Treats: Puree everything!

With a reactive dog, every walk can be a training opportunity (or rather, a prevention of an overreaction opportunity). So after realizing I was spending almost $50 every 10 days on high-value treats only to have Knox get bored of them, I started looking for more inexpensive options. I thought of buying a dehydrator but I also wanted to use things I already had on hand.

I love baking for dogs. They don’t care if the consistency is “off” – if it’s smelly, they’ll eat it. Precision and measurements hardly matter at all.

My criteria for each recipe:

  1. It must be easy to break into smaller pieces but not crumble into oblivion
  2. It must be soft but not too squishy (sustainable in a bait bag)
  3. It must be smelly enough to create value/motivation

Here are two recipes that have worked on both my reactive dog (proof: we walked beside a dog on the street without incident!) and the dogs (and puppies) I work with in class.

Some notes before the recipes:

Measurements are completely arbitrary. More flour means drier, less flavourful treats. Less flour means less viscous batter and longer bake time.

Ingredients are also pretty arbitrary. Different proteins cook at different times. I usually go with 5 minute intervals and add minutes as needed. I prefer the treats to have a softer inside and not have it cook completely through to maintain the smelliness. I use rice flour but you can use anything. Oat flour makes it a little less liquid but I wanted to make sure it’s gluten free for those allergenic pups. I also use coconut flour if I want drier treats. I grease the pans with coconut oil but you can use anything you’re comfortable with.

Keep extras in the freezer or fridge. Because there’s no preservatives, these will last about 1 to 2 weeks in the fridge – keep in mind, we make a new batch every weekend so we’ve never really made it past 7 days.

Beef Liver “Fudge”

Liver "fudge"

Homemade Liver “Fudge”

  • Pureed Liver
  • Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Blend liver puree with flour 1/4 cup at a time until the consistency is a little more viscous.
  3. Oil your cookie pan.
  4. Spread liver across pan, about 1/4″ thick (doesn’t really matter)
  5. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes
  6. Slice (about 1″ x 1″) and wait until cool for storing

If your liver comes in slices, you’ll most likely end up with some chunkier bits. Make sure to blend this in a proper blender because it gets messy. Really bloody messy.

Fish “Fudge”

Homemade Salmon or Tuna "Fudge"

Homemade Salmon or Tuna “Fudge”

  • Canned fish in water (tuna, salmon – I use whatever’s on sale)
  • Flour
  • 1 whole egg per can
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Add fish and egg into bowl
  3. Blend with flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the consistency is a little more viscous
  4. Oil your cookie pan(s)
  5. Spread batter across pan, about 1/4″ thick (doesn’t really matter)
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
  7. Slice (1″ x 1″) and wait until cool before storing

These are especially awesome for puppies – they’re soft, they’re smelly and you can give a lot of rewards without actually giving a lot of food. Each square in the picture above can be broken into 6 rewards.

So far, I’ve made about 5 batches of each. Total cost of 4 cans of tuna, a tub of liver, 4 eggs, 200g of flour: $10. Each batch lasts me about 5 days. I’d say this is a significant cost savings!

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Treat Training Trinity – Why positive reinforcement did not work for my dog.

There are days when I feel like I’m doing it all wrong and I might as well just go out and buy some quick-fix prong or e-collar. This post reflects how much my technique needs improvement, and how I’m not setting Knox up for success through my lackadaisical criteria setting.
Most importantly, reexamining the way I provide feedback is critical and this line describes my current training program perfectly: This is not positive reinforcement. This is a mixed bag of reinforcements and punishments, more aversive than not.

awesomedogs

About fifteen years ago, when I started apprenticing as a trainer, I used leash corrections and other forms of “discipline”.  I no longer leash correct, and have not for more than a decade.  This is not because I had a moral agenda.  I simply needed an effective training solution.

Kiki, my learning dog pulled like a tugboat.  We tried so many techniques we could have been the poster child for:

“But I tried positive reinforcement and it did not work.”

I chuckled and snickered with other trainers, “Ignore bad behaviour?  So you just LET the dog knock grandma to the ground?”  Teaching with food and then proofing with corrections seemed to make more sense.

We ran the gamut on protocols:

Food luring Collar corrections – flat collar
Collar corrections – nylon slip Head halter use
Head halter to reposition dog Head halter corrections
Chain choke collar correction Special choke…

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