What can I give my dog for training treats that is appropriate when feeding a raw diet?
Most excellent question. Why put forth so much energy and thought into providing your dog the most natural and healthy diet out there, to just hand out total crap treats? While it’s highly important to give treats that dogs love, it’s also important to think about what is IN those treats. Even small amounts of low quality ingredients, grains, chemical preservatives and artificial coloring can cause GI problems which pretty much negate the whole benefits of going all natural and raw. Not to mention the downright scary recalls that have been popping up recently that could easily cause serious harm to your best friend.
I’ve learned that even labeling can be tricky and falsely lead you to believe that treats are safe for your pets. ANYTHING sourced from China is a huge red flag and reason enough for me to put a product back on the shelf and walk away. Manufacturers are now using American raised livestock, then shipping them across seas to be butchered and processed and made into treats. This way they can list on the label “100% USA sourced meats” but the meat is actually processed over in China, with their food safety regulations which, a lot of us know how lax they are. Who pays the price for cheap treats? Our dogs.
So what to use for training treats with a raw fed dog? Home made stuff! Making your own treats can be so easy, and I pretty much guarantee your dogs will drool as you prep them, dehydrate them and bag them up. Dehydrating meat has become a regular part of our meat preparation and butcher work. Certain parts of an animal we butcher we use for treats. Lung for instance is the perfect meat to dehydrate as it’s naturally lean and light. The diaphragm is another great part to use as it’s literally paper thin already, and usually pretty lean. Organ meats are also great, but really I prefer to leave those meats fresh and raw because they carry the most essential nutrients that do in fact get denatured during dehydration. This is the reason why you cannot replace organ meats with dehydrated forms. Organ meats also dehydrate super thick and can be hard to break up into small pieces that are ideal for training (the ideal size of a training treat is a the size of a pea). Heart meat too, as its lean and easily cut into small pieces.
How to start:
1) Get a good, and I mean good dehydrator. We got a Nesco dehydrator as our first one, thought it was great. And it did work great, at the time. After using the Excalibur I realized what a difference in time it took to dehydrate our normal meats. Not only does it take less time with the higher quality unit, but it seems like they get even more dry….if that’s even possible. Which is important because the treats will keep longer since we don’t want to use preservatives. Our Nesco died after…oh…maybe 9 months of regular dehydrating. After that we upgraded and I couldn’t be happier with that choice. If you don’t have the funds to drop on an Excalibur, the Nesco is still a good choice, just don’t run it a lot.
2) Invest in good knives. I assume most of you raw feeders have good, sharp knives for prepping meals. In my experience, treat cutting really is when a sharp knife is most important. Making lots of precise and tedious cuts is a lot harder with a dull knife. I’ve found that if my knife isn’t that sharp or gets dull easily my treat sizes start getting progressively bigger- which really defeats the purpose of cutting up nice sized training treats.
3) Find a source of meats good for dehydrating. Lung will always be my first choice because of consistency it has naturally, not to mention most dogs don’t like raw lung….I don’t blame them because it’s downright weird. Farmers are a source for unwanted meats, cuts and scrap. Any lean muscle meat will dehydrate fine into jerky.
4) Experiment with size and shape of your treats. Everyone has their own preferences for treat size and shape so it’s impossible for me to tell you what to do with that. My favorite shape is long and skinny because it’s easy to break it up into smaller pieces during a training session. Not to mention less cutting! You can also experiment with different seasonings, but from my experience the meat doesn’t need extras as my dogs love it au natural!
What NOT to do:
1) Don’t spend hours cutting up treats and then have the brilliant idea to store them outside on the deck. Your dogs will eat them ALL. I did this once. Got the hookup with nearly 40 pounds of beef lung from a local farmer. I spent a few hours cutting it all up to be dehydrated. Since all of it wouldn’t fit in the dehydrator and I didn’t want to store it in the fridge, I put it outside on the patio in a sealed container since it’s winter time right now. I woke up the next day to an empty container. Needless to say, they wont be getting beef lung treats until next butcher season.
2) Placement of your dehydrator is crucial. Put it somewhere that you wont be able to smell it while dehydrating because the odors produced are foul and at times nauseating. We made this mistake once by putting it in our kitchen….yeah.
3) I don’t recommend storing your home made treats in sealed, air tight containers because mold may set in. Because we don’t use any preservatives, the meat wont stay as fresh for as long. We keep ours in open containers in a cold dry place. Refrigeration or freezing can prolong the shelf life as well.
What if you don’t want to spend time and energy sourcing high quality meats, cutting things up, smelling the dehydration process, etc, etc….
We are going into dog treat production! We will offer all kinds of high quality treats of all kinds of sources- and you will know they’re safe because we give them to our own girls. We would never sell anything that isn’t good enough for them! PreyModelRaw and Happy Tails Behavior are working together to introduce our own line of species appropriate, all natural dog treats and jerky.
Stay tuned for the launch of our treats!!!