Baking for Fido

Surely you do not give your dog milkbones.

Supermarket pet food aisles these days are packed with such anthropomorphic snacks as honey-molasses dog cookies and crispy beef-flavored dog soft drinks! A search of the Internet yields recipes for such creations as Pet Party Mix (Cheerios, dry gravy mix, Shredded Wheat, Wheat Chex, and bacon bits) and Pupperoni dog treats, drizzled with butter. The urge to offer pets upscale victuals is perhaps understandable, even admirable—but from a nutritional standpoint, snacks like these probably don't do Fido much good. You might as well give the poor animal a chili-cheese dog.

But some dog lovers make their own canine delights, with animal health in mind—forinstance, Ann Woodard Lehmann, of South Harpswell, Maine, who bakes nutritionally sound biscuits regularly for both her big leon berger, Emma, and her little corgi, Maggie Louise. Lehmann developed the recipe a decade ago for another dog of hers, now deceased, named Cassie—who was half newfoundland and half golden retriever. "Cassie was a great dog," remembers Lehmann, "but dumb as wood." Perhaps that's why she enjoyed biscuits that are, Lehmann says, "like eating a steel rod."

In another part of the country, Rusty, a 100-pound husky-German shepherd mix who was banished to the city when he proved to be too irascible to run with a dogsled team, was also born with a taste for rugged biscuits. His putative master, B. J. Carpenter, a cooking instructor at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota, developed what she calls "Rusty's Basted Beef Biscuits" to sooth the beast's savage heart. But she forgot to warn her husband, Robert Rulon-Miller, who came home one day to find a menagerie of little bunny-, squirrel-, and coyote-shaped treats cooling on a rack and promptly stuffed one into his mouth. "This tastes terrible!" he cried out. "That's 'cause they're for dogs," Carpenter told him, as he spat into the trash.

In fact, these homemade biscuits don't taste all that bad; they're sort of like diet rye crackers from Sweden. And they won't hurt you, except possibly by chipping a tooth. But how are they for dogs? Francis Kallfelz, professor of veterinary nutrition at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, says that recipes like the one at right are just fine, as long as dogs don't overeat and get fat. To prevent that, advises Dr. Kallfelz, limit biscuits, even good ones like these, to less than 5 percent of your dog's total dry food intake. Bone appetit!