Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Training Treats

At first I was under the impression that treats should only be used for tick training and not behavioural work. Once I attended puppy elemetary and learned about Positive Reinforcement training or "clicker" training, marking a desired behaviour then providing a reward, I realized that treats did have a lot of benefits in day to day scenarios. I started training Kobi at home with just his kibble, that worked well for the most part, until we found ourselves in situations where kibble just didn't cut it. So I tried upping the anti by cutting up small pieces of cheese and cooked chicken. I soon found a problem with both, they're slimy and smelly. There is nothing worse then reaching into a smelly treat pouch then getting soaked in slobber as your dog tries to get the treat out of your hand. The trainer at our puppy class suggested trying some dehydrated liver that he seemed to be in love with at class. So we bought a massive bag, it lasted a long time, but that had problems too. It came in large sheets that needed to be broken up into smaller pieces. I found it slow to break them up when in exciting situations and they usually hard sharp edges that if not chewed could hurt. I then discovered that milkbone finally made mini bones for training. They are tiny little bones that can easily be broken in two to make a smaller treat portion, and can be found at the grocery store making them easy to come by.. These worked fairly well and I still always make sure to have some in my pocket, but when it comes to exciting situations, they still just didn't cut it. I needed to find a treat that was desirable enough to distract Kobi from whatever it was he was focused on.

I then came across the "Lickety Stik" which I purchased at Pet's Unlimited. It's a liquid treat that comes in three flavors that is placed in a rolling ball type deodorant stick so all your dog has to is lick! How simple! And it is! Except in cold weather. Not thinking, liquids tend to freeze in cold weather, the lickety stik was no exception. Once the weather warms up I plan on resuming its use, but it works great for indoor activities such as car rides, going to the vet or into stores. One word of warning it does have a very strong odor to it but that's part of what makes it a great training aid.

We still, however, needed something that we could use as a training treat when we went to our weekly obedience class. So we tried hot dogs, just bought the cheapest no name ones in stock. I then cut them into long quarter strips then cut those into thin slices. This worked relatively well, but same as the chicken and cheese, it was slimy, so still not a practical treat. I did find out though that microwaving the pieces for about 4 minutes takes out most of the moisture making them much much more manageable. If you plan on using this method do cut your slices slightly larger then what you would like them as they shrink when being microwaved.

I still had not found a treat that was fool proof for Kobi though, something that he wanted so badly that he would pay more attention to the treat than to the situation going on around him. So after a quick google search, the most disrable dog treat in every article had something to do with Liver, but I wasn't about to fork out 20$ for  small container of flash frozen liver bits, no I needed something I could easily make at home. Liver Jerky. That's right, dehydtrated strips of liver. I made a batch yesterday and took it with me to obediance class and I was shocked at how well they worked. For 2$ at the grocery store I was able to make a huge amount of treats. The only downside is the prep, they are slightly icky and very very smelly. But if your like me and haven't been able to find something that works, give it a shot. It takes about and hour's worth of prep and 2 hours cook time.
Below is the recipe I followed.

How To Make Homemade Liver Jerky Dog Treats

At the request of Georgia Little Pea, here is my homemade liver jerky dog treat tutorial! So Miss Pea, bark at your human until she makes them, they’re pretty easy to do.

For this tutorial, I chose to make jerky from goat liver. A 500 gram piece cost me $2.02, which is pretty cheap. You can use this method for any type of organ meat like kidneys, hearts etc. The actual hands on preparation time for these treats was about 45 minutes, not counting the boiling and drying of the meat. (I've been buying beef liver, simply because there is lots at the grocery store, but any type works)
STEP 1Cutting the Liver
Cutting The Liver
Cut the liver into 2 X 2 inch chunks so that they look like this -
Cutting The Liver
Now is the time to preheat the oven to it’s lowest setting, which is usually 250F

STEP 2– Boiling the Liver
Place the liver chunks into a decent sized pot and add a generous amount of water to cover the meat.
Boiling The Liver
Place the burner on HIGH. The liver chunks should start to boil in about 10 minutes. Liver cooks really quickly, so let the liver cook at a full boil for about 5 minutes and remove the pot from the burner. (Try to avoid over cooking as it tends to get harder to slice, I also added garlic powder and beef bouillon powder to add some more flavour)
Take kitchen tongs and remove the liver chunks from the water. Place them on a plate covered with some paper towels to soak up the water and to let the liver cool.
Boiling The Liver

STEP 3– Slicing the Liver Chunks into Slivers
To dry the liver effectively, it must be sliced into smaller slivers. Try to cut the liver into uniform pieces so that everything dries evenly. For these chunks, 1/4? thick pieces seemed to work well. (Since I use mine as training treats I like to cut them into long thin pieces so that I have the option of having larger treats or can easily break them into smaller ones)
Slicing the Liver Chunks into Slivers
Put the slivers on a well oiled cookie sheet and place in the preheated oven. Drying time in the oven will be approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on how thick you have cut the pieces.
Slicing the Liver Chunks into Slivers

STEP 4 Drying the Liver
After an hour check on the liver, but it will probably need more time. The liver jerky will be done when it is no longer rubbery and snaps into pieces when you try to break it.
If the liver pieces have been totally dried, these treats have a shelf life of a few months. If you want to make this treat for cats, simply slice the liver into smaller pieces.

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