The Ultimate Guide To Lickimats: Why Every Dog Should Have One
You might have seen some flimsy-looking silicone squares in the pet section of your local supermarket. You might even have bought one, but immediately shoved it to the back of the cupboard, never having thought about it again. If so, I would urge you to get it out, rinse it off and start using it! This cheap and cheerful little thing can do so much for our dogs! I’m talking about a lickimat / licky mat of course!
Licky Mat Guide
In this guide, we will cover:
- What Is A Lickimat / Licky Mat?
- Why A Lickymat Is Great For Your Dog
- Why Enrichment Activities Are Important
- Why Licking Is Good For Your Dog
- What To Put On A Lickimat?
- Single Ingredient Lickimat Toppings
- Lickimat Recipes
- Lickimats For Raw Food Diets
- Lickimats For Dogs: More Ideas
- Frozen Lickimat toppings
- Licky Mats As Part Of Free Work Enrichment
- How To Clean A Licky Mat
What Is A Lickimat / Licky Mat?
Licky mats are simple silicone sheets, with a raised textured pattern on them. This pattern helps trap the food so it’s harder for a dog to eat it. Instead of wolfing down his food, he needs to lick at it. This not only takes longer, but it also triggers a physiological response that is good for a dog’s wellbeing.
You can put them on the floor or on a raised surface, depending on your dog’s size. I even got one with suction pads on the back, to fix it to a vertical surface like the fridge door or a tiled wall – it’s great for distracting them when you need to bath or groom them, for example.
When you consider that a lickymat is possibly the cheapest dog enrichment option out there, you get a lot of value and benefits for very few bucks.
Why A Lickimat Is Great For Your Dog
- It is an enrichment activity
- It provides entertainment for your dog
- Licking is calming for dogs
- It slows feeding – great for dogs that wolf down their food
- It’s a versatile way to feed: you can put almost anything that’s wet on a lickymat. If you feed kibble, mixing it up with something wet, such as tinned fish or steamed veggies, means that you can still use the lickimat
Why Enrichment Activities Are Important
A dog needs to be both mentally and physically stimulated. Enrichment activities are things that satisfy a dog’s mental needs through challenging and therefore exercising their brains. It include things like searching, sniffing, learning new skills and solving problems. Lickimats are a simple enrichment activity.
Allowing our dogs to sniff out and find their food is another great enrichment activity. If we are unable to walk our dogs for whatever reason, providing them with indoor enrichment activities and games can be just as tiring for them as going for a walk.
Why Licking Is Good For Your Dog
Some studies have shown that licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel-good drug. This has a calming and relaxing effect on a dog.
Alternatives To Lickimats For Dogs
Let’s suppose that you haven’t yet bought a licky mat, but reading this so far makes you want to try it with your dog. You probably have something at home that you can temporarily use until you get a proper licky mat. For instance, dish drainer mats or silicone muffin or cupcake molds.
It doesn’t even need to be made of silicone – there are suitable plastic items, such as dish draining trays with a textured surface, or cutlery drawers. Since these are smooth though, they might not help to slow a frenzied eater as much as the dimpled and raised surface of a licky mat would.
What To Put On A Lickimat?
I remember when I first brought home this bendy silicone square, and thought, ‘So what should I do with this then?’. It sat on the shelf for a few days, and then got used occasionally with some kefir on it. However, that was then – now it gets used every day.
Since I’ve come to understand its many benefits for my dogs, the licky mat forms part of their daily feeding routine. I change what I put on there most days. Sometimes it’s still nothing more than some kefir. Other times I make them up a recipe, blending different ingredients.
The simplest toppings for likimats are ones that require no work on our part! These come straight from a can, carton or other container, for example:
Single Ingredient Lickimat Toppings
These are all healthy, natural options for lickimat toppings. Go for a low fat cream cheese and yogurt, and lean minced meat, rather than the full fat versions.
- cream cheese
- canned fish (mashed down into the lickymat)
- canned pumpkin
- raw egg
- banana (mashed down into the lickymat)
- minced meat
A Sweet Tooth
If your dog likes it, you could add a little honey to these options – not too much though, honey is high in calories! The same can be said for banana. Although banana is rich in potassium and vitamin B6, it’s also high in natural sugars, so don’t go overboard on the sweet stuff.
I do NOT recommend using peanut butter. Many people feed their dogs peanut butter and many dog treats contain it, but it has potential problems. Certain peanut butter brands contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Even some of the best brands contain aflotoxins, which can cause cancer.
And if your peanut butter brand has neither of the above, it may still contain harmful fats and almost certainly, sugar. There are so many healthy options that we can feed our dogs, so why risk giving them something that may harm them? Here’s a very quick video (2 minutes), summarising why you should not give your dog peanut butter.
With a little more effort, and especially if you give your dog a fresh food or raw food diet, there are lots more exciting possibilities for licky mat toppings. I’ve found that a combination of the following ingredients works very well, especially for my picky girl who is highly skilled at picking lumps of veggies out of her food bowl:
- steamed, chopped up broccoli
- steamed sweet potato (mashed down into the lickymat)
- steamed pumpkin (mashed down into the lickymat)
- minced meat
- berries made into a puree (in the blender)
- pureed fruit, should as apple / banana / blueberries
Lickimats For Raw Food Diets
My dogs get a raw and fresh food diet. I usually put some of their food in their bowls and some on the licky mats. I buy ready prepared, frozen raw food for them and defrost it the day before. It’s ready minced, so it’s perfect for smearing over a licky mat.
I combine this mince with steamed vegetables, pureed fruit, tinned fish or raw egg, and I supplement the ready made raw meat mince with additional organ meat. If I want to include the organ meat on the lickymat, I will almost certainly have to put it in the blender first. The dogs love to eat from the lickimat and it keeps them occupied for much longer than just eating straight from the bowl.
If you’re a lickimat fan, you might have been feeling frustrated that as a raw feeder you couldn’t take advantage of snuffle mats in the same way. The traditional, fabric snuffle mat is not at all suitable for raw feed diets – except for dehydrated treats of course.
However, there’s a way round this – I love snuffle mats and have made several for my dogs, including one that can be rinsed and washed in the dishwasher, and so is suitable for raw food – get the DIY tutorial here.
Squeezy Cheese And Pate For Dogs
Lots of pet parents are fans of squeezy cheese and pate for their dogs, and they make excellent lickimat toppings. You can get DIY homemade squeezy cheese and liver pate for dogs recipes here.
Lickimats For Dogs: More Ideas
Another thing you can do with the fabulously versatile lickymat is once you’ve added a topping, freeze it. In hot weather I usually have frozen treats ready prepared in the freezer – see some fast and simple recipe ideas here.
Freezing the licky mat gives you all the above benefits for your dog, plus it refreshes and cools them in hot weather. Every licky mat I’ve bought is dishwasher-safe, so there’s no need to worry about putting the ‘dog’s bowl’ in your nice clean freezer and contaminating it!
Frozen Licky Mat Toppings
I don’t use minced meat-based recipes on the mat for freezing – I find them a little lumpy and clumpy. I prefer to use a liquid-based recipe such as kefir or yogurt.
One of my licky mats is has suckers on the back, and is meant for sticking onto a vertical surface – great for a little distraction if you need to do something like groom or wash a less-than-keen scruffy pup.
I also find the vertical lickimat useful as part of enrichment activities, allowing me to more closely observe my dogs and their preferences and movements.
Licky Mats As Part Of Free Work Enrichment
In Free Work enrichment, we lay out various ‘stations’ for our dogs to explore freely. Licky mats are not as essential part of Free Work, but licking is encouraged. For my own dogs, the lickimats are generally their favourite part of the activities. You can learn how to do enrichment Free Work, and how it can benefit both your dog and you as a pet parent, in this article.
How To Clean A Licky Mat
You will most likely find that your lickimat is dishwasher-safe. If not, it can easily be cleaned by leaving to soak in some hot water for a few minutes and rinsing off afterwards – scrub it with a nail brush if necessary to get any remaining food off.
Licky mats are easy to use and they offer us many benefits for our dog’s health and wellbeing. They can be used for enrichment, entertainment, and to slow dogs that wolf their food. There is a suitable lickimat topping for whatever diet your dog has, be it kibble or raw.