Image: Stylish Hound
At a cursory glance, you may think that lick mats are just for dogs. We’ll let you in on a little secret: lick mats are for humans, too. Obviously, we don’t mean that humans use lick mats in the same way that dogs do. That would be unhygienic and frankly quite weird. No, the human benefit of lick mats is passive. Whilst Doggy enjoys at least half an hour of mental and physical stimulation, slowed digestion, and anxiety relief, dog owners experience anxiety relief of their own kind. For the next half an hour (at least!), they will have the space to complete that pressing task or the quiet to decompress. One form of canine enrichment is another species’ Pause—or Paws—button.
If you’ve never heard of a lick mat before, we may be speaking double Dutch. If you’re confused, read on and we’ll clarify that confusion. Here’s everything you need to know about lick mats for dogs.
What’s a lick mat?
Great question! As you can likely tell from the above picture, a lick mat is not unlike a standard doggy food bowl. However, it brings things up a gear by combining canine food time with canine enrichment. How does it do this? Well, it is a sectioned silicone mat. It is softer than a traditional doggy bowl, and it turns mealtime (or snack time) into a game. Rather than woofing down their food, as dogs are wont to do, dogs will spend at least a half-hour licking the food from the textured grooves. Because there are so many sections, it will take time to lick the platter clean. This allows dogs to enjoy their food—and you to get your work done. This slow-feeding tool helps dogs to better absorb their nutrients, and to feel less anxious if they’re feeling triggered.
Stylish Hound’s Mint Lick Mat With Suction. Comes with a spatula.
How do you use a lick mat?
Using a lick mat is as simple as 1-2-3. Use a spatula (or other spreading implement, but, pro-tip: a spatula will work best) to spread your dog’s favourite spreadable food onto the silicone surface. We’re talking nutrient-rich foods like pureed pumpkin, dog food, or peanut butter. Sit back and be sure to supervise your dog as they enjoy the delicious and meditative motion of licking every last morsel.
Keep kitties out of mischief! Lick mats are also cool for cats.
Lick mats are also cool for cats! If you also have a kitty-cat, there are lick mats for cats on the market. Just be sure to feed them meat-based food as felines are carnivorous, unlike their omnivorous canine counterparts.
How do lick mats benefit dogs?
Lick mats are enrichment and distraction combined into one slick silicone package. We’ve already established that these slow feeders will slow digestion. This will mean optimal nutrient absorption, not to mention a dog’s growing awareness of their own satiety cues. Lick mats are also a form of mental stimulation. Dogs will need to work a little harder to eat all of their food. This makes mealtime feel a little more earnt, which appeals somewhat to the instincts of their wolf ancestors.
The distraction comes in handy for anxious dogs, too. If your dog feels anxious during bathtime, car rides, or whilst grooming, then a lick mat can give them something else on which to focus. As aforementioned, the repetitive licking motion can be meditative. We could harp on the calming effect of meditation, but that’s another post entirely.
Finally, the distraction factor can be a godsend for dog owners. In the age of remote work, lick mats can keep a dog occupied—or at least until that important Zoom meeting is finished. It’s also a great way to buy yourself some ‘me’ time. That being said, you should always supervise your dog when throughout their licking sesh.
Stop cheeky dogs from finding the ‘human food’!
What else is there to know?
We’ve already harped on the importance of human supervision, but to build on that point, you should keep your lick mat out of canine reach whilst not in use. Also, when you’re packing up the lick mat, make sure you detach each suction cup individually (if applicable). This will ensure protection against the potential damage caused by ripping the mat from the surface in one pull. When cleaning your lick mat, do so in warm, soapy water. Do not pop your lick mat in the dishwasher.
We’ll leave you with this final tip: don’t rely on the lick mat too much. If you’re using it in addition to regular meals, use it twice a week, tops. We understand the temptation to distract Doggy on the daily, especially if you’re working remotely. However, there are other forms of canine enrichment and overnutrition is no good for anyone of any species. Be sure to use lick mats in moderation and as part of a healthy doggy diet and canine lifestyle.
A Mint Lick Mat: rear view. It has suction cups for mealtime and snack-time convenience! Image: Stylish Hound