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This post is sponsored by Open Farm Pet, makers of healthy dry dog food that is sourced from certified ethical and humane farms.
This weekend I came to the conclusion that I'm going to eat less meat. I saw a commercial (isn't that how it always goes?) showing animals in horrid conditions – FYI, ‘free range chickens' isn't always what we think, ya'll – and realized that I can't contribute to the horrid conditions that animals are subjected to in our country.
Our dogs eat meat from humane and ethical farms and I will too – or I won't eat meat at all.
Sourced and Made in the USA Doesn't Mean Squat!
With my new found desire to eat better (for me), I started auditing the treats we bring home, many of which can be broken up and used as training treats. This year, I learned just because a package sports a United States flag and states that the protein is sourced and made in the USA isn't necessarily a positive.
When it comes to chicken, for example, the chickens may be raised on a US farm and the chicken treats/jerky may be made in a US facility. However, the chicken may be shipped overseas for processing (it's cheaper). With the chicken jerky scares – do we really want to take a chance that a product is safe?
Why not make it ourselves?
Making Training Treats at Home
I went through a period where I was making training treats at home. It's really easy. I would pick up gizzards, hearts, and liver (very smelly when making treats) and make our dogs' training treats in the oven.
- chop up the proteins into bite sized pieces (something small like traditional training treats)
- line a cookie sheet with wax paper; I have a non-stick cookie sheet, but it's still a mess when I make treats without using wax paper or foil
- line up meat onto cookie sheet, sprinkle with oregano and parsley (not necessary) and bake on a low temperature for a couple hours
That's all it takes.
Believe it or not, I'm too busy to do this. This “easy” recipe requires a trip to the butcher (I'm feeding humane, remember), standing in line (only one butcher and he's very popular), and a trip home to start cooking. With everything else I have on my plate, it's hard to get motivated most days to make training treats.
An Alternative to Making My Own Training Treats
I got this tip from several dog trainers. Use kibble!
There are plenty of quality kibble brands out there, but only one that I'm confident sources from certified humane and ethical farms and facilities. Open Farm's entire farm-to-bowl supply chain is audited and certified by third-party organizations specializing in humane animal care and sustainable farming practices to give us peace of mind.
I was a bit worried about using kibble as training treats, because I've always been told not to mix kibble with raw. Although I'm not technically mixing the 2 in one meal, I will take the dogs out for walking and playing after their evening meal with a pocketful of Open Farm dry food, so their gut is going to be processing raw and dry food at the same time.
It's been a few weeks and none of our dogs have had an issue. Even Rodrigo, who is notorious for his sensitive tummy, is doing fine with Open Farm. And each dog gets less than a handful during our training sessions.
Using kibble instead of training treats is easy, inexpensive and less fattening. The dogs don't need a handful of kibble as a reward, just one or two and a lot of praise. And by using Open Farm dry food in training, I'm supporting ethical farming and responsible fishing.
Using Dry Food in Training isn't All Rosey
Our dogs quickly saw that I put something for them into my pocket. They love the smell and taste of Open Farm and it's something new from what they usually get so, of course, it's a hit. Training has proven difficult, because I can't reward good behavior when all 4 dogs are surrounding me, making it difficult to even move forward.
I've found that I give them a kibble each when we get outside and then I ignore the repeated nose butts to my pockets, which is their not so subtle hint that they want more. I grab the Puller rings and start throwing them – Scout is the first to forget about the dry food. The others take a bit longer, but within 10 minutes, they start wondering off to do their things and I can start training.
Right now, we're working on recall – which is 100% when I have Open Farm in my pocket. So not every return is rewarded with food. For every 1 time our dogs get a kibble, there are 3 times that they get lots of praise and a hug. This system works quickly and our dogs' recall is slowly improving.
I haven't taken all training treats off of the shopping list, but I'm saving money by spending less on them, which is always popular in our home.