Benefits of Lick Mats for Dogs

2 bone shaped lick mats with filling spread on them.

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Licking things is one of the most common habits that dogs have. It’s not just because they like to lick, but also because it provides them with many benefits. For example, licking can reduce anxiety and stress in your dog, as well as promote oral health.

But you don’t want them to just lick anything, that’s where lick mats come in handy! These mats are made specifically for dogs to lick, and they provide a variety of benefits. Read on to learn more about the benefits of lick mats for dogs. You may just decide to get one for your pup!

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What is a Licking Mat?

Pin image of a small white dog licking her nose sitting behind a lick mat.

A licking mat is a textured mat typically made out of food-grade silicone or rubber. Some licking mats contain grooves and nubs, while others have fun patterns. These grooves and nubs are designed for food to settle in them and slow your dog’s eating down. This prevents the gulping of food, which can lead to vomiting and other health issues.

What are the Benefits of a Licking Mat?

Licking mats have several benefits for dogs including keeping them busy, helping with anxiety, improving oral health, and improving digestion.

Small white dog laying down licking a yellow lick mat.

Keep Dogs Busy

Lick mats keep dogs busy and engaged and make them work for their food or treats. This is important because it gives your dog a sense of purpose and can help with boredom.

Very food motivated dogs will take the time to get every morsel of food off the mat. Others may give up after they have most of the food licked up. Either way, it will keep them busy for a while.

Helps with Anxiety

Licking mats help anxious dogs by distracting them from what is causing the anxiety. Many dogs become so focused on the food that they don’t notice what’s going on around them.

Another reason licking mats help anxious dogs is due to hormones that are released when a dog licks. According to dogendorsed.com, licking releases relaxing hormones that will help to calm a dog.

Oral Health

Lick mats help with oral health by causing your dog to produce more saliva. Saliva is the first line of defense against plaque and tartar, which are two major contributors to tooth decay.

Most licking mats have grooves that catch food stuck in the mat but do not allow it to pass through easily. To get the food out, your dog will need to lick and suck at it. All of this causes a lot of saliva to release.

Improves Digestion

Licking mats improve digestion due to the amount of saliva that is released when a dog licks. This saliva helps break down food, which makes it easier for your dog’s body to digest and absorb nutrients.

Lick mats also help with digestion just by the fact that your dog can’t gulp her food at mealtime. Slower eating reduces the chance of stomach upset and vomiting.

When To Use a Lick Mat

There are many times you may want to use a licking mat for your dog. Slowing down their eating, giving them something to do when you leave the house, helping with grooming sessions, anxiety-producing events, or just as a treat.

Lick Mats to Slow Eating

You can use a lick mat any time you need to slow your dog’s eating down. This is especially helpful for those with large breeds who literally swallow their food whole!

Luna used to eat all her food super fast and I tried many different ways to slow her down, for more information you can check out the post, how to slow down a dog that eats too fast. While I mainly use a slow feeder bowl for Luna, lick mats would provide more variety for any dog that eats too fast.

Lick Mats When You Leave the House

You can also use a lick mat as part of your morning routine, such as when you’re leaving the house and want to give your dog something to do while you are away. Just be careful with this if your dog is a destructive chewer as they may decide to chew up the mat as well.

Lick Mats During Grooming

Using licking mats during grooming sessions, like nail trimming and baths, can also help those dogs that are nervous get through the grooming more easily. A dog that is concentrating on licking may not notice its nails being trimmed.

I will say that if your dog is really nervous during baths, this may not help. Luna is so terrified of getting a bath that as soon as the water touches her back nothing, not even a peanut butter filled lick mat, will keep her in the tub. Though the lick mat does help get her in the tub (it’s a start). The lick mat would be more likely to help those dogs that tolerate baths but are still stressed by them.

Lick Mats for Anxiety Causing Events

Another time to use a licking mat is during any event that causes your dog anxiety. A big one around here is the Fourth of July. Many dogs are scared of fireworks and tend to have a rough evening and night when people are shooting off fireworks.

A lick mat may provide enough of a distraction to calm your dog during the fireworks, especially if you are indoors with the windows closed. Though if your dog is like Luna, you may have a difficult time getting them to go outside for their nighttime potty even if they’ve been licking away at a lick mat during most of the fireworks.

Lick Mats as a Treat

German shepherd licking a green bone shaped lick mat.

You can also use a lick mat just as a treat for your dog. By using the lick mat for treats your dog will have to work at getting the treat which will extend their enjoyment. Instead of finishing their treat in seconds, it will take several minutes or longer for them to get their treat.

What Type of Food Do You Use With a Lick Mat?

You can use any dog-safe spreadable food with a lick mat. Some of Luna’s favorites are peanut butter, plain Greek yogurt, and mashed banana. You can use these alone or mixed together. Here’s a list of options you can start with:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Mashed Banana
  • Apple sauce
  • Cheese
  • Wet dog food
  • Cooked oatmeal
  • Kong easy treat
  • Pumpkin Puree
  • Veggie Puree

Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog new foods.

A bowl of mashed banana, Greek yogurt, and peanut butter.

You can mix and match multiple foods to give your dog new flavors each time you use the lick mat. My dogs really enjoy the same mixture I use in my ice cream for dogs recipe of banana, Greek yogurt, and peanut butter.

How to Prep a Lick Mat

The easiest way to prep a lick mat is to take your chosen food and just spread it onto the lick mat. Spread it as evenly as you can and make sure to get it into the crevices.

You can spread multiple types of food individually or you can mix them before putting them onto the mat.

To make it more challenging for your dog, you can freeze the lick mat once you have the food spread onto it. Or you can use your dog’s usual kibble with a little water for an icy treat! If you choose to do kibble and water it may be easier to move to the freezer if you place the lick mat on a cookie sheet before prepping it.

How to Use a Lick Mat Safely

When you first introduce a lick mat you will want to watch your dog carefully. Most dogs will lick at the mat with no problems, but some may try to chew on it.

If your dog tries to chew on a lick mat you should remove it from their presence for a short period of time and try again later. When your dog gets used to using a lick mat calmly you can gradually increase the amount of time they are left to use it.

Once you know your dog won’t chew on the mat you can use it with them with less supervision. Many lick mats say they are safe to give a dog while they are home alone, but only you know your dog well enough to make that decision.

If you do decide to leave your dog alone with the lick mat, get one that says it is “chew-proof” or “chew resistant” as these should be less likely to get damaged if your dog does decide to chew on it.

The Types of Lick Mats

There are 2 main types of lick mats, those that lay on the floor and those that can suction to a door or window.

Lick mats that lay on the ground come in a variety of sizes and styles. They are made to be very strong so they can withstand repeated licking.

Suction lick mats are great for baths because you can attach them to the side of the tub. You can also use them on a glass door or window, or in the car. Though the way Luna drools, I wouldn’t want all that drool running down my car windows.

Where to Get a Lick Mat

Licking mats are relatively inexpensive, most ranging between $5 and $20. You can find them on Amazon, Chewy, and Petco, along with most pet stores. There are many different styles, textures, and shapes to choose from.

Be sure to get the right size for your dog– most licking mats come in small or regular sizes, but if you have a larger breed you might need to get a bigger lick mat.

Also, you will want to take your dog’s chewing tendencies into consideration when buying a licking mat. Some mats are designed to withstand more chewing than others.

How to Care for a Licking Mat

Care for a licking mat is relatively simple, but may take a little time depending on how thorough of a licker you have. All you have to do is wash it with soap and water when your dog is done with it.

If your dog is thorough with its licking, the washing should go quickly. But if you have a dog that is less thorough, you will need to spend some time making sure you get all the food off of the mat when you wash it.

Some lick mats are dishwasher safe, but as not all of them are you will want to make sure yours is before you place it in the dishwasher. Just be sure to get any noticeable chunks of food off the lick mat before placing it in the dishwasher.

Which Dogs Should Not Use a Lick Mat?

There isn’t a specific type of dog that shouldn’t use a lick mat other than one that is likely to destroy it. If you have a destructive chewer, a lick mat may not be the best for them. Though, under the right circumstances and close supervision, even a destructive chewer could use a lick mat.

Puppies, who may go straight for chewing, may need to wait until they’re a little older (or at least past the teething stage) before they can safely use a lick mat. But even with puppies, it will vary depending on the individual pup.

Large dogs may take extra work to get the mat to stay put as they are much stronger than a little dog, but unless you absolutely want them to stay in one spot (like with grooming) this won’t be much of an issue. I know when I’ve given a lick mat to Luna she does tend to push it around the floor more than Morgan, but that isn’t an issue for me.

The most important thing is to take into account your dog’s specific behavior and personality. If your dog gets frustrated easily if something is a little difficult, they may not like a lick mat. But the only way to know is to try it with supervision and see how they do. If your dog gets frustrated or starts to chew the mat, just take it away. Either try again later or write it off as something your dog doesn’t like.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how licking mats can provide a variety of benefits for your dog. These include reducing anxiety, stress, and boredom, as well as promoting oral health. If you’re looking for a new way to feed your dog or give them treats then we highly recommend giving lick mats a try.

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