It can be a bit of a mind-shift when it comes to learning how to store homemade dog treats, rather than commercial store-bought treats.
One of the things I LOVE about making my own dog treats is that I can control what goes into them, and there are only healthy, nutritious, natural ingredients in all the dog treat recipes on this site.
That means you won't find any chemicals or artificial preservatives. This is really good news for our dogs, but it does mean that those goodies you created with love won't be okay sitting around on the kitchen counter or in the pantry for weeks.
Luckily, there are a few simple tips that will help you to keep your DIY dog treats fresh for days, weeks, even months. Honestly, in my house a batch of treats is usually eaten long before they have a chance to go bad, but I have two large dogs and an extended family of doggie grand-kids all eager to play their part in eating my creations!
The most important things that affect how long your treats can safely be stored include:
At the end of every recipe on my site you'll see the instruction to 'allow to cool completely'. That little sentence is hugely important when it comes to how well, and how long, you can store homemade dog treats.
Even the tiniest bit of residual warmth in your treats will cause condensation if they're put into a container or bag. This will make the treats damp - spoiling the crunchiness (if they're crunchy treats) and causing them to go bad much more quickly.
Always allow your treats to cool, preferably on a wire cooling rack where the air can circulate freely around them, for at least three hours (longer for large or thick treats), before putting them into storage containers.
The ingredients in a specific dog treat recipe have a big impact on where you should store the treats, and how long they'll stay fresh.
Recipes which include fruits and/or vegetables tend to stay softer, even once they're completely cool.Treats like this, or soft dog treats in general, will have a shorter lifespan.
You can probably keep them wrapped loosely in a tea towel or muslin cloth (to prevent them getting too soggy) in your larder for a day or two, after that they must go into the refrigerator. As a rule of thumb, you can use an airtight container in the fridge to keep treats like this fresh for a week to ten days maximum. Always look at the treat you're about to give your dog before you pop it in his mouth. If it looks at all suspect (soggy, discolored, moldy), don't feed it to him and throw the remainder out.
Dog treats which contain meat/fish or a meat-based broth or bouillon should be stored in the refrigerator as soon as they're completely cool. Use an airtight container and they should be good for five to seven days that way.
I've found that treats made with gluten free flour (especially if the recipe also contains fruit/vegetables) tend to stay soft and don't store as well, or for as long, as those using wholegrain flour. Keep gluten free treats in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a week (depending on individual recipe) and inspect them regularly to make sure they're not going soggy, or showing any signs of going bad.
If you've used butter or margarine in a dog treat recipe, those treats are likely to spoil a little faster and should be refrigerated.
There are natural preservatives you can use to make your homemade treats last longer. Vitamin C and vitamin E are the most common. You can also buy natural antioxidants and mold inhibitors to use in your recipes but I personally don't think these are necessary unless you're baking treats for commercial reasons and need them to be stable/fresh for longer periods. If you're simply making up a batch of treats for your dog/s, the chances are they're either going to be gobbled up before they have a chance to spoil, or your refrigerator will do the job.
Finally, you can always opt for frozen dog treats which last a LONG time in your freezer. These are a great option for hot summer days, but you can offer them at any time of year. An added bonus is that frozen treats usually only contain two or three ingredients and are a snap to make.
For the majority of homemade dog treat recipes, for the majority of the time, the best storage option is an airtight container in your refrigerator.
This way your creations will stay fresh for longer, saving you money (less waste) and eliminating any worries about treats which may have gone 'off'.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to keep your dog treats for longer than a week or so (for example - your dog can't/shouldn't eat them all that quickly, or you want to make a big batch so you don't have to go through the process again in a week). For longer term storage the best thing to do is to pop the treats into your freezer.
Obviously make sure they're either in an airtight container, or are wrapped tightly in foil, so that they don't get freezer burn. Stored this way most homemade dog treats are good for several months.
Depending on the treat you can either defrost treats completely before offering them to your dog, or give them to him while frozen. Big and/or thick treats are best defrosted first, thinner ones are often enjoyed frozen as they're super crunchy. However, frozen treats don't taste as good as thawed ones do!
You can also freeze uncooked dog treat dough and defrost it to make more treats later on. Why not make up a double-batch of dough to save yourself prep work next time? Or maybe divide a regular recipe in half if your dog is tiny, or you're only offering treats occasionally. Always double-wrap uncooked dough before freezing it and defrost it thoroughly in the refrigerator before using.
Frozen dog treat recipes are also a great way to make sure you always have some tasty goodies on hand, and because they're made specifically to be kept in the freezer they stay edible for an extended period of time.
This is the last, and least important factor when it comes to how you store your homemade dog treats, but it can still play a role. So can seasonally changing temperatures.
Perhaps you live somewhere that's very hot, but your A/C is super-efficient and you like to keep your home temperature at around 65F (brrrr!). In this situation treats which are normally okay to store in the larder for a few days will be just fine.
But what if your A/C isn't that great, or perhaps you don't have A/C and there's a heat-wave, in these cases you need to put your treats into the refrigerator because they'll spoil faster than normal in a warm environment. If it's also humid, that's even worse for them.
Of course, if you live somewhere cold (or it's the middle of winter) and your heating is keeping your house at a toasty 75F at all times, then treats are still better off in the fridge!
Finally, light can also play a role in treat storage because bright sunlight is going to make those goodies spoil faster than they would otherwise. This is why keeping your treats in an airtight container in the larder or pantry (which is naturally dark most of the time) is the best option outside of the refrigerator.