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Now that I’m working at home full time, I’m surrounded by my two senior gals, Shirley the pug and my dachshund Prissy, along with my young Boston terrier, Olive, who are all bored, constantly seeking my attention, and won’t play with any of the millions of Kongs and chews in the house. A few weeks ago I heard about lick mats for dogs on Instagram (of all places) and thought they could be a helpful solution to keep my dogs occupied while I try to work.
They seemed simple to use but enough of a curiosity to dogs that even my golden girls, who have lost interest in most of their toys over the years, might give them a try.
Lick mats are a type of enrichment toy for dogs and cats, like puzzle toys. These mats come in various shapes and sizes, and the concept is designed for you to apply a dog-friendly snack, like peanut butter, soft banana, or yogurt to the mat to encourage your dog to lick it up. Some are designed as slow feeders and hold kibble to help slow down dogs who hoover their meals. The most widely recognized brand of lick mats is Hyper Pet.
Food-motivated dogs will become determined to lick up the last bit of treat or extract the very last kibble, while the repetitive licking provides a calming effect that is generally soothing to dogs and can also be helpful to distract pets from anxiety-inducing situations, such as thunderstorms and fireworks.
And, of course, the toy simply keeps pets busy for a while as it helps to stave off boredom.
I tried two different styles with my pets, and here’s what I thought.
Olive taking over for Prissy cleaning up the remaining peanut butter on the Calm lick mat.
You can buy these two lick mats for dogs separately or as a set; I have both and recommend each of them.
I’ve found each provides a challenge for my senior dogs. The main difference is the texture on the mat, and how the pattern itself holds the snack. The “Calm” style is a tighter pattern, while the “Reward” is a deeper pattern; and with four sections, both hold peanut butter, our preferred treat, or any other dog-approved snack really well.
Both also kept my dogs’ interest piqued: When our paralyzed dachshund has licked all she can, our Boston terrier swoops in as the cleanup crew. With food on the line, I found these lick mats retained my dogs’ attention anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes.
If you’re considering one, the one one that’s right for you depends on the treat you apply to the mat, and even the shape of your dog’s tongue. In general, I found that my dogs worked a little harder to get the peanut butter out of the Reward’s tricky corners.
At 8 inches square, they’re made of food-grade rubber, clean up quickly in the sink (or dishwasher!), and can be easily stored when not in use. You can also put them in the microwave if warm treats are enticing to your pet.
Do they stay in place or slide around? They’re made of grippy silicone, so I found they stayed put equally well on carpet and laminate. And, at least for my small, three dog crew, they’re not messy, as long as you use something like peanut butter or canned food and feed reasonable, breed and age-appropriate portions.
Note of caution: You’ll want to do your research if your dog is an aggressive chewer; while my dogs are determined, they are small and don’t have the ability to completely annihilate their toys in one session. This is something to keep in mind if your dog regularly destroys toys labeled as “indestructible” or has ever ingested toys or parts of toys not meant to be swallowed.Shop on Amazon
While I haven’t personally tried these mats with my dogs, there are a lot of other lick mats to try. The styles and designs are for different purposes and behaviors in dogs, from keeping your dog preoccupied during a grooming session, to portion controlling his meals. I thought these ones looked promising.
This lick mat for dogs option offers enhanced versatility, allowing you to use it on shower walls or anywhere else that allows for a suction cup grip (which would be great for grooming or during bath time).
It’s slightly smaller than the ones I tried but still provides the same challenge, and I like that this one can be used specifically for grooming, which can be stressful or bring on anxiety for a lot of dogs.Shop on Amazon
This option provides the challenge of a lick mat and puzzle toy in one. Since this bowl doesn’t sit flat and wobbles, dogs have to work a little harder to get all of the goodies off of the inside.Shop on Amazon
I’m really glad I discovered these lick mats! You can’t beat the price (together, both of mine were around $15), and the fact that my 17-year-old paralyzed dachshund loves the lick mat as much as my one-year-old Boston terrier has me completely sold—and getting a lot more work done, too.
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