Building a positive and trusting relationship with the animals in their care is one of the most important aspects of any zookeeper’s job. For some animals, the relationship can be built and strengthened with physical contact such as play, but for us bear keepers, physical contact is not an option. Instead, we can use reinforcements. Reinforcements come in many forms including whole grain cereals, dry food, scrambled eggs and on special occasions, small amounts of jello. By far the best kind of reinforcements are those which can be easily carried in treat bags hanging from our belts. A lot of care and research goes into developing a nutritional yet tasty diet for our bears and this applies to reinforcements as well. What better way to apply this than by making our own homemade bear reinforcements? The best thing about these reinforcements is that they are canine friendly meaning you can make them at home as treats for your pet! The following recipe was developed with the bears’ favourite foods in mind but can be altered to suit individual tastes and dietary requirements of your pets.
Pumpkin and Beef Flavour
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup canned pumpkin – NOT pumpkin pie filling (fresh pumpkin can be used but I found that the canned stuff is much easier)
¼ cup liquid beef stock
¼ cup of melted butter
2. Turn out dough ball onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to a desired thickness. The baking powder will cause the dough to rise slightly in the oven so keep that in mind when rolling dough. Bear reinforcements do not need to be large so I roll the dough to about ¼ inch but for dog treats, you could increase this to ½ inch.
3. Cut the dough to your desired shape using a knife or cookie cutters. For bear reinforcements, I cut them into cubes roughly ½ inch square but for your dog, cookies cutters are a great option.
4. Bake treats on a lined baking tray until they have risen and browned slightly. Given the small size of bear reinforcements, I only bake them for around 8 minutes but for bigger dog treats this will need to increase.
Hope you and your canines enjoy these DIY healthy snack alternatives!
Blog and Photos By: Bear Keeper Amy