The Best Snuffle Mat for Dogs
Snuffle mats have become an incredibly popular enrichment toy for dogs. Pet parents have realized that dogs need more than balls and ropes to engage their senses. Unlike humans, dogs use their noses as one of the primary channels for experiencing the world. When a dog is able to search and find food using their nose, a dog’s confidence is increased, and their brain is activated in new ways.
Here at iHeartDogs, we’re big fans of the Sniff Diggy snuffle mat for dogs. Personally, I’ve used at least a half a dozen different products, and most are made of cheap felt strips. The durable, washable material of the Sniff Diggy is far superier to any other product I’ve seen.
A DIY Alternative: Make a Snuffle Mat for Your Dog!
Dog trainer, Amanda Cornell CPDT-KA, who owns Accomplished Canines Dog Training, shared with us this great DIY for a fun way to give your dog his food or treats in something called a “Snuffle Mat,” that is actually a brain stimulating activity for your pup. It’s basically a rubber mat tied with lots (like, a TON) of fleece fabric strips.
These mats incorporate something called nose work, an activity that engages and develops a pup’s most vital sensory skill, their sense of smell. Nose work mimics the inherent foraging and hunting activities dogs’ wolf ancestors needed to engage in on a daily basis.
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. You can make one yourself – it’s very simple, though it can take a bit of time. If you don’t have time, we recommend the Sniff Diggy™ Nose Work Mat
1. A rubber anti-fatigue mat. These can be hard to find. The one pictured was from Home Depot, and can be cut into a smaller mat. You can make yours any size that fits your dog! You can also go to a craft store and ask if they have a sturdy flexible plastic mesh.
2. A TON of fleece fabric – 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. Color doesn’t matter, your dog will love it no matter the hue of the fabric
3. Fabric Scissors
Making Your Nose Work 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 get ready to binge watch some 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 supervise closely. No matter what, we recommend supervising during play. Do not use with wet food or wet treats – yuck. Also, be sure to check that all the food is removed at the end of the play session (to avoid stinky moldy mess) – you can do this by taking it outside and vigorously shaking it after use.
If you’d rather not DIY one – check out the Sniff Diggy™ Nose Work Mat in Confetti and Ocean Wave colors. Each mat sold provides 1 toy to a shelter dog in need.