Recently, I made my own snuffle mat for my boarders to use. Snuffle mats are the perfect way to stimulate your pet's foraging instincts, engaging mind and body, and encouraging their natural skills (can be used for cats and dogs).
So, why does your pet need a snuffle mat? They are an an interactive enrichment puzzle, used to help refine search and find skills along with many positive results including:
- Encouraging attentive play
- Mentally stimulating and boredom-busting
- Ideal for pets on restricted exercise
- it can be used for behaviour modification training
- it may help reduce stress
- it's energy zapping!
You can make your own snuffle mat, all you need is a rubber sink mat (roughly 12" by 15", which is a great size for medium dogs) and a 1.5 metres of fleece material. Fleece is sold in different thicknesses and weights. Don’t get the heaviest fleece as that can be tough to knot when cut in short lengths. Instead, see what fleece is on sale and get that; the cheap stuff works just fine and your pet won’t care how ugly it is.
Cut the fleece into strips about an inch to an inch and a half wide by six to seven inches long. Precision isn’t necessary and in fact, I’ve found that having a variety of strip widths and lengths makes the finished mat more fun when the dog is trying to find the treats.
To make the snuffle mat, you’ll take one strip and push one end through a hole in the rubber mat and then take the other end of the strip and push it through the hole next to the first one. Flip the rubber mat over and tie the strips once. Just one knot; no need to double knot it.
Take the second strip and push it through the second hole alongside the strip already there. Then take the other end of that strip and push it through the third hole. Turn over the mat and knot that strip. Continue until you finish one length of the rubber mat. Repeat on the second row of holes.
When you have two rows done, then take a strip of fleece and push it through the first hole in the first row. Then take the other end and push it through the first hole in the second row. Turn over the rubber mat and knot it. This strip is at right angles to the first two rows. Continue between the first and second rows until completed.
Repeat this process until the mat is completed. Then flip it over and take a good look at the bottom to see if there are any empty holes or missed cross strips. Fill in those spots and then turn the mat over, loose strip side up, and fluff up the strips until they are standing up.
The first time you introduce q dog to the snuffle mat, it maybe a good idea to let the dog watch you drop some treats on top of the strips (don't hide them this time), just drop them on top. Encourage them to find the treats. Once they have mastered the idea of having treats on the snuffle mat, try it again but try hiding the treats within the strips of material. This lets them hunt for their treats!
Unlike many food dispensing toys, this should not be left with your dog when he’s unsupervised. Since the fleece strips will soon begin to smell like food or treats, many dogs will, if left alone with the mat after finding all the treats, chew the fleece strips and potentially swallow them. This could cause serious complications that could potentially lead to a need for surgery to remove the strips. This should then be used only when you can spend time with your dog and supervise them.