Call us skeptical, but we’re just not convinced of the dietary value of dog biscuits, let alone high-cost artisanal variety.  But we’re willing to be proved wrong so we set out to explore. 

Baked products for dogs, and specifically dog biscuits are having a moment.  We’re not talking about just any old dog biscuit from the supermarket, but cellophane wrapped, be-ribboned, artisanal, and handmade dog biscuits with exotic ingredients.  These are premium dog biscuits with ingredients that are organic, holistic, local, gluten-free, contain functional superfoods, with an emphasis on the naturalness and freshness of the product.  Everywhere we’ve been over the last couple of years we’ve stumbled over dog biscuits that look good enough for humans to eat, from south London farmers’ markets to legendary Amalfi coast pasticcerias, marketed and presented like fine foods for humans.

Dog treats and cat treats of all types have been high performing categories of the UK and US pet care market over recent years.  At all price points, but especially at the high end, this market thrives on the trend towards humanisation of our pets.  We’re certainly guilty of that, we joke that our dogs are treated as semi-human.  The gap between ‘human’ food and pet food continues to narrow as a growing number of pet food manufacturers market their products as ‘human grade,’ so it is hardly surprising that the same trend is beginning to emerge in pet treats like dog biscuits.  

A strategy of emphasising the naturalness and freshness of food products for dogs also plays to heightened consumer concern about the quality of ingredients in industrially produced dog treats. If your own human food choices involve organic, vegan, superfoods, or humanely produced ingredients, then you are perhaps likely to apply those same decisions to what your dog eats too, both her main food source and any treats or extras that you give her.  We found dog treats with these ingredients: beet powder (organic), organic blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, organic carrots, cinnamon, garlic powder, ginger, and organic sea kelp.  Coconut, carrot and ginger heart-shaped dog biscuits that we found online sound more like human food.  Does your dog need treats made from “ancient grains”?  Bone broth is a thing for humans right now, and dogs will surely drink it, but marketing bone broth for dogs is a direct read across from current human food fashions.  Ditto a recipe for pumpkin spice latte for dogs.  Humanisation of our dogs, yes definitely.

Artisanal baked products for dogs now range from dog biscuits to cakes. Recipes for make-your-own dog biscuits are everywhere on Pinterest.  In some circles, the idea of macarons for dogs in lavender, strawberry or mint flavours, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.  It’s fun and sociable (for humans) to give a dog a birthday party and provide a doggie birthday cake.  No one will argue that you shouldn’t want the best possible health outcomes for your dog from her diet. But it’s hard to see where even artisanal dog biscuits and cakes fit into a regular balanced diet for your dachshund, to keep her at an optimum weight.   

Don’t get me wrong.  We love the idea of beautifully made and presented dog biscuits with great ingredients.  A close friend even planned a business around dog biscuits, and we were cheering her on.  But every time we’ve been tempted by dog biscuits we can’t work out when we would feed them to our dogs.  If we have to feed them less of their regular food to get through a bag of biscuits, then really what’s the point?  If we’re happy with their regular food then why mess around with their diet?  We allow for 1-2g of training treats every day (up to ten treats) but dog biscuits are generally pretty big (especially for small dogs like dachshunds) so the degree of substitution is high.  Without substitution you might get an overweight dachshund with the greater risk of back problems that brings with it. 

To come back to our original point, most dogs will eat almost anything.  A dog is unlikely to choose artisanal dog biscuits, or any of the other baked products now available for dogs, or organic biscuits, over her regular meals.  She’ll eat them with relish, but let’s be honest, she’ll eat anything.  The same food for your dog, day in day out, may seem boring to you, but is likely to lead to the healthiest outcome for her.