If you’re reading this, chances are you’re relatively new to dog enrichment and may have heard a lot about lick mats but aren’t quite sure what they are or whether they are right for your dog. If so, this guide is for you.
Today we’re talking about dog lick mats - what they are, the benefits of using one and the different types of dog lick mats available. You’ll also get some ideas and inspiration on what to fill your lick mat with, plus some handy tips and tricks to help you.
What is a dog licky mat?
Dog licky mats are little rubber feeders that have patterns and grooves across their surface, which you can fill with a variety of foods and treats. They encourage licking behaviour as the unique maze of textures and grooves across their surface traps food that dogs have to lick to obtain their meal or treat.
Lick mats are super versatile in that they are suitable for spreading a whole range of dog food and treats such as wet dog food, purees, runny treats, softer pate treats or any other dog-friendly spreadable treat. Simply, spread or drizzle your dog's favourite treat onto the textured surface and serve to your dog to lick up.
Benefits of dog licky mats
Mental and sensory enrichment: Enrichment can really help to direct your pup to more positive activities and tire them mentally so they can find their inner calm.
Promote calm behaviour: Licking has a soothing, calming effect on them and can help them dispose of any pent up excitement.
Makes them feel good: Licking is a natural dog behaviour and releases endorphins in your dog's brain - their natural feel-good hormones.
Helps relieve boredom: It’s not always possible to engage in a game or take your dog for a walk when they decide they’re bored and want to play! Lick mats can be a brilliant go-to when you can’t give your dog the attention they crave.
Helps reduce stress and anxiety: Licking is comforting and soothing which helps reduce stress and anxiety during events such as thunderstorms or fireworks or during necessary care routines such as bathing, grooming or nail trimming.
Slows down eating: Does your dog scoff down their food in record time? Eating too fast can lead to dangerous conditions such as bloat. Lick mats can act as a slow feeder to slow down speed eaters.
Training aid: They can be used as a training aid to create positive associations in a variety of scenarios such as crate training or even vet visits. They also help redirect excited behaviour helping dogs calm down and settle.
Types of dog licky mats
There are a variety of lick mat brands and designs available, all of which have unique patterns and designs. Let’s take a look at some of them.
SodaPup eMat - Bone, Jigsaw, Honey, Zombie
The SodaPup eMats boast a whole range of unique patterns. Their designs are colourful and fun featuring bone, jigsaw, honeycomb and zombie designs.
LickiMat Classic - Buddy, Playdate, Soother
These are the original dog lick mat. The Classic range features three designs: LickiMat Buddy, Playdate and Soother. The LickiMat Buddy features a raised cross design and the LickMat Playdate features a square pattern design. The LickiMat Soother has what LickiMat call a brush tip design which resembles an array of raised dots.
LickiMat Tuff - Buddy, Playdate, Soother
The LickiMat Tuff range is similar to the LickiMat Classic range in that they feature the same patterns but in a tougher, more durable format.
The LickiMat Slomo features a similar tough and durable format to the LickiMat Tuff range but has a different layout and design.
The LickiMat Wobble is a unique bowl-shaped lick mat with a round bottom that exhibits an unpredictable wobble movement during use, making for more challenging enrichment.
The LickiMat Splash lick mat sticks to vertical surfaces, making it perfect for stress-free bathing and grooming.
Dog lick mat ideas
There are a variety of healthy and dog-safe ingredients you can use for filling your dog's lick mats. Have fun and experiment! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Kibble soaked in water
- Wet food
- Raw food (mince, chunks, sprats, eggs)
Fruits (Mashed or Pureed)
Vegetables (Mashed or Pureed)
- Butternut squash
- Xylitol free peanut butter
- Plain natural yoghurt
- Baby food (check the ingredients are dog-safe)
- Bone broth (learn how to make your own bone broth here)
- Goats milk
Dog licky mat tips and tricks
Freeze to prolong use: You can put licking mats in the freezer to freeze the contents; this makes them last longer and extends enrichment sessions.
Fill lick mats with ease: Use a condiment or squeeze bottle to fill lick mats quickly and with ease - just make sure you’re using a relatively smooth treat for this to work.
Dogs who pick up or flip mats: To help stop mat flipping you can put the lick mat in a baking tray or pan.
Dogs who chew mats: Teach appropriate lick mat use and do not allow your dog to chew the mat; redirect any chewing behaviour and encourage them to lick the mat instead. Always supervise, and once finished remove the mat.
Cleaning lick mats: The key to easy cleaning is to soak your lick mats in warm, soapy water as soon as possible after use before the contents dry up and weld themselves onto the mat. Follow up with a good scrub with a scrubbing brush. Most lick mats are also dishwasher safe but always check that the specific brand you have is in fact dishwasher safe.
Supervise and remove after use: Always provide supervision when your dog has any enrichment toy. We also recommend removing enrichment toys after use to discourage chewing or destructive behaviours.
How long to freeze a lick mat
The ideal freezing time for a lick mat can vary depending on your dog's preferences and the ingredients you're using.
However, as a general guideline, if you're using soft, wet ingredients like yoghurt, pureed fruit, peanut butter or bone broth-based mixtures, you can freeze the lick mat for around 1-2 hours.
For firmer ingredients like meat, you may need to extend the freezing time to 2-4 hours or overnight.
A shorter freezing time will provide a firm but not rock-solid consistency that's easier for your dog to enjoy and perfect for dogs who are newer to lick mats. A longer freeze time creates a harder texture, which is more challenging for your dog and takes longer to eat.
The key is experimenting with different freezing times, observing how your dog interacts with the lick mat, and adjusting to your dog's skill level.