instructions for dehydrating meat. The dehydration time will depend on your machine as well as how thick your particularly jerky pieces are, but mine usually take around 6 hours, prep method and size depending.
- Optional: Transfer the dehydrated chicken onto an oven-safe tray and briefly bake at a high temperature (see note below) for safety and/or added crunchiness.
- Allow to cool thoroughly before storage.
Dehydrated Chicken Food Safety
If your dehydrator has a meat/fish setting, chicken jerky should be ready to serve after the standard dehydration process is followed. However, to be a extra safety conscious, you can use pre-heating or other measures as added precautions. You can read more about jerky safety via the FSIS, noting that they recommend pre-heating as an added safety step when making jerky for people to ensure it reaches a suitable temperature early in the process, while the meat or fish is still wet. As noted above and shown in the college below, you can use pre-heating as an added safety measure when making jerky for dogs, if you wish.
Chicken Jerky Dog Treat Making Tips and Tricks
- There are a variety of jerky recipes on the blog, but a great starting point is the comprehensive post on making and storing homemade jerky and other dehydrated dog treats. It will take you through the basics of dehydrating treats, different types of dehydrated treats, food safety, and treat storage tips.
- For safety, start with a quality lean chicken, practice safe food handling, pre-heat for added safety (optional), and dehydrate with care using appropriate dehydrator settings or oven temperatures. You can read more about jerky safety via the FSIS.
- The easiest way to marinate jerky (or just about anything really…) is to toss everything into a Ziploc bag. However, if you’re like us and trying to reduce your waste then a covered dish works well. It’s my go-to method for marinades or rubs.
- Mint is a herb that some dogs love, some dogs hate. If your dog is the latter, you can leave it out or swap it for something they enjoy more. Curious about swapping in different dog-friendly herbs? Check out this slideshow from Modern Dog for dog-friendly herb ideas.
- Although jerky is often kept at room temperature, we freeze and keep small quantities in the fridge to be on the safer side. Since homemade dog jerky doesn’t use preservatives and isn’t heavily salted like human jerky, it’s more vulnerable to spoilage. It freezes great, lasts for ages, and the dogs enjoy it both straight from the freezer or defrosted in small quantities. See our storage tips for dehydrated dog treats for more information.
Hungry for more tasty treats? There are all sorts of homemade dog treat ideas in our blog archives. You can use the category and tag labels to find other 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.