What is a snuffle mat?
A foraging game that provides satisfying mental stimulation for dogs. Brain games are great for calming active dogs and bringing joy to the old or anxious.
When a dog sniffs out food that’s been sprinkled between the fleece strips of a snuffle mat, their body releases hormones to make them feel self-confident with a sense of achievement. Sniffing out treasure is a simple activity that a dog can lose themself, giving them a break from the many distractions or worries in their world.
To learn more about how dogs see with their noses click on the video below for a fascinating #Tedtalk
How do I make a Snuffle Mat?
Gather your materials. You’ll need the following:
- A base. I use a rubber doormat as its heavy to weight the toy down while it’s being snuffled about. My preferred choice is the non-toxic rubber with the honeycomb-shaped holes as they are easier to weave the fleece through.
- Fabric. Any material can be used so long as it’s not abrasive. I use a soft fleece as it’s quick to dry and thick enough to provide a fun challenge. Select your colours while keeping your dog in mind – blues and yellow tones stand out clearly in their vision but a variety of colours/ patterns will be fun to look at.
- Scissors. Fabric scissors work best
- Ruler. This will help you to measure out the length of fleece to cut into sections. You could also use a measuring tape or anything that’s around 8 inches.
- Dry food. Frozen peas and chopped veg are the dampest things I’d use to keep the mat clean. Kibble, dry dog food and treats work well
Step 1. Cut the fabric into strips of 8 inches minimum
Step 2. Loop a strip of fabric through a hole in the mat and tie a single overhand knot. Repeat until the mat is like a shag pile rug, dense and challenging to forage the treats.
How do I use the Snuffle Mat?
- Mealtimes! If you feed dry food this is a fantastic way to slow your dog down and aid their digestion.
- An after-training decompressing game to relax the mind and encourage calm indoor behaviour
- A task to focus on that reduces anxiety or excitability around distractions
- Make a small one and take it out to public places to help calm their mind in cafe’s or parks
- Use while grooming or being checked by the vet to create a positive association with that necessary but potentially frustrating event
- Any time you want!
Some dogs need you to guide them through the game until they feel confident in whats expected of them.
NOTE: Please do supervise your dog when they’re using the snuffle mat, once the treats have gone there’s nothing stopping them from getting carried away with a little chewing. Use a friendly tone to let them know that the treats have “all gone” and pop it out of reach. I also recommend you have one per dog to prevent jealously. It’s potentially washer safe on a low temp but I stick mine in the bath with a bit of natural soap so the clean smell isn’t overpowering for the dog when they’re playing.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post do let me know. I’d love to hear what your dog thought of their snuffle mat!