Interactive feeder toys are great for mental stimulation and dual as a slow feeder. These include your stuffable Kong, wobble feeders, and my dog’s current favorite: the snuffle mat. These toys get your dog to work for his food, no freebies here. Can’t go on your 3 mile run because you’ve caught the flu? Set up a snuffle mat and watch your dog search away! Remember: a bored dog doesn’t sleep!
Why Snuffle Mats?
Imagine you’re out on a walk with your dog. When your dog finds lush grass, those snuffling sounds from your dog’s nose going to town is so satisfying! I know my Shiba Loki loves it because he ignores everything else just to sniff away. The snuffle mat emulates the grass to bring out the natural foraging behavior our dogs have.
Snuffle mats come in many shapes, sizes, and colors which is perfect: just like us, dogs need variety and it’s possible to become bored once they “get the game”.
By Etsy Shop DesignsByDamia
You can also DIY your own for a thrifty project. Just pick out some fun fleece and a hard mat with holes like a sink mat. Cut strips and start tying. Once you get the hang of it, go crazy and really customize your mats by adding pockets, folds, and more.
By Tessa Savelkoel from Puzzle Dog
How do I introduce a Snuffle Mat?
Properly introducing new concepts to your dog is often overlooked. Show your dog how to play with a snuffle mat. It is not a tug or chew toy. To teach this, put the mat away when the food is gone.
My favorite way to introduce the mat is at meal time. Your dog’s brain is set to FOOD and his nose is ON. Sprinkle some food or use dried treats on top of the mat first. This makes the game easy and prevents frustration so your dog doesn’t give up. Naturally, their nose will push some food further into the crevices. Once you see them start digging further, you can try pushing treats further in next time.
It’s normal if your dog wants to bites and chew the mat but make sure to intercept immediately. I had to do this a few times when Loki was a tiny puppy. If you see them starting to bite the fleece, remove the mat out of sight for a few seconds. And return it to let them try again.
Will my dog like it?
An easy way to see if your dog may enjoy a mat is to just toss some treats in a high pile rug or in grass. I like to use something really stinky and irresistible like my Real Dog Chicken Heart treats. Hide them when they’re not looking and see what happens!
Has your dog gotten the game? Remember variety is the spice of life. Maybe have the more boring biscuits and kibble on top, but stuff those high value chicken liver treats at the bottom.
Have treats arranged at different heights. Set a lightweight box or towel on top of the mat to add a layer of difficulty. Challenge your dog and you’ll find snuffle mats and other scent games tire them out quickly!