Written by: Louise Calderwood | February 23, 2020
A fond memory from my childhood is of my mother at the dining table in the morning, enjoying her cup of black coffee as she doled out five dog biscuits to our little button-eyed, poodle-cross dog, Jack. For meals, Jack gobbled up his canned dog food, but his breakfast time treats were dog biscuits. There must have been some balance in the diet my mother provided to her doting dog; he traveled with our family to two continents and across seven states, living a happy and bouncy 15 years. Mom and Jack have both been gone for a long time, but in recognition of National Dog Biscuit Day, I looked into the history of dog biscuits and the role they play in a modern dog diet.
One version of the history of dog biscuits claims that they were invented accidentally in a London butcher shop during the late 1800s as the shop's owner was trying to expand his business by creating a new biscuit recipe for his customers. After baking a batch, he tasted them and thought they were terrible. He gave one to his dog, and the dog gulped it right down. This gave him the idea of making biscuits especially for dogs. He made his biscuits in the shape of a bone and they were popular with local dog owners.
Another version states that a British businessman developed dog biscuits in England around 1860 after seeing dogs being fed leftover biscuits from a ship. The businessman then formulated biscuits from a mix of wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood and sold them to English country gentlemen to be fed to sporting dogs.
Whichever story is closer to the truth we will probably never know, but over 150 years later, dogs are still enjoying biscuits and other treats too. During a recent trip to a local pet food shop, I found dog biscuits made with sweet potatoes, rice bran and blueberries as well as peanut butter, beef, chicken and salmon. There were biscuits designed to clean teeth and freshen breath and assist with training. It is clear that in 2020 pet owners want dog treats that reflect their own choices in food.
While looking through the shelves of dog treats, I found the same brand of dog biscuits my mom fed to Jack over 40 years ago. Turns out, Mom was following the label directions and feeding the biscuits as a snack and limiting Jack to just five per day. On each of the treat packages. I found labels indicating the snack was intended for occasional feeding. Some labels even had suggestions for monitoring the total calories pets eat in a day.
In honor of National Dog Biscuit Day, I bought my large and energetic dog Sherman a bag of apple and chicken dog biscuits as a special treat. He sniffed them out of my shopping bag and eagerly watched as I opened the pouch. At 92 pounds, the label indicated he could have 15 of the small treats a day. Fortunately, Sherman gets lots of exercise running along as I ride a horse four or five days a week. He can enjoy his treats and kibble too!