My dog inhales his food. In-hales. A cup of dry dog food disappears down his gullet in about twelve seconds.

Why is a dog eating fast a problem?

Because eating too fast can cause issues like gagging, choking and the dreaded bloat – a life-threatening condition. The American Kennel Club explains that when a dog eats too fast, it inhales air as it swallows which can then cause the stomach or intestines to expand and twist. That doesn’t sound good, now does it?

To slow Gizmo-pup down and make his meal time last a little bit longer, we usually give him his meal in two parts. Half of his kibble goes in his bowl with a slow-feeder in it that forces him to work a little harder for his food. The other half of his food goes into his Tricky Treat Ball that he has to push around with his nose to get the food to fall out. But on days when I’ve just cleaned the floor and don’t want him to lick it in a million places (to pick up the kibble that falls out of the ball) or just want a quieter meal time, I use his snuffle mat.

What is a snuffle mat?

A snuffle mat is a mat made of fabric strips that you can sprinkle a dog’s kibble onto. It forces the doggo to use his nose to search for the food in the forest of strips. A bonus of the snuffle mat, the tricky treat ball, and the slow feeder is that they not only feed your dog, they tire him out! When a pup has to use his brain, he gets tired out faster than exercise. Think about it, it’s the same for us people. A mentally busy day – with studying for a big test, or having to work through a bunch of problems –  is way more exhausting than a day during which we walk a lot. It’s the same for dogs. Mental stimulation is a faster and better way to tire your dog out (but a daily walk or two is still necessary, some physical exercise is good for everyone).

dog eating from snuffle mat

Gizmo-pup looking for snacks in his snuffle mat.

How to make a snuffle mat

I’ve seen snuffle mats in pet stores, online, and at markets but I really wanted to make a big one for my dog myself. It would be fun, I thought. It would be easy, I thought. It will be cheaper, I thought. I was correct about all but the last one. I ended up spending about $70. (Oops..)

Supplies:

  • a rubber mat with holes to tie the fabric to (like this, I cut it and used a third for my mat)
  • Fleece fabric cut into strips (I used about 3 metres (3.2 yards) of fabric)

That’s it. Pretty simple supplies. Many snuffle mats are made with a plastic backing, but I wanted a heavier weighted one so that my dog doesn’t drag it around the house.

Steps:

  • Once your fabric is cut into strips (about 2 inches wide by 10 inches long), start tying it to to the mat
  • Loop and knot the fabric over one side of the hole in the mat, continue for the whole row (I did long side first)
  • Loop strips the other direction and tie with a strong knot
  • Fill in any spots that look a little empty with a strip looped at an angle

It’s that easy! Cut strips and tie them.

a snuffle mat in progress with one row of fabric strips tied to the mat

A view of the backside of my snuffle mat after tying the first row of strips.

Time:

  • It took me a few hours to cut all my strips
  • It took another two or three hours to tie all my strips

Watching a movie? Do this while you watch. Listening to a podcast or audiobook, here’s something for your hands to keep busy.

And that’s how I turned this:

snuffle mat supplies - a rubber hex mat and fleece strips

Snuffle mat supplies – a rubber mat and fleece strips.

Into this:

finished snuffle mat with a toy dino

A finished snuffle mat in two colours with Gizmo-pup’s favourite dino toy.

 

How to make a snuffle mat for your dog and why it's important | Image: a black dog eating off a blue and green snuffle mat

 

 

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