10 Easy Dog Lick Mat Ideas to Entertain Your Pup!

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Here at The Ruly Bully, we love trying to find fun activities to enrich our pups! We believe most pups could benefit from some additional enrichment, even if they already get a lot of exercise. Food-based enrichment is a great way to provide some mental stimulation for your dog and tends to be less hands-on than other forms of enrichment. This makes it great for times when you aren’t able to interact with your pup as much as you would like. Having a range of enrichment ideas available for times when you are occupied will be helpful for you and fun for your pup!

Lick mats are a great way to keep your pup entertained, even if your dog isn’t quite as food-motivated as our Prim. If you’re wondering what to put on a lick mat for dogs, the answer is any dog-safe food! Some last longer than others, but any will give your dog an enriching time licking them off the mat. We’ll be providing our experiences with what lick mats and dog lick mat ideas that work best for our dogs. Your own experience may vary based on your dog’s behavior and preferences, but it should provide a great starting point.

If you’d like some more information on lick mats and why we love them, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Lick Mats! We cover the benefits, types of lick mats, and even how to clean lick mats.

If you have a favorite recipe that we haven’t tried, let us know! We’ll give you a shoutout in our article and you can share your positive experiences with other pup parents.

Benefits of lick mats for dogs

The benefits of lick mats for dogs make them useful for any dog

We commonly hear some variation of the question, “Are lick mats good for dogs?” It’s hard to find a cheaper way to entertain your dog, especially pups who are more food-driven than play-driven, like our Prim.

Our favorite pet health resource, VCA Hospitals, agrees that providing enrichment, such as foraging toys, can help encourage positive behavior while decreasing problem behavior. For instance, if your dog is chewing on a bone or licking a mat, they won’t be chewing on your shoes.

Lick mats can have a variety of positive benefits for your pup. For example, licking and sniffing are associated with calming dogs down by helping to reduce stress and anxiety. These types of activities are a great way to help desensitize your dog to a harness or be calmer in a vehicle. Licking also helps stimulate saliva, which can help reduce plaque and tartar while the lick mat itself can help scrape off bacteria for a fresher-smelling mouth.

We use a lot of the dog lick mat ideas on this list to help entertain our pups if we aren’t able to interact with them, such as when we’re cooking, working out, or on a call. They’re great for older or limited-mobility dogs, as long as you’re careful with their food intake. Goomba had a few different involved surgeries which resulted in various mobility restrictions for over 6 months. We used lick mats, lots of DIY dog puzzles, and our DIY snuffle mat frequently to help try to keep him entertained while he was recovering.

As an added benefit, lick mats are cheap to purchase and use. For $10 to $20, you can get a way to entertain your pup that will last years while all of our recipes are less than $1 for a serving. We’ve been using our first lick mat from Messy Mutts lick mat (Amazon) for years and it’s probably seen at least 100 uses. At The Ruly Bully, we try to help tailor our suggestions to be as affordable as possible to make enrichment as accessible to as many dogs as we can.

If you’re looking for something a bit more active for your pup, head over to our guide on our favorite games to play with inside. There are options for every pup!

Our favorite lick mats

Our favorite lick mats are Frisco by Chewy and Messy Mutts

Generally, lick mats for dogs are similar enough that any will work well enough, but there are some important differences in materials and features. We prioritized being dishwasher safe & durable as our two most important features. Our favorites are the 2 pack of Frisco Lick Mats from Chewy and the Messy Mutts Lick Mat (Amazon). LickiMat makes some great options, as well, but we find them to be more expensive. The entry-level LickiMats aren’t dishwasher-safe and are more expensive than either the Messy Mutts or Frisco options.

We don’t generally use them, but specialty lick mats are available for specific circumstances. For example, there are lick mats with suction cups or crate mounts and ones that wobble. The suction cupped mats are great if you have issues with bath time and the wobbling options are fantastic for extending the duration of your lick mat, as long as your pup doesn’t give up.

If you want more information about other styles of lick mats, head over to our Beginner’s Guide to Lick Mats. We have much more information over there!

Freezing lick mats

Freezing a lick mat will dramtically improve the time it lasts and allow you to use different ideas

Although this guide is geared toward dog lick mat ideas that don’t need to be frozen, we did want to touch on the option to freeze them. Freezing lick mat recipes will make them last much longer for your pup and are great for both summer and winter. In winter, the extended duration of the enrichment helps provide some additional entertainment during the (typically) duller months of the year. It’s a great treat to help your pup cool down in summer and makes a nice break from playing fetch or long walks.

We wrote a guide on frozen dog licking mat recipes if you want additional options, but any lick mat recipe can be frozen to make them last longer.

Our favorite dog lick mat ideas

If you’re wondering what to put on lick mats for dogs, you’re in the right place! These are all our favorite non-frozen lick mat ideas, although you can freeze them!

We didn’t mention this earlier, but don’t hesitate to get creative! You can combine any of these dog lick mat ideas or put more than one on the same mat. You can combine any of the ingredients your dog likes, especially if you blend them. Peanut butter and chicken may sound nasty to us, but it’s Goomba’s favorite combination. There are also mats with separated areas, which is great if you like mixing and matching flavors.

Baby food

Butternut squash baby food as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: container of baby food
  • Best for: any pup!

Baby food is a fantastic option for lick mats, especially if you have some around the house. The variety of flavors allows you to have dog lick mat ideas for even the pickiest pups and being ready to eat means you just have to put it on the mat. It tends to be a bit more expensive per serving than some other options, but the variety and ease of use make up for it, in our opinion. Just make sure all the ingredients are pup-safe before you give it to your dog!

We found that the root vegetable and meat and grain flavors were our preferred options. In our experience, they tend to last a little longer and are less sugary than some other options. Both of our pups loved the butternut squash option, which was surprising. Goomba tends to be picky about vegetables but was excited while consuming it.

Banana

Mashed banana as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: half of a banana
  • Best for: any pup who likes banana

One of our favorite dog lick mat ideas, bananas are great for lick mats. All you’ll need to do for this one is peel a banana and smear it into the crevices. Ripe or over-ripe bananas work a bit better, but normal ones do fine, too! We end up using approximately half a banana on a lick mat. Not all pups like bananas, so we recommend seeing what your pup thinks before making one for them.

Both of our pups enjoy bananas, but Prim likes them much more than Goomba. For our dogs, bananas last a reasonable amount of time. As this recipe only uses bananas, it’s extremely cheap. As a reminder, bananas are calorie-dense and have a lot of sugar. If your pup is calorie-restricted, you’ll have to be careful or withhold some of their normal food.

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: quarter cup of pup-safe cottage cheese
  • Best for: any pup who can handle dairy

Cottage cheese is a great option for lick mats for your pup! It’s easy, cheap, and relatively healthy, as long as you ensure it’s pup-safe! We recommend getting one with as few ingredients as possible, as all the extra junk is completely unnecessary for your dog. We used approximately a quarter cup per lick mat for our pups. Our favorite dog lick mat ideas are ones we can smear into the lick mat without any additional prep and cottage cheese checks that box.

Both of our pups loved cottage cheese, even Goomba! It lasted longer than we expected and doesn’t have a lot of sugar, either. If your pup can’t handle dairy very well, you can always mix this up with water to make it easier on your pup if that’s required.

Mashed sweet potato

Mashed sweet potato as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low, but takes over 5 minutes
  • Ingredients: 2.5 oz of sweet potato
  • Best for: calorie-restricted pups

This is one of our favorite dog lick mat ideas, especially if we don’t have time to make a frozen mat. Sweet potatoes are a great option for any pup but are even better if you’re dealing with a calorie-restricted dog. They are much lower in calories than some other options and don’t take much effort to prep. Our process is to rinse and wipe and then microwave for 7 minutes after putting some holes in the skin. They come out “baked” and are soft enough after they cool to be utilized for human food if you’re in a hurry. Just smear it into the mat and you’re good to go!

Both of our dogs like sweet potato, but Prim is more determined than Goomba. This lick mat almost lasts as long as the frozen ones for Prim, which is great if we need to entertain a pup in a pinch. We recommend trying out sweet potatoes with your pup before making a lick mat, as some don’t like root vegetables as much as others.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: <1 tbsp of pup-safe peanut butter
  • Best for: dogs who can have lots of calories

Peanut butter is the gold standard for dog lick mat ideas. As you can imagine, peanut butter lasts the longest out of any of the non-frozen recipes. It’s cheap and easy and dogs love it, but it can be a whole lot of calories for your dog. It’s extremely calorie-dense, even for larger dogs like ours. All you’ll need to do is grab some of a jar and smear it into the cracks of the lick mat, which makes it one of the easiest options.

Both of our dogs are huge fans of anything involving peanut butter. Prim’s favorite combination is peanut butter and banana, but it has even more calories than just peanut butter. She typically isn’t active enough to justify it, so it’s an extra special treat. Goomba’s favorite combination is peanut butter and chicken, which he is crazy about.

Pumpkin & cream cheese

Pumpkin and cream cheese as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: medium-low
  • Ingredients: 1/3 can of pure pumpkin & <1 once of pup-safe cream cheese
  • Best for: any pup!

This was one of our pups’ favorite dog lick mat ideas that we tried. They both loved it! We cheated a little and used a blender, but you can mix it on the mat or in a bowl if you would prefer not to do that. Pumpkin is great since it’s nice and filling for low-calories, despite being slightly sweet. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other options, but it’s always a hit and easy to prepare.

This was in both of our pups’ top three for dog lick mat ideas, after wet food and tuna. We use pumpkin if our dogs have an upset stomach or GI issues, as well. In our experience, most dogs are excited about pumpkin.

Pureed tuna

Pureed tuna as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low (especially if you have a blender)
  • Ingredients: 1 can of tuna (4 ish servings per can)
  • Best for: any pup, as long as you can tolerate the fish smell

Tuna is a great, cheap option for lick mats, as long as you don’t mind the smell! Most pups get fired up with cans of any wet food, especially when their scent is strong. It’s cheap per serving (less than $0.50 per serving) and its calories aren’t sugar. Depending on your dog’s motivation, it can last up to 15 minutes, which puts it into one of the best options on our list, especially if peanut butter is too many calories for your pup. We mixed about half of the can with about 8 ounces of water for 2 lick mats for our pups.

Both of our pups went bananas for this recipe and it was one of the cheaper ones on the list. Similar to wet food, most pups seem to love fish. Even Goomba was super motivated for this recipe!

Unsweetened apple sauce

Unsweetened apple sauce as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • Best for: any pup that likes apples

Applesauce makes a good option for lick mats for your dog, especially for pups on a diet. The unfrozen recipe is reasonable for how long it lasts, extremely cheap, and easy to make. Most pups seem to like apples, but we’d recommend testing or getting something you like, just in case your pup doesn’t enjoy it. The first time we tried applesauce, we were surprised that even Goomba, our resident picky eater, liked it.

Both of our pups like applesauce and enjoy this lick mat. Remember to make sure your applesauce is pup-safe. If you’re unsure, organic applesauce is pretty cheap compared to some other organic foods and is a good place to start. This recipe shines when you freeze it, and is one of our favorite frozen lick mat recipes for dogs.

Wet dog food

Wet dog food as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: 1/4 a can of wet food
  • Best for: any dog

Another extremely easy option for dog lick mat ideas, wet food is a great option for your pup. Most dogs are more than willing to participate and the preparation time is very minimal. Grab a small spatula or spoon and smear the wet food into the lick mat. This option is calorie-dense, too, but it’s easy to withhold some of their normal kibble to offset whatever you use. We find this option is around $0.75 per serving for our dogs. It could vary for you depending on your dog’s size and the type of wet food you get.

Both of our dogs love wet food and this is Goomba’s second favorite option after peanut butter. It lasts quite a while for us but could vary depending on the consistency of the food you use. We like this idea because almost every dog likes wet food and there are a multitude of different options so your furry friend doesn’t get tired of having the same flavor all the time.

Yogurt & honey

Yogurt and honey as a lick mat for dogs
  • Effort required: low
  • Ingredients: 1 tub of pup-safe Greek yogurt, unsweetened (honey is optional, but recommended)
  • Best for: any dog who will eat yogurt

Out of all of our dog lick mat ideas, this was by far the most surprising. We didn’t think there was even a chance that Goomba (our resident picky eater) would eat Greek yogurt. For us, one container made two pretty hefty lick mats, which puts it at less than $0.50 per serving. If you want to buy a larger container, the price decreases quickly.

It’s easy to make this recipe, scoop the yogurt out of the container and spatula it into a lick mat. If your dog needs encouragement, honey is perfect and lower calorie, at least for a sweetener.

Both of our dogs loved this recipe, which was very surprising to us. We’d recommend it to anyone whose pup is a fan of dairy products.

Conclusion

Lick mats are an excellent and affordable way to entertain your dog

We (and our dogs) love lick mats for their ease of use, availability, and affordability! Pretty much any pup-safe food can be used as an ingredient and the option to freeze them goes a long way to extending typically easy options. Overall, our dogs’ favorites are either wet food or tuna, but they both eat and are excited about all of them!

What are your favorite dog lick mat ideas? Share your experience with us on Instagram @TheRulyBully. We love hearing your stories and experiences!

Have fun!

    Lincoln Schaefer

    Hi, I’m Lincoln!  I’m the owner & primary writer here at The Ruly Bully!  My wife and I have two dogs, Goomba & Prim, and a host of other critters in our home.  Feel free to send a message!  We love to hear your stories, too.

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