Making liver treats for your dog.
Sliced liver of any kind. The slices should be 5-6 mm (1/4 inch) thick – or less. The thinner, the better – and the easier to make. You can use a dehydrator, but an ordinary oven will do too.
Put the raw liver slices in the oven on a rack that allows maximum access of air all around. (You can also use a pan – but it is less efficient, as it only allows air access from above.)
Set the thermostat of the oven as low as you possibly can. 50-60 degrees Celsius (130-150 Fahrenheit) is enough – anything above that will tend to cook the liver – but your dog won’t blame you for that (most dogs actually prefer slightly cooked liver over raw liver.)
Bake the liver till it is reasonably firm and easy to cut with scissors. Open the oven often, so you let moist air out – this also helps keep the temperature down, if your oven cannot maintain the low temperature prescribed. The whole point is to bake the liver at the lowest possible temperature, so you really turn the baking process into a dehydration process more than anything else.
If you cannot get your oven to measure the low temperature, you can use your hand to measure. A surface hotter than 55 degree Celsius will be too hot to touch for more than a second or two – so if you burn your fingers when touching the rack quickly, the temperature is too high.
When the liver is dry on all surfaces, you take it out and cut your treats off the slices. Using a pair of scissors is easiest, but a sharp knife will do too.
If the cutting makes everything wet and greasy, you have not baked enough – back to the oven then.
If the liver is too hard to cut with scissors, you baked too long – better luck next time. The treats are OK though – you just have a problem you might need stronger tools for than what you might have in your kitchen.
When the pieces are all cut to the size you want, you put them back into the oven, this time in a pan or on baking paper. Baking paper is best, because it is not totally tight and gives better air circulation around the pieces.
You now continue the baking until all surfaces are nice and dry and it is easy to grab a treat without getting greasy fingers. You should stir the pile regularly to accomplish this, still keeping the oven at the lowest possible temperature it can provide. If this is a problem, just open the oven often and let some fresh, cold air in!
The end result should be a pile of treats with a fairly hard and dry surface, but still moist and gooey inside. If you squish them, they should give in – but they should also rattle if you put them into a small container.
The liver is not really raw – but it isn’t really cooked either. It is a nice compromise between raw food and practical usefulness.
The recipe is great for novices in the art of baking – you are supposed to do just about all the mistakes you should avoid when baking a cake.
Using the treats
I use a film canister in my pocket as “dog money wallet”. One canister typically lasts 3-4 days, but on days with lots of training, it could be a canister per day, sometimes two.
The rest of what you need for 14 days can be stored in the fridge. Any excess should go in the freezer, preferably in an open container, so they get “freezer burnt” – that will eliminate the problem of them getting soft and greasy when you thaw them up.
Be sure to use the treats exclusively as rewards for work well done, not because the dog is cute or begs. And do count the amount of organ meat you feed this way as part of the dog’s diet.
About the author
Mogens Eliasen holds a Ph.D. level degree in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark and has 30+ years of experience working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and holistic veterinarians as a coach, lecturer, and education system developer. He publishes a free newsletter “The Peeing Post” containing lots of tips and advice on dog problems of all kinds, particularly about training, behavioural problems, feeding, and health care.
For more information about Mogens Eliasen, including links to other articles he has published, please send a short e-mail to [email protected].Last modified: December 30, 2020