If you’re looking for a great way to entertain your dog for a low price, look no further than a DIY snuffle mat for dogs! Also known as a sniff mat or an enrichment mat, this activity is perfect to help slow down feeding or provide your dog with some quality nose work when you’re unable to go outside or want to entertain your pup for a bit.
What is a snuffle mat? A snuffle mat is any object that allows your dog to use their nose to sniff or forage for rewards, typically dog food or treats. While you can buy snuffle mats pre-made, they can get expensive. It is straightforward to make your own DIY snuffle mat and the supplies are cheap. If you have an old unused blanket or two, it’s even cheaper!
We used snuffle mats frequently when one of our pups, Goomba, was going through his 8 months of various knee injuries. He tore both his CCLs (dog ACLs) and both of his menisci. Options for what we could do to entertain him were pretty low. He is a very active dog and suddenly was restricted to no real activity for months at a time. Goomba was able to lie down and use the snuffle mat to provide some much-needed activity and mental enrichment during his recovery from surgery.
Snuffle mats are one of Prim’s favorite activities, as well! Prim is extremely food-motivated and loves sniffing out kibble or treats that have managed to roll under a couch or table, even without a homemade snuffle mat. This combines one of her favorite activities, using her nose, with her favorite thing, food.
The benefits of nose work
It’s fun for your dog!
This is the most important benefit! The whole purpose of enrichment is for your dog to enjoy an activity and get something beneficial from it. Whether it’s physical activity, learning, mental work, or just interacting with us, our dogs enjoy almost any type of enrichment.
Both of our dogs enjoy any variation of nose work. They are particularly great at sniffing out kibble from various places around the house. Prim has an unbroken streak of being 100% correct when she points out a lost kibble, even if it takes us minutes (or days) to locate what she found. As amusing as this is for us, a DIY snuffle mat is a lot easier way to accomplish the same thing with a lot less furniture moving.
We use snuffle mats frequently, but if you’re looking for other fun indoor activities, check out our article on indoor games your dog will love! We try to mix up our activities so they stay fresh and our pups are excited every time we do one.
Provides mental stimulation
We think this is one of the areas where most dogs could benefit from more work. For example, if your dog spends more energy thinking about how to work a puzzle or trying to find kibble in a snuffle mat, he’ll spend much less energy figuring out what could be fun to chew in your house (like your shoes).
Honestly, we love watching them do enrichment activities, too. Seeing those pup gears start turning when your dog is trying to figure out a puzzle or find something is extremely rewarding as a pet parent. You’ll see different behaviors as they start to problem-solve and every once in a while a weird one that’s good for a laugh.
Besides using a diy snuffle mat, stuffed bones, PVC dog feeders, or lick mats are some other great food-based enrichment. Any similar enrichment activities are also great tools to help crate train your dog.
Perfect for senior or limited mobility dogs
It can be quite challenging to find enrichment activities if your dog is older or not able to move around well. For us, Goomba underwent quite a few surgeries that forced him to have heavily restricted activity for over 6 months. Since all of his favorite activities involve moving around very quickly (playing), we were forced to find other ways to entertain him.
Enter our DIY snuffle mat. After seeing some pups use them online, we thought they would be perfect for our situation with Goomba and he ended up loving it. He could do his mat while lying down, which was perfect for when we needed him to rest and recover. Between this and using a lick mat for frozen recipes, we were able to keep him as entertained as he could be during this time.
If you’re looking for more activities for your pup, check out our DIY dog puzzles guide! About half of them are perfect for mobility restrictions and almost all are great for senior dogs, too!
How to create and use your DIY snuffle mat
Alright, now that we’ve explained the benefits of a snuffle mat, DIY or purchased, let’s get into how to make a DIY snuffle mat!
This project is one of the easier DIYs we’ve written since it doesn’t involve any sewing or special supplies. Let’s get into it!
Gathering the supplies
Fortunately, the supplies for a DIY snuffle mat are quite affordable. You only need two items to make it, an anchor for the fabric strips (sink mat) and some fabric to cut into strips. We had the most luck at our local Walmart to find cheap supplies, but you could find them wherever you prefer to shop. We typically recommend Amazon for products, but these type of low cost products are usually cheaper in person. With that in mind, we’ll provide Amazon links, as well.
- Sink mat (~$5 at Walmart)
- Sink mat (~$6 at Amazon)
- Fabric (~8 at Walmart for 2 throw blankets)
- Fabric (~8 at Amazon for 1 throw blanket)
We used the blankets for material because it is cheaper or the same price as the cut material from the fabric department. As a side note, we also use the same blankets for our dogs since they’re cheap, comfortable, and last a long time. Our dogs love them, especially when they are fresh out of the dryer!
It took us almost 2 (50 x 60 inch) blankets for one DIY snuffle mat.
Creating the snuffle mat
To start, cut the fabric into strips for the snuffle mat. We recommend 4-7 inch length strips depending on your dog’s nose length and level of food motivation. Longer strips typically work better for long-nosed dogs and make the difficulty more challenging for food-motivated dogs. Below is a comparison of 5 to 7 inches for the strips. Using longer strips that flop a bit makes a large difference in the depth and difficulty of the snuffle mat.
Next, cut the strips to the size for the mat. This is the last cutting step, I promise! We do approximately an inch wide (the actual size doesn’t matter as much, but the wider they are, the more fabric you’ll use). Finally, tie the strips in knots around the sink mat. We recommend keeping all the knots on the same side of the mat, so that it sits flat on the ground. We tied one piece of fabric on each section of the material on the mat. It’s a lot easier to go by rows or columns since one side will be open all of the time.
It’s that simple! Keep tying the pieces of fabric until you run out of space. It could take a while, but we finished this DIY snuffle mat in about 2 hours as a screen time break.
How to use your DIY snuffle mat
Using a snuffle mat is simple. Sprinkle some kibble or your treat of choice in the mat and then push them into the fabric so they are under some of the material.
If your pup doesn’t seem to understand the idea or isn’t grasping the concept, you can either leave them on top or barely push them in. If you’re still not having luck, you can always use treats or some smelly food toppers a few times to help your pup understand the idea.
How to clean your DIY snuffle mat
This is one of the best parts of a snuffle mat. You can just throw it in the washing machine!
We don’t wash ours after every use (although you could). We let them dry somewhere and then store them after they finish drying. After a few uses, we toss them in the laundry.
Whenever you wash the snuffle mat, we recommend using low-scent or unscented detergent and air-drying. If you don’t have unscented detergent, run it through the washer with water only. It’s for nose work, and we wouldn’t want extremely overpowering scents close to our pups’ noses.
Options to purchase a snuffle mat
Our favorite place to buy dog supplies is Chewy and they are always a great experience to purchase from with fair prices, great promotions, and stellar customer service.
Our favorite snuffle mat is this one from Pet Parents at Chewy! This design has been our pups’ favorites and we find it is dense enough to hide kibble well while still being resilient enough to handle a more vigorous pup. If you’re more of Amazon person, here’s the Pet Parents Snuffle Mat from Amazon.
Nose work, and specifically snuffle mats, are a great option for keeping your pup entertained. The ease of use, mental stimulation, and ease of cleaning make it a fantastic option for older or mobility-restricted dogs. You can make a DIY snuffle mat yourself for around $10 and a little bit of time. The best part? This is a no-sewing DIY!
We’d love to see your DIY snuffle mats or other nose-work activities! Share your photos of your dog using their nose with us on Instagram by tagging @therulybully.