Dogs can be energetic creatures—and the younger they are, the more energy they have to burn. If dogs are like children, as adults, we can’t always match their energy. Sometimes we simply haven’t the time, especially if we’re working remotely.
Image: Stylish Hound
So, let’s say you’re at home and you have a bored dog scratching around, chewing up slippers, or generally hounding you—pun intended. You’re sitting at your computer, trying to work, but they’re being relentless. At least all a cat will do is sit on your keyboard (which, let’s be real, you can totally work around).
First things first: if your dog is behaving like this a lot, you may not be walking them enough. As a general rule, dogs need between half an hour to two hours’ worth of exercise per day, with smaller breeds needing 30 to 60 minutes, and larger breeds needing one to two hours. If a lack of exercise isn’t the issue, then perhaps a snuffle mat could be the solution.
What is a snuffle mat?
A snuffle mat is your dog’s three favorite things—food, play, and sleep—merged into one. Made from ruffled fabric layers and a plastic sink mat with holes, a snuffle mat is an enrichment tool providing dogs with mental and physical stimulation. The ruffled fabric layers form loose strands of cloth, under which you hide pieces of kibble. You may see where this is going.
How do you use a snuffle mat?
Like their wolf ancestors, dogs are hardwired to follow their noses to food. Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in the nose, compared to six million in human noses. By hiding pieces of kibble beneath the cloth layers, you’re appealing to your dog’s foraging instincts. They’re in for hours of fun, sniffing out their favorite treats, and moving their bodies as they do so.
Usually, we present our dogs with their meals on a literal silver platter. Though there is nothing wrong with this, it does remove the ‘chase’ traditionally associated with mealtime in the wild. Snuffle mats keep canine bodies and mental faculties sharp. They also allow for slow feeding, which will slow digestion and help dogs to better absorb their nutrients. (Plus, Doggo can have a snooze on the mat after woofing down their hard-earned grub!)
It is a pretty cosy place for a rest! Image: Stylish Hound
Though they are a distraction tool, always ensure to supervise your dog as they’re interacting with the snuffle mat. You wouldn’t want your dog to start mouthing it or to ‘christen’ it once playtime’s over.
What do you put in a snuffle mat?
Kibble, usually. If your dog is not a ‘kibble’ dog, try some air-dried dog food or dog-friendly, dehydrated jerky. Just break it up into bits and distribute it like you would pieces of kibble! As a general rule, just use anything your dog will eat, provided it’s dry. (So don’t, for example, smear peanut butter throughout your snuffle mat. Save that for the lick mat.)
Did you just say ‘lick mat’?
Sure did! And that’s an alternate slow-feeding tool. In a nutshell, these are segmented silicone mats. Fill these mats with your dog’s favourite food and watch them lick every last nook and cranny. Like snuffle mats, they slow digestion and provide mental stimulation. The food will just be immediately in front of them and there will be zero nasal-based detection work involved. Both tools are good for different reasons, and there’s nothing stopping you from buying both!
Image: Stylish Hound
Are snuffle mats safe?
For the most part, yes! That being said, always supervise your dog whilst they’re using the snuffle mat. They may try to eat or chew the mat, and we can’t have that. Pack it up once they’ve found all the treats.
Anything else to add?
Not really! The only real way to learn more is by buying one to see how Doggy responds. They may just love it—and you just may, too. Maybe it will bring you joy to see your dog light up and revel in their natural instincts. Maybe you’ll be happy you can kick back and finally get some work done. Maybe you’ll decide you’re more Team Lick Mat. Wherever you’re at, you’ve got nothing to lose. Buy a snuffle mat and see if goes down with your dog as well as their food does.