One self-directed scent-based game your dog can play is puzzling out a snuffle mat. Snuffle mats give dogs an outlet for their desire to sniff, are highly rewarding, and are a great way to occupy them inside, especially when recovering from surgery (always check with your vet to ensure this level of activity is okay), as a distraction during a storm, or when you have company.
Dogs experience the world through their nose! A dog’s sense of smell is not only their strongest sense, sniffing is also extremely enriching. It can also help relieve stress, and is a fantastic way to help dogs relax and decompress after a stressful situation—it’s even useful during a vet or grooming visit if allowed!
Snuffle mats can also encourage dogs to eat slower (if you are using the mat as a way to feed your dog some or all of their meals), which can aid with digestion and provide an enriching and positive outlet for dogs to use their nose.
Supplies You Need
- Two or three yards of fleece.
- You can purchase whatever is on sale, or pick a color scheme that matches your decor. I’m a big believer that dog toys and gear should be fun! You can combine multiple colors, textures, and widths of fleece to add additional texture to your mat.
- A rubber mat with holes in it.
- For a small snuffle mat, you can purchase an inexpensive rubber sink mat with holes in it, or for a larger snuffle mat, rubber matting with holes that are sold at most hardware stores for use in industrial kitchens as “anti-fatigue mats.”
How To Make A Snuffle Mat
- Cut the fleece into strips 1–3 inches wide by 6–11 inches in length.
- Double knot your fleece strips through each hole going all the way down the length of the mat row by row.
- Go back and double knot the fleece strips (it helps to use a different color so you can see easier where you are going) through the holes on the diagonal making an X shape with your tied fleece.
- Once you have tied the fleece through the whole mat, you will have one side that is flat (that’s the bottom) and the other side that has the knots and the ends of all the fleece strips. This is the side that will be fun for your dog!
How To Use A Snuffle Mat
- Take some dry kibble (this activity is a great way to make mealtimes more exciting for your dog) and/or some dry treats that your dog likes, and sprinkle them through the mat. Generally you want to avoid food and treats that are wet or moist as it will make the mat messy and more difficult to clean.
- Show your dog the snuffle mat and encourage them to start searching for treats—most dogs won’t need to be asked twice!
Safety Note: Be sure to always supervise your dog while they’re playing with their snuffle mat. Most dogs are happy just to sniff the fabric and eat the treats, but some dogs do try to chew on the fleece. Remove the snuffle mat if you find your dog is trying to chew on the mat itself.
Sassafras Lowrey is a dog trainer turned trick instructor turned writer who seriously loves dogs! She got involved with dog training as a teenager, but it wasn’t until her and her partner adopted a former street dog in 2011 that she realized she could combine her passion for dogs with her passion for writing! After looking into ways she could enrich her dog Charlotte’s life, and seeing other pet parents do the same, Sassafras decided to write books to help both dogs and their humans. Check out the following activity from her new book, Chew This Journal!