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My dog Walter, a spunky Dachshund, can be described as having two settings: on and off. To say he has energy is an understatement. Among the parade of toys, puzzles, and chews I’ve tried to keep him busy, one product stands head and shoulders above the rest: my Paw5 Snuffle Mat.
You’ve probably heard of snuffle mats by now—they’re the latest solution to everything from speed eating and lack of appetite to boredom and anxiety. Like puzzle toys, these soft mats engage a dog’s mind, encouraging them to search through ruffles or under flaps of fabric for food and treats.
With curled strips of felt extending in every direction, the Paw5 Snuffle Mat looks like a shaggy rag rug. The basic concept is pretty simple, but it’s really, really good at keeping Walter busy, and my 13-year old dog, Bruiser, loves it too. Plus, it’s machine washable, sustainably and ethically made with upcycled materials, and pet-safe.
The Paw5 Snuffle Mat has been a hit with my pack—but will it work for all dogs?
How the Paw5 Snuffle Mat Works
The Paw5 Snuffle Mat is, compared to many of the options out there, a no-frills snuffle mat. It comes in a single color (gray), and the long strips of fabric aren’t arranged into a cute design like some you’ll find on the market. Thankfully, dogs aren’t usually too concerned with these particular details.
While the mat is unassuming in its design, with an abundance of felt strips sewn into a sturdy backing to create a sea-anemone effect, this dense shag is perfect for hiding treats.
The mat is 18 inches long and 12 inches wide. It’s small enough for easy storage and transport, but big enough for dogs of all sizes. Smaller dogs might even find it cozy as a bed. Plus, it’s made from non-toxic materials, so you don’t have to worry about what your dog might be exposed to while rooting around.
My Paw5 Snuffle Mat has survived hours of play (something not all mats can boast). Best of all, you can toss it in the washing machine to clean it—a necessity given all the drool and crumbs that get buried deep between its fibers.
Many dog parents love the Paw5 Snuffle Mat for slowing down speed eaters and pups who cruise through dinner so fast they’re at risk of losing it. Others like them as distraction toys to keep a dog happy and occupied while something unpleasant happens (like grooming or vacuuming). Scattering treats among the fabric strips and then giving them a good ruffle with your hands effectively buries snacks for your dog to sniff out. The more treats you hide—and the deeper you push them into the fibers—the longer your dog will be entertained.
The Paw5 Snuffle Mat is also a nice enrichment tools that offers dogs of all ages much-needed mental stimulation. The section of a dog’s brain devoted to smell is 40 times larger than the corresponding section in a human brain and takes up more processing power than even our sense of sight. That makes sniffing games and nose work some of the best forms of entertainment for a bored pup.
Results: The Paw5 Snuffle Mat Calms My Energetic Pup—and Engages My Senior Dog Too
For me, the Paw5 Snuffle Mat has been an answer to Walter’s excitability and an integral part of my efforts to encourage calm, focused behavior through nose work. What I like best is the opportunity the snuffle mat presents for training. With it, I’m teaching Walter to use his brain and his hunting instincts. We use “find it” as our nose work cue, and it helps him burn off energy—something I’m particularly grateful for when our walks are shorter due to busy schedules and weather. Any tool that encourages natural foraging skills is perfect for our pack.
My older dog, Bruiser, also loves the Paw5 Snuffle Mat. Since his walks are a little shorter due to achy joints, the mat gives him the opportunity to fit in some much-needed sniffing time and cognitive stimulation—an important part of keeping him healthy.
Just ten minutes a day with a puzzle toy like a snuffle mat can make a huge difference for an older dog, especially a pup showing signs of cognitive dysfunction or dementia. Variety and interest are key—and a snuffle mat accommodates the need to change things up. It can take a wide range of treats, chews, and even soft veggies. Bruiser is a particular fan of snuffling for baby carrots.
That flexibility is the other reason I love my snuffle mat. My dogs have tried and enjoyed a lot of puzzle toys and interactive tools over the years, but I have to rotate them on a weekly basis or my pups get bored. Only the snuffle mat stays in the rotation every week—an unbeatable perennial favorite.
Walter and Bruiser’s Tips for Snuffle Mat Success
My dogs have taught me a few things about using a snuffle mat to the greatest possible effect. First, while you can easily just throw kibble or treats on top of the mat, “hiding” treats in the mat makes it more challenging and offers greater interest. You can use your fingers to work the treats deep into the mat’s folds to give your pup a harder time. Unsurprisingly, Walter needs the ultimate challenge.
It’s also a good idea to break your treats into tiny pieces. Small morsels scattered throughout the mat are harder to find than big ones, and they’ll extend the length of the game.
I recommend monitoring play with a snuffle mat, especially as you introduce it. I caught Walter starting to chew on the snuffle mat’s fleece once, which he would have ingested at some point. Parents of committed chewers should be cautious.
It’s also a good idea to watch out for territorial behavior if more than one dog is present. My dogs need to play these enrichment games separately so nobody gets “guardy.” They’re very good about waiting their turn behind the dog gate—but not so good about sharing.
Final Verdict: The Paw5 Snuffle Mat Is a Versatile Puzzle Toy for Many Dogs
As my dogs have shown, the Paw5 Snuffle Mat is an effective in helping pups and pet parents meet a variety of needs—and it’s fun too. The snuffle mat is great for:
- Older or mobility-challenged dogs who need mental stimulation without a lot of physical movement
- Speed-eaters known to race through meal time
- Anxious pups who simply need a distraction or an outlet for their nervous energy
- Energetic dogs with a lot of energy to burn
- Working dogs who need a “job” to do, even if that job is finding their dinner
Still, a snuffle mat may not work for every dog, including:
- Heavy chewers who would rather destroy the mat than snuffle in it
- Dogs who aren’t particularly nose-curious or food-motivated
- Playful pups who will shake the mat, flinging treats across the room
- Easily bored pups who need a variety of creative challenges to stay engaged and sharp
For these dogs, another snuffle mat, a traditional puzzle toy, or even a simple lick mat might be a better alternative to keep them busy and engaged. For my dogs, though, the this simple mat is well worth it, especially when the weather turns colder and walks get shorter. While there are plenty of interactive puzzle toys to choose from, the Paw5 Snuffle Mat does the trick.