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Mental stimulation is crucial for your dog's mental and physical health. Even an active dog that gets plenty of exercise needs mental stimulation that allows them to learn and use their minds. While there are many ways to enrich your dog's life, lick mats are becoming a favorite among pet parents because they're easy to assemble and allow dogs to enjoy a delicious treat while engaging in a mentally stimulating activity.
What are lick mats for dogs, and how can they provide your pet with the enrichment they need for a happy life? This article will discuss everything you need to know about dog lick mats, also known as lick pads, to help you start using them to enrich your pet's life.
- What Is A Lick Mat For Dogs?
- Benefits Of Licking Pads For Dogs
- Lick Mat Recipes: What To Put On A Dog Licking Mat
- How To Clean Dog Lick Mats
- Licking Mats For Dogs: FAQs
- Final Notes
What Is A Lick Mat For Dogs?
Dog lick mats are silicone mats made with suction cups or a non-skid bottom that sticks to flat surfaces, including floors and walls.1 They have various patterns and depths that determine the type of food or treat you put in them and how long they'll last. The more complicated and deeper the pattern, the longer your dog will spend licking them.
Dog lick pads are best used with spreadable wet food or treats, such as peanut butter, wet dog food, pureed vegetables, or any soft treats.1
Benefits Of Licking Pads For Dogs
Lick mats are a tool to provide dogs with mental stimulation. If you have a high-energy dog, a few walks around the block, fetch, and even vigorous exercise may not tire them out. High-energy dogs are prone to destructive behavior when they're bored and don't have an outlet for their energy. Unfortunately, you can't spend all day playing fetch with your dog. While physical exercise is crucial for overall dog health, pets of all types still need mental stimulation.2
Mental stimulation is hard work for dogs. They're used to going on long walks, but they're not used to using their minds as much as their bodies. Therefore, don't be surprised if your dog is exhausted after ten minutes of using a lick mat. Many pet parents report that their dogs are more exhausted after completing a lick mat than after going for a long walk or engaging in vigorous exercise like running off-leash.
Ultimately, dogs need enrichment for several reasons, and lick pads for dogs can provide your dog with the mental stimulation they need daily. The benefits of licking mats for dogs include the following:
- May reduce anxiety: Many dogs with anxiety are prone to destructive and undesirable behavior. When a dog is anxious, they have a burst of energy, and they need to expel that energy to reduce their stress and make themselves feel better. Lick mats provide your dog with a way to get rid of excess energy by helping them focus on a specific task. Additionally, you can use them to prevent anxiety during stressful situations. For example, you can use lick mats when trimming your dog's nails. Providing them with a lick mat filled with their favorite soft, spreadable treat can keep them in one place and provide a welcome distraction. Lick mats are ideal for food-motivated dogs and give them a distraction while helping them self-soothe.
- Keeps dogs busy: Your dog wants all the attention they can get. Unfortunately, you can't spend all day playing with or petting them. For needy dogs that want your attention daily, try using a lick mat to keep them occupied. Additionally, lick mats can prevent destructive behavior because it prevents boredom. If you're wondering, "Do dogs get bored?" you might be surprised to find out that, just like humans, they can get bored when they have nothing to do. Providing your dog with a fun, food-motivated activity like using a lick mat can prevent boredom and undesirable behavior that might come with it.
- Tires dogs out: Keeping up with high-energy dogs can be challenging. However, using a lick mat for dogs can provide them with much-needed mental exercise that may tire them out more effectively than going for a run or walking around the block. Since lick mats force your dog to use their mind to figure out how to clean them completely, they'll help keep your dog content while providing an outlet for their energy.
Lick Mat Recipes: What To Put On A Dog Licking Mat
Most pet parents put wet food and peanut butter on a dog lick mat because they have them on hand. Peanut butter is an excellent option because it's stickier and will provide your dog with long-lasting fun.
Unfortunately, not all dogs love peanut butter, and switching things up occasionally will ensure they never get bored of their lick mats. Other options include plain greek yogurt, canned pumpkin, and cottage cheese.
However, even if your dog loves all or one of these treats, they can get bored with their lick mats. Therefore, give them something new once in a while, or freeze ingredients to prolong them. Here are a few food items you can put on a dog licking mat:
Sweet Lick Mat Recipe
Choose healthy items when considering something sweet to put on a lick pad for dogs. Sugar-filled treats and sweets can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and associated health problems. A few healthy and sweet options to put on a dog licking mat include:
Of course, always check the ingredients in any food product you share with your dog. For example, some sweat products may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to pets even in small doses.
Savory Lick Mat Recipe
Savory food items may be more nutritious than sweet treats you put on their lick mat. A few options include:
- Vegetable chunks
- Mashed potatoes
- Ground meat
- Regular dog treats
- Peanut butter
When feeding your dog any human food, ensure they're plain and unseasoned since many seasonings, such as garlic and salt, can harm pets. Therefore, if you choose to share mashed potatoes with them, set aside plain mashed potatoes for your dog before seasoning your own.
Note: Pet parents should always supervise their dog when giving them a lick mat. Some lick mat materials can be choking or gastrointestinal hazards when chewed up or ingested.
How To Clean Dog Lick Mats
Dog licking mats are fairly easy to clean because they're made from silicone. However, depending on the depth and type of pattern, some are easier to clean than others. The best way to ensure your dog's lick mat is clean is to use warm water and dish soap to loosen stuck-on food debris and residue. Always rinse the soap and dry the lick mat before using it again. If you have trouble reaching all the corners of your dog's lick mat, you can use a pipe cleaner or let the pad soak in warm water and dish soap.
Some lick mats are dishwasher-safe, so you can wash yours with your dishes. However, always read the manufacturer's instructions to ensure they won't get destroyed in the wash. Additionally, whether you hand or machine wash your dog's lick mat, consider cleaning it as soon as your dog finishes it. Food debris can dry and harden onto the mat, making it harder to clean.
Licking Mats For Dogs: FAQs
Can lick mats help dogs with anxiety?
Lick mats may help reduce anxiety in several ways. Firstly, mental stimulation is crucial for dogs with anxiety because it provides them with an activity that can distract them while tiring them out because using their minds is hard work. For example, a naturally anxious dog might use a lick mat once daily to prevent destructive behavior and keep them calm. Meanwhile, another dog might use a lick mat during periods of stress, such as during a bath or nail trim.
Pet parents can use lick mats in any situation that makes their dog anxious because it gives them a delicious distraction to take their minds off of a stressful vent. For example, if your dog gets anxious when new people come into the home, you can give them a lick mat whenever you're expecting someone to keep them focused on a task instead of on the stranger. Since mental stimulation makes dogs tired, your dog will continue to feel less anxious even after completing their lick mat.
Do vets recommend lick mats?
Yes, many vets recommend lick mats because they can provide a much-needed distraction during periods of extreme anxiety, such as bathtime and grooming. You can use a lick mat for any anxiety-inducing event to help decrease stress and distract them. However, this only works for food-motivated dogs. Lick mats are unlikely to provide the distraction they need if you have a stressed dog that's not motivated by food or they're too stressed and won't take treats.
Should you freeze licking pads?
Freezing licking pads for dogs can help them last longer. Additionally, freezing lick pads for dogs allows you to prepare them in advance and pull them out when needed.
How long do lick mats last?
How long lick mats last depends on the difficulty level, food used, and dog. Some dogs can complete lick mats in a few minutes, while others take longer. If your dog completes their lick mat quickly, you can purchase a different lick pad with various depths and patterns to make it more challenging for them.
Lick mats can give your dog the mental stimulation they need to prevent anxiety during stressful situations while helping them exercise their minds to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. However, while lick mats can provide your dog with a short-term distraction, they're not a perfect solution to undesirable pet behaviors and anxiety.
If your dog experiences anxiety, talk to a Dutch vet today. Together, we can diagnose and treat various anxiety-related behavioral problems to help your dog feel less stressed. Try Dutch today.
"Toys and Puzzles for Your Pet." Ohio State University, https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/sites/default/files/files/companion/behavior/behavioral_med_puzzle_toys.pdf.
Ellis, Nicole. "Games to Play with Your Dog." American Kennel Club, 10 Aug. 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/mentally-stimulated-happy-dog/.