Do you have a dog that loves to lick everything? Lick mats are a perfect solution for dog owners looking for an effective way to entertain their pups. This article will explain what lick mats are, the benefits of using a lick mat, and advice on how to pick the right one for your pup. With the help of this beginner’s guide, you’ll have your pup enjoying lick mats in no time!
If you want to supercharge your lick mat, check out our article on making frozen lick mat recipes! They take a little more prep time due to freezing, but last a lot longer.
Benefits of using a lick mat
Reduce stress & anxiety
Lick mats can help reduce your dog’s stress level & anxiety by providing a good distraction from potential triggers. For example, if your dog is anxious when the washing machine is running, you can provide a lick mat and your dog will be able to focus his or her energy on that instead of fretting about the noises. The repetitive action of licking is believed to release endorphins for your dog that can help calm your pup down.
Lick mats are great for turning a slightly negative or anxious experience into a positive or neutral one for your pup, such as crate training your dog.
Cheap source of enrichment
Here at The Ruly Bully, we’re all about cheap sources of enrichment for your pup! Lick mats can provide a great source of low-cost entertainment for your pup. After the initial purchase of the lick mat (which is cheap, approximately $10 at Chewy), the only cost is whatever foods or treats you use for lick mats!
They’re also not very easy for your dog to destroy, especially when compared with other “indestructible” toys. We use them as one of our favorite ways to entertain our pups inside in the winter! They’re one of our pups’ favorites, too!
If you’re looking for a different low-cost source of enrichment, check out our article on making a DIY snuffle mat! It takes a little longer to make, but it is great for your pup’s intro to nose work!
If you want to supercharge your lick mat, check out our article on making frozen lick mat recipes! They take a little more prep time due to freezing but last a lot longer.
Can occupy your dog when you are busy
Another reason we love lick mats is due to the ability to use them to entertain your dog when you’re not able to interact. Whether you’re cooking an involved recipe or working out at home, there will be times when you’ll want to have your pup busy for a period of time. Lick mats are great for this! We think everyone should have a few of these types of activities to help with times like this. We heavily used lick mats to entertain Goomba when he was recovering from CCL surgery.
Another of our favorite ways to entertain our pups when we’re busy is with stuffed hollow bones. It’s cheap and usually lasts our pups at least 15 minutes!
Helps with dental hygiene
Similar to how dentists recommend brushing your tongue for humans, lick mats can help clean your dog’s tongue! The repeated licking motion on silicone can help scrape bacteria off your pup’s tongue, which will help their breath smell fresher.
Lick mats can also help stimulate saliva production which can help with plaque and tartar, generally keeping your pup’s mouth cleaner and reduce the risk of dental/gum diseases!
Lick mats make for great ways to maintain your dog’s oral health, but if you want to reverse some current issues, check out Petsmile dog toothpaste. It’s cheap, easy to apply, and effective for improving your pup’s oral health.
Types of lick mats
Flat lick mats tend to be the most common because, well, they are the easiest to make. These mats sit on the floor or anything else flat, are generally made of silicone and are good for most purposes. We like these the most as they give a lot of flexibility on how and where to use them. They are also easier to clean since they are flat.
We have used this mat (Messy Mutts) for a while now. It works extremely well and is cheap.
Wall-mounted lick mats tend to be the same as flat mats but mounted on the wall. Typically using suction cups, these mats are fantastic for pups who are anxious during a bath or nail trim.
We highly recommend this style if that is an issue for you.
There are also other specialty types, such as bowl lick mats or ones that can mount to a crate. We don’t generally use these, but they also have their benefits. We do not recommend leaving a lick mat with your dog unattended, as they are easy to destroy if your dog isn’t using it properly.
How to use a lick mat
Using lick mats is one of the easiest enrichment methods you’ll run across. Simply smear dog food, treats, or anything else edible on the mat. That’s it!
What types of food should I use?
You can use anything that’s safe for your dog on a lick mat. Here are a few of our favorites with some pros and cons to each.
Peanut butter and small bits of dog treats
This mixture is probably one of the favorites for our pups. It’s cheap, easy to make, & lasts a while. All you have to do is spread some peanut butter on the lick mat & sprinkle smashed treats onto it. The crumbs at the end of a dog treat bag are perfect for this!
- Easy to make and most people have all the supplies already
- Most pups are crazy about peanut butter, so they love this recipe
- Lasts a long time due to peanut butter being harder to get off lick mats than some other food
- High caloric intake
- Harder to clean
- Should use peanut butter without added sugar, if possible
Dog food slurry
Making a slurry out of dog food is a great way to top a lick mat! All you’ll have to do is let some kibble soak in a bowl for a while to get soggy and then spread it over the mat. If you use wet food, you can use it as is! One of the benefits of this is if you add some additional water, you can freeze the whole thing. Freezing will dramatically increase the time it takes your dog to lick all of the mixture off.
- Very cheap to make and requires no additional supplies
- Much lower in calorie content
- Freezing is a great option to extend the duration of the mat
- Easier to clean
- One of the messier mixtures to make
- Requires some prep as the kibble will need to soak for a period of time
- Some dogs may not be as motivated due to being regular kibble
Using fruit for your lick mat can be hit or miss depending on the pup. For us, Prim is crazy for bananas and most fruit, but Goomba finds it offensive. If your dog likes fruit, it can be a great option, as well.
- Easy to make and most people have all the supplies already.
- Extremely cheap
- Healthy in moderation and helps add some variety to your pup’s diet.
- Much easier to clean than the peanut butter option
- A variety of different fruit options are possible (make sure what you’re using is pup-safe)
- High caloric intake (use in moderation for smaller or less active dogs)
- Messy when creating the mat
- Not all pups are willing to eat fruit
How do I clean this… mess?
Most lick mats are dishwasher-safe! If that isn’t up your alley or possible with your mat, we recommend soaking them in water or finding a cheap brush to get in the crevices of the mat. We tend to use the dishwasher and hand clean ours, depending on when we next want to use the lick mat.
In summary, lick mats are a beneficial tool for dogs that can help reduce anxiety and provide stimulation. They can also be used as distractions to keep your pet’s focus on positive behavior. Whether you’re trying to tackle bad habits, relieve stress, or just give your pup a fun new way to play, lick mats can offer a variety of benefits. So, make your pup some lick mats and watch them lick away!
What are your favorite ways to use lick mats? Share your stories with us on Instagram by tagging @therulybully.