Pyramid Pan Dog Treats

When we saw this idea on Eileen and Dogs blog, we knew we had to try it for ourselves. We quickly located the Pyramid Pan on eBay and waited patiently for it to arrive in the mail. Apparently they are also available from Woolworths, and probably other homeware-type stores too (though we have been keeping our eyes peeled, and haven’t seen it in Woolworths, Coles, or Spotlight). The Pyramid Pan’s actual use is for low-fat roasting, so the meat doesn’t sit in the fat.

The Pyramid Pan

To make my treat batter i used a fairly unscientific recipe of approximately the following ingredients:

1c cooked chicken (chopped) OR 1/2c cooked bacon (chopped)

2-3tbsp light cream cheese spread

1/2 egg

1/2 – 1c tapioca flour

Water to reach desired consistency

The stages of mixing

Put the meat and cheese spread in a food processor and blitz until it looks disgusting (like creamy cat food or tuna). Then add the egg and tapioca flour and blitz a little more. At this point it will either form a dough-like ball or it will look quite sticky and pasty. Finally, add some water to achieve a…smooth, yoghurt-like consistency. Smooth is MUCH easier to work into the Pyramid Pan than a thicker/stickier batter.

Dump the batter onto the Pyramid Pan, and use your spatula to work it into all the little holes. By some reports from other people who have tried this, spreading the batter can be quite time consuming. I found that with the smoother batter and my flexible silicone spatula that it was very easy and quick. When all the holes are filled with batter, scrape any excess off with your spatula.

Dump the batter onto the Pyramid Pan
The batter is evenly spread over the holes and the excess scraped away

Now we made two batches, and concluded that our second attempt was best. The first we baked in a fan-forced oven at 180C for 7-8 minutes. The treats around the outer rows were well cooked, but the inner ones were a little squishier (maybe your dog would prefer this). The second batch we baked at a lower temperature of 160C for about 15 minutes, and the treats were more evenly cooked and crispy.

Comparison of batch one (left) and batch two (right)

Once baked let the tray cool enough to touch, and then lift the corners so that all the treats fall into the centre (it’s really satisfying to do this part).

Cheap thrills…
Lots and lots of chicken/cheese and bacon/cheese dog treats

We’ve tried a few different storage methods (sandwich bag, plastic container, fridge, freezer, cupboard), though as they are preservative free your best bet for storing large quantities of these treats would be the freezer (just pull out a small amount as required). The drier you bake them the better they would last outside of the freezer (we’re guessing).

The Pyramid Pan itself was a piece of cake to clean. It was pretty much clean once the treats fell out, but a quick shake off and a rinse did the job just fine. It is also dishwasher safe if you would prefer to pop it through for a thorough clean.

Finally, of course, we had to check if Wilbur liked our baking…though frankly his judgement can’t be trusted, he’ll eat just about anything! He gave them two paws up! We will probably be back in the kitchen tomorrow to finish off the ingredients we bought, and we might try some peanut butter flavoured ones too.

*edited to add* Both the humans in the house can confirm that the bacon/cheese recipe tastes just fine, but Wilbur wondered why we were tasting his treats!

Wilbur says the Pyramid Pan Treats are GREAT!

Lures and Rewards

When it comes to using treats in training there is one concern at the top of most peoples list: “I don’t want him to only work for the food!” Indeed we see many cases where people have been put off using food because their pet is most responsive when they have a treat visible in their hand, and less responsive any other time. This is a highly undesirable situation, because most of the time when we need our pets to do something we will be empty handed.

The situation described above is the result of a common training error, which unfortunately leads many people to write off treats from their training entirely. Instead, why don’t we look at the different ways we can use treats with our pets.

food lure

Most commonly, people use a treat as a lure. This means they show their pet the treat, and use it to move or guide their pet into the behaviour they want (raise the treat for a sit, lower it for a down). Using lures can be a quick and effective way to get a behaviour started, but when you fail to fade that lure out in the early stages of training things start to go wonky.

Treat. Play. Love. will help you to learn to use treats as rewards, or reinforcers, which come after the behaviour has happened (like a pay check for a job well done). We can keep the treats tucked safely out of sight, and only bring them out once the job is done. To guide, or shape, a new behaviour we might initially use a food lure, or we could use our body language, good timing, or a target. By using the treat after the behaviour, our pets need to focus on us (not the food) if they are going to figure out how to get the job done. This is a much more desirable situation!

An important, and often forgotten, part of any training program is to change the rate of reward from a constant (every correct response gets rewarded) to a variable (only some get rewarded) schedule. By gradually expecting more from your pet as they become skilled at the job you’ve given them, they will become more persistent training partners who can work for longer periods of time without needing a treat. Rewards can also come in the form of praise, affection, games, toys, etc, depending on what your individual pet enjoys most.

A good human example is our pay check. It’s a fair bet that we would stop turning up to work if our boss stopped paying us. Of course we don’t get our pay check in little bits day-by-day, we maintain a high standard of work (i hope) over the course of the pay period (usually 1-4 weeks). Daily we might be rewarded by thanks from a co-worker, personal satisfaction at doing something well, etc.

This is what we want to aim for with our pets – good work ethic between pay checks, and loads of “life rewards” to keep them positive from day to day. Not sure where to start? Get in touch and we can set up a training session, or point you in the direction of some great group training classes where you can learn how to use treats to their greatest effect. Train smart, not tough!