We meet Debora Robertson who created Dogs' Dinners - a cookbook for dogs!
Paws up if you cook for your dog?
I’m guilty - I was inspired by my mum who cooked for our gorgeous Cocker Spaniel Charlie and he lived to the grand old age of 16.
When Daisy was poorly and needed medication - this was every day in the last few months - I made meals like chicken casserole, a doggy cottage pie and turkey and rice to make it more palatable but my creations were pretty basic!
But we have some great news if, like me, you slave over a hot stove for your fur pal because Debora Robertson has a brilliant new book called Dogs’ Dinners packed with meals you can share with your pet!
It all started when journalist Debora met another dog owner in a park who cooked for her pup. She rolled her eyes and even went home and said to husband Sean, 'If I ever start baking for my dog, shoot me!'
But the woman's words played on her mind and soon Debora was cooking for her dog Barney, a Border Terrier, now 11.
She spoke to her vet, read up on canine nutrition and came up with scores of recipes for him to enjoy - and for the rest of her family. Debora has another dog now too, Gracie, a 10-month-old Dandie Dinmont Terrier.
After sharing her crazy dog lady story in the Daily Telegraph and on This Morning, she was inundated with other owners relieved to hear they weren’t alone and she got a book deal!
Dogs’ Dinners is full of fab recipes, from Christmas Dinner to kibble, biscuits, Shepherd’s Pie (my fave) and even puppy smoothies and porridge.
It’s really inspiring for anyone looking to go gourmet for their furry friend. Debora spoke to us about her journey into becoming a top canine cook!
- Main photo by Andrew Rowsley. This post contains an affiliate link.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Cinzia Zenocchini with over 50 recipes for dogs!
What inspired you to start cooking for your dogs?
I started out by making a few treats, especially the Doggy Breath Bones, and then moved on to making full meals.
I cook for everyone who comes into my orbit, so it seemed a natural development to cook for my lovely dogs who give me so much pleasure.
How did you learn what to use in your recipes?
I did a lot of research into what they could and couldn’t eat and tailored my recipes around that.
I stick to a ratio of about 70 per cent meat, 20 per cent vegetables and fruit and the rest made up with healthy grains, eggs and a bit of live yoghurt.
Have you always been an adventurous cook?
My main job is writing about food for humans and creating recipes, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to start cooking for my dogs too.
Was it easy?
Yes, it’s really easy. All of the recipes are built around the sort of meat and vegetables and other bits and pieces I have in the kitchen anyway – no weird ingredients!
And all of the recipes are super simple, as like everyone else these days, I am busy and don’t have time for a lot of faff!
The book shares what you need in your pup pantry! Illustration by Cinzia Zenocchini
Have you seen a change in your dogs since cooking for them?
They certainly look forward to meal times more!
Before I started cooking for Barney (I’ve always cooked for Gracie), I would put down some dried kibble and he might leave it for an hour or so – he just wasn’t that interested in it.
Now he leaps on his food the minute I put it down. Gracie eats so fast I had to get her one of those puzzle bowls with a sort of maze in the bottom so she really has to slow down and work for it.
Do your friends come for dinner hoping for a gourmet meal for their dogs?
I always take special doggy treats to my friends’ houses if they have dogs.
I have catered dog birthday parties and even a dog wedding – people really seem to enjoy the idea of it!
What's your personal favourite?
Most of the dishes can be adapted for humans with some seasoning – I did this because who has the time to make separate meals?
Some of my friends with small children even give their little ones the unadulterated dog recipes as they are nutritious and contain no sugar or salt.
Personally, we love the turkey and quinoa meatballs seasoned with salt and some chilli, served with a yoghurt and mint dipping sauce.
I’m particularly fond of the sweet potato and sardine bake just as it is, served with a nice green salad. It makes a great, simple lunch.
Turkey and Quinoa Meatballs - Illustration by Cinzia Zenocchini
And for Barney and Gracie?
They looooove the liver and cranberry brownies, one of the few recipes you probably don’t want to eat yourself.
It makes a great training reward cut up into little squares.
And the lamb and millet casserole is always a firm favourite at dinner time for them.
We humanise our pets more than ever which is brilliant! Since talking about your cookbook for dogs have you found more people are doing the same?
When I first wrote about cooking for my dog I was inundated with tweets and emails from readers ‘confessing’ to cooking for their dogs and happy to come clean, relieved they weren’t the only ones.
I think lots of people are cooking for their dogs now. I suppose it’s just an extension of becoming more and more aware of the link between what we eat and health.
Lots of commercial dog food is full of cheap carbs and other fillers and the meat content is quite low.
What's your advice for making more adventurous doggy dishes?
Start quite simply, with some snacks and then try a few meals with a high meat content, simply cooked.
It really is easy and once you get started, the reaction of your dogs who absolutely love what you’re giving them will spur you on to try more dishes.
Some people will go on to making homemade food for their dogs every day and some will combine it with bought food and that’s fine too.
What is the most rewarding part about creating your own dishes?
I think when you welcome a dog into your life, you take on the responsibility for giving them as happy and healthy a life as you can.
For me the reward is seeing them enjoy their food so much. Both of my dogs have lots of energy and lovely coats and teeth, which is a great barometer of good health.
Do you have nice feedback from pet parents?
Friends who have tried the recipes on their own dogs have given me great feedback.
I’m delighted to think that my food is making dogs and their owners happy.
Feeding time is such a great opportunity to build up that special bond between you and your dog and I hope my recipes will help.
Dogs's Dinners: The healthy, happy way to feed your dog, is available now (Pavilion Books, £9.99) here.
It's so inspiring hearing the happiness Debora's meals bring to her pups and you can do the same!
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If you enjoyed this story, you might like How Christine created Three Pugs Gin after rescuing her three dogs or Meet Monty Dogge, the Newfoundland with his own range of children's books.