Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Snuffle Mat Review

So, I mentioned in my last post that I had a lil noodle pup. Her name is Willow, and she’s a reactive pitbull mix. (Don’t know what “reactive” means? Check out this post to learn more.) We live in an apartment home complex and that basically means that we are unable to go out for walks at normal times, and we aren’t able to spend a lot of time outside playing or just hanging out. However, that doesn’t stop her from needing the proper amounts of stimulation and exercise. So in lieu of being able to run her around for an hour at midnight every night, her trainer recommended that I create a snuffle mat for her.

Yeah, I didn’t know what the heck a snuffle mat was either.

Turns out, it’s a rubber (or whatever material you can find) mat that has strips of felt tied through it. It’s meant to mimic a grassy patch that she literally has to snuffle through to find treats or food instead of eating out of a bowl. Because eating out of a bowl is literally the least stimulating thing she could possibly do, she has never received any of her meals out of one. Girl’s gotta work for her food!

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The things I love about this mat are as follows:

  1. Willow super loves it. Even when there isn’t any food on it, she likes to lay on it, roll on it, rub herself on it… you get the idea. It wasn’t hard to get her interested in it, which made the transition from her old toys to this mat really seamless and easy.
  2. It multitasks! It’s a great place to use for training and it’s a fantastic marker to use if I want her to go settle. She likes it to the point where it can be difficult for me to put her food into it because she’s already laying on top of it. Which brings me to point number 3…
  3. It gives her a good chunk of work trying to find all the pieces of kibble in it. When I first introduced it to her, I just sprinkled them on top so that she could figure out what I wanted her to do a little bit easier. After a couple of uses, I started running my fingers through the felt to “bury” her food a little bit so she’d have to dig a little bit more to find it. The average amount of time it takes her to find all her food is 10 minutes, which is pretty good.
  4. It was relatively inexpensive to make. The mat itself was on sale for $12 when I bought it, but here is the link for it anyway. I didn’t really care about the color or consistency of the mat, so I just bought felt remnants at JoAnn’s and spent roughly $20 on a little more than 6 yards of fabric (which is a lot, and a really good price).

And here are some of the things I don’t like about it:

  1. It is super time consuming. I spent several hours cutting the felt into 2″X 6-9″ strips, another few hours threading the strips through the holes, and yet a few more hours tying them into knots. I could have bought a smaller mat, but Willow is 45lbs and I didn’t want all of her kibble practically on top of each other, so I opted for a larger mat. At least I got to catch up on Netflix.
  2. It’s a pain in the BUM NUGGET to clean. The base mat that I have is made out of kitchen grade, heavy duty rubber so I can’t toss it in the washing machine. If it ever were to get dirty, I would probably have to take it out and hose it down. Which is a giant pain in the bum. The plus side is that I could probably vacuum it or take it outside and shake it before resorting to hosing it down because kibble and small, dry treats are the only thing I use on it.
  3. It takes up quite a bit of space. My mat is probably 3′ X 4′ (ish) and is pretty heavy to move around for what it is. I can’t put it somewhere and leave it there forever, mostly because I like to change the environment that Willow eats in regularly too (it’s part of the reactivity work that we do with her). It’s not really conveniently transportable, especially if I were to have multiple dogs with multiple mats. If you have an apartment with very limited space, I would recommend starting with a mat with a smaller footprint.

All in all, I love this. It keeps Willow busy, gives her somewhere comfy to lay down and nap/chew on dried pig ears, and it was really inexpensive to make. It’s durable and it’s unlikely to get terribly dirty. Adding this to her rotating cycle of enrichment toys has definitely been a good thing for her. I would rank this 8.5/10. Those of you who have tried making snuffle mats, what was your experience with them? Are there other enrichment toys you would recommend? Leave a comment and let me know!

Update 6/12/17: I’m attaching pictures of the mat in the process of being made. The picture of the finished mat isn’t actually mine (because I still haven’t finished it yet) but here’s what it looked like while I was doing it. The first one is my mat and my first set of strips. The second one is what the underside looks like once I wove the strips through. The third is the top of the mat, showing that they’re secured with pretty little square knots.

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