With Canine Enrichment becoming a staple in many pet owning households, you may have heard whispers of the magic Snuffle Mat. Here's a basic guide on what they are, why they're beneficial, and where you can find them!
What is a Snuffle Mat?
A snuffle mat is made specifically to entice dogs into sniffing and foraging. Usually created with fleece strips tied to a plastic base with holes in it, Snuffle Mats create a space where treats are easily hidden. The hidden treats encourage nose work and natural canine foraging tendencies.
Why use a Snuffle Mat?
A dog's sense of smell is in between 10,000 and 100,000 times more prominent than that of a human, and it's one of the ways dogs interpret the world around them. Using snuffle mats allows your dog to decode what's in front of them with their nose. This can:
Provide mental stimulation.
Encourage slower eating habits.
Initiate sniffing and foraging centers of the brain, which are pleasurable for the dog.
Create mental stimulation for dogs on restricted exercise.
Where can I find one?
There are some fantastic shops that create homemade snuffle mats. If you're a bit more crafty, you can create your own. Here's a quick tutorial on how to DIY a snuffle mat:
While you can find snuffle mats on Amazon, I recommend checking out small shops like Mrs. Dolittle's Designs (located in Canada) who creates handmade snuffle mats and snuffle balls. They're unique and can be made in custom patterns and colors to your liking! #ShopSmall
Located in the US? Try the Magic Princess Whitney shop, who sells elaborate handmade snuffle and foraging mats out of Nebraska. How beautiful are these?
Tips and Tricks
Ditch the Bowl with Your Snuffle Mat
Ditching the bowl is a great way to keep your pup engaged and excited about their meals. Try feeding portions of your dogs meals in snuffle mats a few times a week, and watch how excited they get whenever their snuffle mat gets taken out.
Will Your Dog Not Calm Down? Use your Snuffle Mat for Mental Exercise
I was mind boggled when I read that 15 minutes of sniffing uses as many calories as an hours walk. So, think of your snuffle mat as a small mental treadmill from now on!
As many recent studies have found, mental exercise can be just as important as physical exercise when it comes to our dogs' routines. It lessens hyperactivity, lowers stress, can deter destructive behavior, and can make your dog overall happier. Isn't that what we're all trying to do for our furry companions?
Professional dog trainer Nicole Ellis explains in her article A Mentally Stimulated Dog Is a Happy Dog:
"Mental fatigue makes dogs (and humans) feel more physically tired than a physical effort alone. You can use this bit of science to help your dog get to what she wants most — a nice long nap."
So, the next time your dog is showing signs of hyperactivity or boredom, whip out that snuffle mat and provide some calm mental stimulation. The act of sniffing will lower their pulse rate and help them relax.
Prior to putting your snuffle mat in the wash, shake it out and use your fingers to comb through any bits your dog may have left behind. Most snuffle mats are machine washable and can be washed on a delicate low heat cycle with a mild detergent, followed by a tumble dry on low heat (or hung to air dry).
Wash your snuffle mat regularly to avoid bacteria build up (I try to wash mine once a week), but individual cleaning frequency can vary based on ingredients used and how often you use them.
*Tip: If you purchase a snuffle mat from a vendor, touch base to see their cleaning tips and tricks as they can differ based on the make.
Creating Boundaries & Teaching Proper Use
Another great tip when it comes to the snuffle mat is to create boundaries to ensure your dog gets the most out of their snuffle mat. For example, I always put my snuffle mats away once the dogs are finished foraging to discourage any rough play with the mats.
Like anything else, your snuffle mat should only be used when you're around to watch your dog use it. Certain dogs when finished foraging will flip the mats or try and tear at the fleece pieces, so making sure you're there to supervise and stop this behavior will ensure that your snuffle mat lasts more than a few meals. If your dog pulls at the fleece, redirect this behavior so that they know how to use the snuffle mat the correct way.
Things you can use in your Snuffle Mats:
Dry treats of any kind
Dog friendly herbs such as chopped parsley or mint
Veggies or fruit such as chopped carrot, apple, green beans, or broccoli
Unable to find a snuffle mat? You can also make DIY puzzles using old towels and blankets, like the ones we talk about here.
Now, that you've got the complete rundown on Snuffle Mats, let's Let Them Sniff!