A fellow dog trainer and friend, Amanda Cornell CPDT-KA, who owns Accomplished Canines Dog Training, shared with me this great DIY for a fun way to give your dog his food or treats in something called a “Snuffle Mat.” It’s basically a rubber mat tied with lots (and I meant a TON) of fleece fabric strips. The idea is similar to a bowl made to slow down your dog while eating, but it has some benefits those bowls don’t.
It’s not hard plastic. Any dog I have fed frequently out of one of those hard plastic bowls has ended up missing fur on their nose and even redness from pushing their nose into the cracks to try and get the food. I stopped using them for that reason.
The mat lets them use their senses. Since most of the food will be buried, your dog will have to use her nose to root it out as well as her eyes. Then, she will have to use her paws to dig or her teeth to maneuver the fleece strips to get at the food. This takes a lot more mental and physical stimulation than most slow feeding bowls.
When it’s not being used for food, your dog can use it as a nice plushy bed, so it pulls double duty.
1. A rubber anti-fatigue mat. These can be hard to find. I found this one pictured below at Home Depot, which I then cut into a smaller mat. You can make yours any size that fits your dog! Cornell purchased a similar mat off Amazon. This one on Amazon is already cut down, you get two 24 x 16 mats for $24.97.
2. A TON of fleece fabric – color doesn’t matter. The size of your mat will make a difference in how much fleece you need. As an example, Cornell used roughly 119 strips that were about 3” wide by 11” long (remember, it doesn’t have to be exact!) for a 12 x 12 mat. Four and half yards of fleece is a good amount to start with for a 12 x 12 mat.
3. Fabric Scissors
Making Your Snuffle Mat:
It’s super easy – only three steps! But it does take some time. It’ll take roughly 4-5 hours to make the whole mat, so sit down in front of a movie or get ready to binge watch Netflix.
Step 1. Cut your mat down if needed. Cut out your strips. Remember, they don’t have to be perfect!
Step 2. Take one of your strips and tie a piece through each hole going down each row until you’ve done the whole mat.
Step 3. Go back and tie pieces on the diagonal, to fill the gaps.
The second diagonal piece should look like this – making an “x” :
This is what it looks like on the other side after tying the two diagonal pieces:
That’s it! You are done!
Here is the back view of a finished snuffle mat:
And the front view:
See the snuffle mat “in action” with the below video from Accomplished Canines. Even older dogs like Maggie will get some exercise with this mat:
A quick note about safety: If your dog is a “destroyer,” be sure to only use this toy when you are there to supervise. Once the food it gone, your dog may decide it’s time to eat those nice soft fleece strips and they are definitely not edible! Do not use with wet food or wet treats – yuck. Also, be sure to check that all the food it removed so pieces don’t mold in it – you can do this by taking it outside and vigorously shaking it.