Snuffle mats have taken over the pup world in the last five years since they reentered the market in a big way. They are marketed as slow feeders for dogs – only those on a dry diet – that help them slow down during meal times while stimulating their minds. If you are thinking of getting one for your dog, you could be wondering whether they are worth the investment. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of getting your furry friend a Snuffle Mat.
What Is a Snuffle Mat?
A snuffle mat is a kind of interactive puzzle toy for dogs designed for maximum mental stimulation and enrichment. It is designed to hide dry dog food and make it difficult for your dog to eat, which encourages them to use their sense of smell and hunting skills to find the food. Typically, snuffle mats have a plastic, fabric, or rubber mat base with fabric sewn or knotted into it and long grass-like strings left sticking out. Dog owners can sprinkle kibble, treats, or dog food into the mat so their dogs can try and locate them. Most dogs will enjoy this exercise because it allows them to use their most developed sense – smell. There are very many types of snuffle mats available in the market. You can pick from a wide range of shapes and sizes – you can even make one yourself. If you choose to go commercial, consider purchasing a snuffle mat with a heavy base that helps it stay in place, as well as one that is washable.
Benefits of Snuffle Mats for Dogs
So, now that you know what a snuffle mat is and how it works, should you buy one for your puppy or dog? Here are seven main reasons you should:
1. Mental Stimulation
Before domestication, wild dogs spent hours hunting and looking for food. This activity was necessary for survival and explains why dogs developed such keen senses over the years. Since pet dogs receive their food from their owners, they do not spend a lot of time looking for food. This is time and energy your dog must expend elsewhere else they become bored and destructive. snuffle mat allows your dog to look for food, which provides mental stimulation. It also goes a long way in helping dogs that cannot otherwise engage in physical activity – due to injury or illness – get enough physical and mental stimulation.
Of all their senses, dogs rely mostly on their sense of smell, which is also their most prominent. Dogs use their noses to detect danger, identify familiar people, judge whether to eat something and examine foreign objects. Snuffle mats allow dogs to use this sense even more in the best possible way – find a reward. In some cases, they are even used to train working dogs like sniffer and rescue dogs, although they are called nosework mats in this scenario.
3. Slows Down Eating
Speedy eating has very many side effects, including bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, regurgitation, and vomiting. If your dog eats their food too fast, a snuffle mat is a great way to get them to slow down. Doing this will help you save your furry friend from these unpleasant feelings later on.
4. Curbs Doggy Dementia
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or dog dementia is a common neurological condition that affects older dogs. Affected dogs tend to forget common commands, toilet training, and familiar scents, among other things, which can be a major source of anxiety. Even worse, some dogs become forgetful of their sleep cycle and suffer insomnia. Experts believe dog owners can slow down the onset of dog dementia by encouraging their dogs to keep using their brains as they grow old. Snuffle mats allow you to do this every day.
5. Releases Energy
Some dogs have a lot of energy and are always on the move. A snuffle mat allows such dogs to calm down by forcing them to focus. Essentially, this is a result of the happy hormones produced by foraging and sniffing behaviors in dogs. The mental stimulation is almost as effective as physical exercise in allowing your dog to release pent-up energy and settle down.
6. Promotes Proper Dieting
Dog obesity has sadly become so common that veterinarians now consider it one of the most troubling dog welfare issues today. Many dog owners concede that their dogs are overweight because they always give in then the dogs beg for food. Fortunately, snuffle mats slow down eating so that your dog has enough time to realize they are full. This feeling of fullness curbs begging tendencies allowing you and your pup to stick to a diet.
7. Prevents Separation Anxiety
Like other food puzzle toys, a sniffle mat can help your dog deal with separation anxiety. It provides a distraction to your dog, so they have something to keep them occupied while you are away from the house. It also allows them to play independently so you can go about your business.
Generally, snuffle mats do not have any downsides as long as they are used properly. That said, however, they can create a choking hazard for your dog if they bite off and swallow pieces of the mat. You can avoid this by supervising your dog during feeding. You should also remove and replace torn or old snuffle mats to reduce the risk of your dog swallowing loose pieces. If you fail to clean your dog’s snuffle mat regularly, it could accumulate missed chunks of food. These pieces could go stale over time and encourage pests, which is a health hazard for your dog. Lastly, snuffle mats could be frustrating for brachycephalic dogs like English bulldogs and pugs. Their flat faces prevent them from getting their noses into the mat to obtain food and treats.
So, is a Snuffle Mat a worthy investment? Is it good for your dog? Yes, it is! Snuffle mats offer very many benefits, from mental stimulation to slowing down fast eaters. Most of their downsides are theoretical and completely avoidable if you keep the snuffle mats clean and well sown. If your dog is a fast eater, you should really consider getting them a snuffle mat. You will not regret it.