Homemade “gourmet” dog biscuits seem to be the in-thing. A friendly gourmut-chef sold her homemade dog biscuits at the McFarland Farmers’ Market on Saturday. Sunday, several vendors at the 21st Annual Wisconsin Dog Fair at Madison’s Alliant Energy Center were selling multiple varieties of homemade biscuits baked especially for beloved pooches. The exceptional nutritional value of the biscuits, their super-healthy ingredients, such as flaxseed and wheat germ, were the primary reasons vendors gave to encourage the several thousand passer-bys at the fair to pick up a bag of biscuits. Of course, vendors also said that dogs love these biscuits.

But love them as much as a dead mole in the backyard? Or maybe  a decaying rabbit? When I have to lure my dogs away from succulent roadkill, I have to use treats maxed with dog-attracting flavor. Pieces of hot dog or bacon work best, but unfortunately they make my pockets greasy. Plus, even dogs can over-do it on the pork fat. You have to consider if what you’re using as a lure is actually healthier for the dog than the disgusting thing it wants. Moles are pretty lean prey, -the bones, a good calcium supplement.

So for me, biscuit flavor and nutrition are both major considerations. I use biscuits to train my dogs, and since I train them daily I have to be pretty careful not to feed them dog junk food. Also, cost is a consideration. Those homemade dog biscuits at the farmers’ market and Wisconsin Dog Fair were priced reasonably when you consider the labor involved to make them. However, the cost is in the labor, not the ingredients. I can make the same great-tasting, healthy dog biscuits at home, and I do. For me, it’s been much more cost-effective to use Martha Ward’s Doggie Delights and Kitty Cuisine cookbook and bake dog biscuits that my dogs will actually do tricks for. And if I give them a lot of biscuits at one training session, it’s not a problem. I can cut back on the dog food and know that my dogs are still getting the nutrition they need. Click on “continue reading…” for one of Martha Ward’s great-tasting and nutritious dog biscuit recipes and for more about the WI Dog Fair.

Here’s Martha Ward’s dog biscuit recipe that she calls, “Eat Your Wheateez”. Martha taste-tested all of her recipes on her golden retriever, Cinnamon. If Cinnamon showed indifference to a recipe, she modified it until he went crazy for it. Since Cinnamon was head of quality-control, Martha writes the cookbook in an entertaining style from Cinnamon’s perspective. Here’s Eat Your Wheateez:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, wheat germ, garlic powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat together molasses, milk, egg, and oil. Blend into dry mixture until all ingredients are moistened. Add a small amount of water if needed to shape into a ball. Dough should be stiff.

Roll to a 1/2-inch thickness; cut into desired shapes with cookie cutter. Place treats on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Remove treats from oven and cool on a wire rack. Store baked treats in an airtight container or plastic bag and place in refrigerator or freezer.

Cinnamon’s commentary: “My people-mom, Martha, goes jogging each morning, usually around the lake. I go too! This is great! I see nice people and smell good smells, and if I am good, I get a treat when we get home…Do I jog faster after a few of these, or is it that I am hurrying home for a refill?”

Since I use these biscuits to train my dogs, I fore-go the cookie cutters and roll the dough into small, easy-to-toss balls. For another of Martha’s recipes and to see what these cookie-cut biscuits look like, click on my puppy’s July post.

The Wisconsin Dog Fair is sponsored by the Badger Kennel Club. One purpose of the fair is to show people how well-trained dogs can be. Visitors enjoyed demonstrations of dog obedience, dog agility, tracking, and dogs following scent lures. People also got to see dogs in community service. The club invited the Madison police to demonstrate the impressive skills of its highly-trained police dogs. Representatives from volunteer organizations that train dogs to provide therapy to hospital and nursing-home residents talked about their work and gave information on how to get involved to help. Perhaps most impressive and moving was the demonstration by Occupaws. Occupaws is a volunteer organization that trains dogs to become service dogs for the blind. The dogs are specially bred for service and their training begins in puppy-hood. It takes 18-months of intensely-dedicated training before a dog is ready for placement with a blind person. And the training rewards are stunning. With a service dog at their side, blind people can move quickly through busy streets and independently navigate public places. Today Occupaws is extending its program to train service dogs for children. Born blind, these children usually suffer gait problems and fear new places. The service dogs have shown to be unbelievable aids in correcting movement problems and giving children confidence as well as devoted companionship and love. Blind children have blossomed with an Occupaws dog at their side.

As I left the fair on Sunday, I was impressed with yet another example I’ve found of Wisconsin people devoting their skill, intellect, compassion, and time in the service of others. Sure, playing with dogs is fun. But Badger Kennel Club’s Wisconsin Dog Fair showed how people and animals can work together to improve the lives of everyone in our community.