As a devoted dog mom, ( or dad, parent, etc) you always strive to provide the best care for your dog. One fantastic way to achieve this is by incorporating lick mats into your dog's daily routine. Lick mats have gained popularity as a versatile and engaging enrichment tool for dogs of all ages and sizes. Today I will share the top five reasons why lick mats are excellent for your canine companion's well-being, and I’ll even share some fun recipes and ingredients to make the experience even more exciting!
What are lick mats good for?
1. Mental Stimulation and Relaxation
Lick mats offer a unique opportunity to engage your dog's brain while promoting relaxation. The act of licking is inherently soothing for dogs, releasing endorphins that help alleviate stress and anxiety. By spreading your dog's favorite treats or soft foods on the lick mat's textured surface, you create a captivating challenge that requires focused attention. This mental stimulation is especially beneficial for dogs that might experience boredom when left alone or need to unwind after a day full of activities.
2. Slow and Healthy Feeding
Does your furry friend tend to gobble up their meals in record time? Lick mats can transform mealtime into a slower, more mindful experience. Smearing wet food or even a mix of kibble and yogurt on the mat's surface forces your dog to work for their food, preventing them from gulping down large amounts of food quickly. This not only aids digestion but also helps maintain a healthy weight by preventing overeating.
3. Dental Health Enhancement
Promoting good oral hygiene is crucial for your dog's overall well-being. The textured surface of lick mats can act as a natural teeth cleaner. As your dog licks the mat, the gentle abrasion helps remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the risk of dental problems. To further support dental health, consider using recipes that incorporate ingredients like mashed pumpkin or sweet potato, which are beneficial for your dog's teeth.
4. Bonding and Training
Engaging with your dog through lick mats can strengthen the bond you share. The interactive nature of these mats provides an opportunity for positive reinforcement during training sessions. Incorporate commands like "wait" or "leave it" while offering the mat, creating a fun and rewarding training routine. This shared activity fosters trust and enhances communication between you and your canine companion.
5. Versatile Enrichment
Lick mats are incredibly versatile and can be adapted to various situations. Whether your dog needs a distraction during bath time, a calming activity in stressful situations, or simply a way to pass the time, lick mats come to the rescue. They can be used indoors or outdoors, making them a convenient tool for both relaxation and engagement.
My favorite “Make it easy” ingredients I use for lick mats
Baby food - Yes I use jarred baby food when I am short on time. I use the single ingredient ones like chicken or beef. I also use the single ingredient veggies like green beans or sweet potatoes.
Wet dog food - I like the Honest Kitchen butcher block variety for Bella because its easy to spread but a couple spoon fulls of your dogs favorite will work great.
Plain Unsweetened Greek Yogurt - a great source of protein and probiotics. Greek yogurt
Bone broth - make sure it’s dog safe. I like the ones made by Honest Kitchen and Stella and Chewy’s. This is great to pour on and freeze as a cool summer treat. If I am doing this I always place the lick mat on a small tray before putting in the freezer to keep it stable so it won’t spill every where.
Dog Friendly Fruits and Veggies - Smoosh up any dog friendly fruit or cooked veggie in the mat for a delicious low calorie option. I originally saw this idea done by my friend Cassandra over at the sunshine dogs with a part of a banana for her dogs. So easy!!!
Lick Mat Recipe Ideas
One of the things I love to do is prep a bunch of mats once a week and stick them in a container in the freezer. Then they are ready when I need them. Here are a few recipes you can try with your pup.
1. Peanut Butter Paradise
Spread a very thin layer of natural, unsalted peanut butter on the lick mat's surface. Ensure the peanut butter doesn't contain xylitol, as it can be harmful to dogs. I always buy Bella the Trader Joe’s Brand of unsalted peanut butter. The only ingredient is peanuts. To make the peanut butter go further you can mix it with a little water to thin it out and mix in some finely grated carrots or blueberries for some added nutrients and texture.
2. Yummy Yogurt Delight
Smear plain, unsweetened greek yogurt onto the lick mat, and sprinkle small pieces of banana or apple on top. Yogurt is not only delicious but also a great source of protein as well as probiotics that promote gut health. You can use the water trick with this too, adding a little makes it easier to spread over the mat.
3. Pumpkin Power Treat
Combine canned pumpkin puree (make sure it's pure pumpkin without added spices) with a spoonful of unsweetened applesauce. Spread this mixture on the lick mat for a tasty treat that supports digestion and adds a touch of seasonal flavor.
My favorite lick mats for Bella
Bella has quite a few lick mats. You can find them on Amazon as well as most local pet stores, home goods etc.
My favorite brand is Hyper Pet and I get them on Amazon. The have a variety of different ones to choose from.
The calm and reward mats come in a pack. The quadrant design is fun for mixing up different flavors. For Bella I make one that has plain pumpkin, plain greek yogurt, green beans and wet food. I like that they are made in the USA, dishwasher safe, and have different textures.
Mats with the suction cups come in handy for dogs that get excited and need help keeping the mat in place. I can stick these right to my kitchen floor. It is also handy to stick on the tile when you need to give your dog a bath. It helps take their mind off bath time.
The lick bowl is just like the mat but rounded like a bowl. There's an added covenant for you dog since they not only have to lick the food out they also have to figure out how to do that with the bowl wobbling all over while they lick it.
How to clean lick mats
Clean the mat thoroughly with soap and hot water after each use to prevent bacterial growth. I try to clean them as soon as Bella is done this way nothing gets dried on which can make it harder to clean. Usually it comes clean easily but if not I have a bottle brush that can clean it out quickly.
Remember to always supervise your dog while they're using a lick mat or any food enrichment. Adjust your dog's food at meal times when giving food as enrichment, you don't want to over feed your dog and have them gain unwanted weight. Make sure to check with your veterinarian about what foods are suitable for feeding your dog.
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