I’ve been receiving requests for more articles similar to the one I wrote about dehydrating chicken breasts for dog treats. As those are more of a prize treat for just being a good dog, I wanted to come up with a cheaper treat recipe for all the dog trainers out there.
Anybody who does clicker training knows that you need to utilize high value treats and lots of them when trying to form a behavior. This can sometimes be an expensive and costly practice, as high value often means exotic and expensive. Regular dog kibble will rarely suffice without adding in bits of hot dog, cheese, or meat into the mix to keep your dog drooling and motivated.
After all’s said and done, you still have to worry about your little buddy’s nutrition. Loading them up on a belly full of hot dog bits and cheese is cheap and effective, but costly on their body and their bowels (prepare to leave the room after training).
I got this idea from a woman in our Nose Work class who made dog treats in a similar manner. I tweaked it slightly by first baking and dehydrating the treats to change the consistency and make them a bit safer for handling (by us humans). This recipe, with about a pound of ground turkey, will yield at least a week’s worth of treats good for training (cut up to the size of a finger nail). Kept cold and dry, they will stay pretty fresh. Just be careful as they are made of ground meat and not completely dehydrated, they can and will grow bacteria if stored improperly.
1 Pack of Ground Turkey Meat – the leaner the better, at the very least 93-7.
Aluminum Foil or Wax Paper
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
3. Remove turkey meat from packaging and place on center of baking sheet.
4. Using a pair of washed hands, knead turkey meat to combine. Like all ground meat from the store, it probably comes packaged still in those squiggly strands from the grinder. You need to combine all this together into one large ball or the turkey will come out with gross fatty strands between all the gaps of the strands. After, wash hands again.
5. Cut a piece of tin foil or wax paper about the same dimensions of your baking sheet. Place on top of ground turkey. This will keep the ground turkey from sticking to your rolling pin in the next step.Use rolling pin to roll out turkey meat as your baking sheet allows. Roll to a thickness of about 1/4 inch but no greater than 1/2 inch. The goal is to make a giant, uniform burger patty. The shape doesn’t matter, only the thickness. Go wash your hands!!
6. Discard the top foil/wax paper and place in oven on center rack.
7. Cook for roughly 20-30 minutes at 350F or until turkey changes color to a grey-brown, checking every 10 minutes or so and drain off any juices/liquid.. This step will help to kill off any harmful bacteria in the ground meat and lightly cook the meat through.
8. After about 30 minutes the turkey should have changed color to that of a lightly cooked hamburger. The edges of your patty should be starting to curl.
9. Remove from oven, again draining any juices that have collected. Pat dry the patty with a paper towel.
10. Cut the patty roughly to fit on the racks of your food dehydrator. Not necessarily into tiny pieces, just big in that you can fit them, spaced evenly, in the dehydrator (It’s much easier to cut them down to treat size after dehydrating)
11. Dehydrate pieces at at least 165F for about 2-4 hours. The meat should be fully dried, have turned an even darker brown and have curled even more. If you are unsure, remove a piece and cut into it. The inside will look like a super well-done burger. Not completely dried out but still springy. Remember to wash your hands!
12. After dehydrated, cut pieces to size. For training, we like to use pieces about the size a pinky nail. A pound will make a lot of these, so you can gauge how much you’d like to make at a time. You can also cut them into strips to use as reward treats.
You can freeze what you’re not going to be using right away with relative safety, just be careful about repetitively freezing and thawing the entire stock of them. This promotes bacterial growth – as they will become damp due to melting condensation/frost. Also, make sure they have cooled to at least room temperature before placing in a freezer bag, any remaining heat or moisture will form condensation (sticking warm food into a fridge or freezer is a big NO-NO in food safety)
1 package of turkey meat generally makes enough for 2 weeks worth of training sessions ever couple days or so. The advantage of these treats is that they are so versatile and simple. Cut them small for clicker training work when you’re just dealing them out like crazy. Or cut them into strips and keep them on the counter as rewards for good behavior.
If we keep them on the counter for rewards, we use a sealing food jar like this one by Bormioli (we also keep chicken jerky treats in another one). They also hold up well in a treat bag during training and don’t get mushy, sticky, or fall apart.
Hope this recipe helps you out, please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and training tips!
Necessary Disclaimer: I hate disclaimers, but you know the drill. I’m not a vet, I’m not a dog expert, nor am I a dog food safety expert. I make these for my own dog and he’s not dead or sick, so I consider them safe. I can’t say that it’s safe for every dog, so I assume no responsibility for what happens out there. I’m just sharing this recipe to help others out there. Enjoy and don’t sue me, I don’t have any money anyways. 🙂