What is a Snuffle Mat?

Filed in Dog Products on October 31, 2021

what is a snuffle matSnuffle mats are a fun diversion for your dog. In fact, many dog trainers and pet parents swear by them because of the benefits they can provide your dog.

But what is a snuffle mat? Short answer: these mats are a mentally stimulating toy/game where treats are hidden inside strands of cloth for your dog to sniff and search for food.

In the article below, I’ll tell you all you need to know about snuffle mats. I’ll explore their benefits, safety precautions, and maintenance to help you decide whether or not you want to introduce them to your dog.

What is a Snuffle Mat for Dogs?

Awoof Pet Snuffle Mat

Awoof Pet Snuffle Mat (travel version)

A snuffle mat is a mentally stimulating toy/game used to encourage your dog to sniff and forage for food. Treats are hidden throughout the mat within strands of cloth for your dog to sniff and eat.

Some pet parents even hide entire meals in them to burn off extra energy and mentally stimulate their dog.

Snuffle mats are one of my top recommended toys for bored dogs.

They can be purchased already formed or created at home. Fleece strips are tied to a plastic base with holes to create space where you can hide treats. Homemade snuffle mats can be made by tying fleece strips to the holes in a rubber sink mat.

How does a Snuffle Mat Work?

Snuffle mats work because treats and other food can be hidden among the tangle of fleece strips. This forces your dog to use their sense of smell to find their food. Your dog’s sense of smell is crucial.

Dogs often investigate the world around them by sniffing. This is why dogs like activities that force them to use their sniffing and foraging skills.

The first time you use your dog’s snuffle mat, loosely hide a few treats in the mat. Stay with your dog and encourage them to sniff out treats. If your dog is chewing instead of sniffing and foraging, remove the mat and try another time.

Your dog will learn that the mat means they get to sniff out treats or snacks. To help your dog learn, use it twice a day for the first few days. As your dog learns the activity, hide the treats deeper in the mat.

Some pet parents provide entire meals for their dogs on it. Your dog burns as many calories in fifteen minutes of using a snuffle mat as they would during a whole hour of walking.

Ditching the bowl in favor of a snuffle mat is a great way to keep your dog engaged and excited about their meals. It’s also a great way to encourage fast eaters to slow down.

When the snuffle mat is not in use, ensure it is put away somewhere your dog can’t reach it. It’s important to always supervise your dog when using one, since small pieces may come off and pose a choking hazard.

Keeping your mat in good repair and supervising your dog can mitigate these risks.

4 Benefits of a Snuffle Mat

Toy Poodle searching for treats in snuffle mat

My Toy Poodle searching for treats in snuffle mat

Snuffle mats aren’t just a fun diversion for your dog. They provide several benefits for your dog. Below are four of the greatest benefits of using a snuffle mat with your dog.

1. It can be helpful in obedience training.

Snuffle mats are great for obedience training. Help reinforce commands like “sit” and “stay” as you set up the snuffle mat. Because your dog will love sniffing for treats, the snuffle mat can be a powerful incentive to follow out commands.

You can also use your snuffle mat after working on obedience training. Once your dog has successfully completed the exercises for the day, pull out the snuffle mat and hide some treats.

Verbal praise and fun treats often help the progression of your dog’s training.

2. Your dog will get much-needed mental stimulation.

When considering your dog’s exercise needs, mental exercise is just as vital as physical exercise. It can help burn off energy if your dog is hyperactive.

The mental stimulation can also reduce stress and make your dog happier, even after they’re done with the snuffle mat.

When your dog is mentally stimulated, they’re also less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Keeping them physically and mentally stimulated with a snuffle mat is a great way to curb bad behaviors.

3. They can slow down eating if your dog eats too fast.

Eating too fast can cause bloating and stomach pain in your dog. Additional problems like vomiting, diarrhea, and regurgitation are common among dogs who eat too fast.

Snuffle mats force your dog to search for their food between bites. This helps your dog slow down while eating, which may improve digestive issues.

4. It can help them develop sniffing and foraging skills.

Dogs have an innate ability to use their noses to find things. However, their skills in sniffing and foraging can be developed by regularly using a snuffle mat.

If your dog needs to be able to sniff and find things (in their capacity as a working dog), a snuffle mat may be a helpful training tool.

Snuffle Mat Precautions

Although there are relatively few risks of using a snuffle mat, it’s important to take necessary precautions to ensure your dog’s safety.

Make sure you supervise your dog while using a snuffle mat. If your dog flips the mats or bites at the pieces when they’re done, this could pose a choking hazard.

Your dog should sniff out and consume the food hidden in the mat only. If your dog bites at the fleece, redirect this behavior or remove the mat for use another day.

You should also make sure the snuffle mat is put away between uses. Once your dog is done foraging, put away the mat to discourage rough play or chewing the mat itself.

Do not leave a snuffle mat in your dog’s crate while you’re away. While mental puzzles can be helpful for dogs with separation anxiety, loose pieces of fleece can be a choking hazard.

Snuffle Mat Maintenance

A key component of snuffle mat safety is maintenance. It’s important to make sure your snuffle mat is adequately maintained to reduce risks of choking or illness.

Your snuffle mat should be cleaned regularly. Before washing, shake the snuffle mat to discard any crumbs from your dog’s food. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean your dog’s snuffle mat at least once a week.

If you use the mat regularly, you may want to wash it twice a week to remove bacteria and discourage pests.

After use, your snuffle mat may begin to break. Repair or replace snuffle mats with shredded or loose pieces of fleece. Even if your dog doesn’t chew on their snuffle mat, damaged fleece is more likely to break off and create risks for your pup.

Conclusion

Snuffle mats create great mental stimulation for your dog. Whether you use them as part of your dog’s training or as a fun activity, they can provide various benefits to your dog.

If your dog eats too fast, using one at mealtimes can force them to slow down.

Although snuffle mats are relatively safe to use, it’s essential to take care of the mat and practice safety precautions. You should never leave it alone with your dog, since loose fleece pieces can be a choking hazard.

With supervised use, this stimulating activity can be a great part of your dog’s routine!

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