Baking cookies for family and friends is a time-honored holiday tradition. So why not extend that to our animal pals? For several years now, one of the things that helps photo stylist Nicole Cawlfield get into the holiday spirit is baking Christmas cookies for her friends and neighbors who love their dogs like family. Read on for Nicole’s favorite dog treat recipe…and her suggestions for making the season merrier for your community’s four-legged friends.
This year I wanted to extend the holiday cheer to pups who don’t have a home for the holidays. I invited my animal-loving coworkers Katie, Liz and Glenda over to help me bake dozens of dog biscuits destined for local rescue dogs awaiting forever homes. We all work with rescue organizations in different capacities and know that shelters aren’t the only places that assist animals in need. So we decided to visit Chain of Hope, a nonprofit that provides care and pet eduction to neglected dogs and their owners, and a doggy daycare business that provides low-cost boarding to local rescue organizations such as the Protective Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Mid America Bully Breed Rescue (MABBR), The Animal Rescue Alliance (T.A.R.A.) and Autumn Acres Animal Rescue.
The day of our treat delivery was a bitter 12 degrees. We kept complaining about the cold but quickly realized that many of these dogs had lived outside in weather like this 24/7. It made us so much more grateful for nonprofits who work tirelessly to get these dogs a better life. I fell in love with PAWS dogs Leonitis, a malamute or Siberian mix, and Sprocket, a 3-pound Chihuahua. An Autumn Acres dog named Monty could jump up on the top of the cinderblock so he could see what was going on in the rest of the kennel. I’m positive he did it to get a good laugh out of visitors! And a MABBR dog named Strawberry amazed me with her repertoire of tricks for treats and attention. What a smart cookie!
Speaking of cookies, four simple ingredients will make the tastiest and healthiest treats for your pups. Adding bonus items from your fridge is easy if you want to get fancy. I had extra apples, blueberries and carrots, so I dehydrated them in the oven (use a dehydrator if you have one) and added them to the basic cookie mix. Some other ingredient ideas are roasted sweet potatoes, ground oats, parsley (for fresher breath), shredded cheddar, Parmesan, bacon bits and bananas. Just add 5 to 10 minutes on the cooking time for the extra moisture added into the dough by extra ingredients. Never ever add in grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, nutmeg, macadamia nuts, walnuts and chocolate, as these ingredients are toxic to dogs. (Check here for a more complete list of foods that are unsafe for dogs.)
Nicole’s Favorite Dog Treat Recipe
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on cutter size.
- 1 c natural peanut butter (choose a brand without sugar)
- 2 c pumpkin puree (it’s good for digestion; don’t use pumpkin pie mix)
- 3½ c whole-wheat flour or rice flour for wheat-sensitive dogs (we made both)
- 2 tbsp whole ground flaxseed (it’s full of omega-3s, which are good for dogs’ hearts, coats and joints)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix together pumpkin puree and peanut butter (we used a stand mixer for ease).
- Add in flaxseed and any additional ingredients of your choosing.
- Slowly add in flour. Dough should be a firm consistency, easily balled and not sticky.
- Divide dough into three balls.
- Roll out each ball to ¼-inch thick on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut cookies into your shape of choice and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. (Add 5-10 minutes for additional ingredients that add moisture to the dough.)
- Check to make sure the cookies aren’t too soft to stay shaped. Bake for longer if too soft.
- Cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container. Refrigerate for two weeks or freeze for three months.
Photos by Nicole Cawlfield.