Does your dog turn into a vacuum at mealtime, sucking up his meal in seconds? Or maybe he eats treats in a single gulp, without taking the time to enjoy them.
A snuffle mat could be the solution you are looking for.
These custom mats hide treats and kibble inside, causing mealtime to last up to 10 times longer!
All up, we reviewed 7 different snuffle mats. Here are just a few we tested…
We tested each for ease-of-use, compatibility with different breeds, how long they extended mealtime by, and how easy they were to clean.
All to answer a simple question:
Which snuffle mat is best for your dog?
Want the answer? Then read on!
Our Top Choices
1. Paw5 Wooly
2. Nosework Feeding Mat
What is a snuffle mat and does your dog need one?
How did we review the snuffle mats?
Snuffle mat testing observations
What is a snuffle mat and does your dog need one?
A snuffle mat is essentially an oversized mat that can be used to hide treats. Dogs bury their head in the mat as they hunt for special treats.
Think of a snuffle mat as a gym. Only instead of working out your dog’s muscles, it works one of the essential organs in his body…
Have you ever watched how your dog behaves when he wanders around your house or out on a walk?
Your pup spends a whole lot of time with his nose to the ground, right?
Your dog actually sees the world through his nose. While you may be able to smell a pizza, your dog’s nose is strong enough to smell each ingredient.
A dog’s sense of smell is 50 times stronger than humans! [ 1]
Before dogs were domesticated and hand-delivered a tasty meal in a bowl, they worked for their food. And to do that, they used their nose…
From tracking prey by its scent to sniffing out berries on a shrub – without their powerful nose, your dog’s ancestors would have starved.
While your spoiled pooch may no longer need to sniff out his next meal, he hasn’t lost these instincts.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to be sniffed out around the home, which can contribute to boredom – especially for smarter breeds like Australian Shepherds, Labradors, Border Collies, Poodles and Golden Retrievers.
And boredom can lead to problem behaviors such as barking, chewing and digging.
Sniffing is part of the reason why dog’s love walks so much. A walk exposes your dog to an entirely new world of different smells and scents – and that truly excites them.
When you think about it, depriving your dog of using their number one sense is almost cruel.
That’s where a snuffle mat comes in.
Your dog’s nose was made to hunt, track, burrow, sniff and snort.
A snuffle mat taps into your dog’s primal instincts by rewarding their curious nose with a tasty treat. The ASPCA suggests that food games, like a snuffle mat, play a vital role in keeping your pup mentally healthy. [ 2]
For the most part, snuffle mats are used as an interactive toy, one that encourages their natural behavior, providing both stimulation and entertainment.
Using a snuffle mat is simple. You hide treats around the mat, and then your dog uses his nose to find them, getting a tasty treat as a reward. It’s like a game of hide-and-seek for your dog, only better!
Because sniffing out food is a low-impact game, dogs of all ages can join in the fun. Older pups who are losing their eyesight still have a keen sense of smell. They might not be able to chase a ball but will enthusiastically dig through a snuffle mat.
And because most dogs love food above all else, a snuffle mat can make a great toy if your pup rejects traditional toys, such as chew toys.
Another advantage of snuffle mats is that they make treats go further…
Rather than watching your dog swallow each treat you throw him in a single gulp, spread them out across a snuffle mat. This way, it will take your pup time and effort to find each treat, extending feeding time.
Some dog owners we spoke to fed their pooch every meal in a snuffle mat. “If you stop and think about it, a dog bowl is a human invention,” says Ruth, a proud owner of two Beagles. “While it makes sense for us to eat out of a bowl, it’s boring for a dog to receive a meal without working for it. My dogs love the hunt as much as the meal.”
If you use a snuffle mat for the sole purpose of slowing down your dog’s mealtime, then also consider a slow-feed dog bowl because they are considerably easier to clean. For more information, check out our review on the best slow-feed dog bowls.
Snuffle mats can also be used as a distraction during events that cause anxiety. When meeting new people for the first time, such as a dog sitter, a snuffle mat can be loaded with treats and placed at the stranger’s feet. Many dogs instantly forget their fear as they focus on sniffing around the mat for treats.
Some dog owners even use a snuffle mat as an alternative to a simple puzzle toy to keep their pup entertained – for dogs that get frustrated with more difficult puzzle toys.
Less commonly, snuffle mats are used to train working dogs. Search-and-rescue, sniffer and hunting dog trainers use snuffle mats as a way to train dogs to locate scents. When used for training activities, snuffle mats are sometimes called nosework mats.
While a snuffle mat benefits most breeds of dogs, there are a few situations where a snuffle mat should be skipped.
We noticed flat-faced dogs, such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, were unable to easily retrieve food buried deep in snuffle mats. Their smooshed faces failed to grab pieces of kibble as easily as long-snouted breeds. Use a flat-faced dog bowl instead.
And, it goes without saying that dogs who are not motivated by food won’t benefit from a snuffle mat.
Finally, snuffle mats may not be appropriate for puppies. You see, puppies love to play, even when they are in the middle of eating. Unfortunately for snuffle mats, puppies play by biting. Sharp puppy teeth can quickly shred a snuffle mat, which was not designed to be chewed on.
But for everyone else, a snuffle mat is a fantastic way to keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated when stuck inside your home.
Note: Snuffle mats should only be used under supervision. Once mealtime is over, pack away the snuffle mat to keep your dog from using it as a chew toy. If you want a durable toy for your pup to gnaw on, check out our review of the best chew toys.
How did we review the snuffle mats?
It surprised us to learn that there are not many snuffle mats on the market. Ordinarily, we spend hours of research narrowing down which products to purchase. But in the case of snuffle mats, we chose to buy the most popular and available snuffle mats, coming to a total of 7 different mats.
Next, we enlisted the help of our four-legged testers. The following pups were more than happy to sniff out treats to assist in our review.
- Norris – Miniature Australian Shepherd
- Holly – Boxer Foxhound
- Tucker – Yellow Labrador Retriever
- Harper – Border Collie x German Shepherd mix
In addition to the usual gang of testers, I hauled the snuffle mats down to my local dog park and spent the day asking various dog owners if they would let their dog test the snuffle mats. Some looked at me like I was crazy, but most were happy to participate.
This added another 18 dogs to the test, including a Pit Bull that was determined to drag the entire mat to a secluded space and a Miniature Dachshund that almost got lost in the largest mat.
Each snuffle mat was graded on how well it performed. We considered the following when choosing the winners:
- Did the snuffle mat slow down mealtime?
- How easy could food be hidden in the snuffle mat?
- Could the snuffle mat be used by a broad range of dogs?
- Did the snuffle mat show signs of wear after use?
- Did the snuffle mat lift or slide around the floor?
- How easy was it to clean?
- Did the snuffle mat material irritate snouts?
And, that’s all there is to it. Our top picks excelled in each of these areas.
Snuffle mat testing observations
While testing the qualities listed above, we made some observations that are worth mentioning.
1. Small, dry treats and kibble work best
Each snuffle mat we tested varied in how to hide dog treats. Some used pockets that a dog could open with his nose while others used ruffled material where food was hidden in the ridges.
But no matter how you hid the treat, we noticed that small treats worked best. Large treats were more difficult to hide. They often stuck out from underneath straps or on top of ruffles.
When this happened, mealtimes were not slowed down. Our dogs were quickly able to retrieve the treat.
It is for this reason that smaller treats worked best. But not just little treats. Dry treats.
If you feed your pup greasy or oily dog treats, they will quickly gunk up the snuffle mat, requiring frequent cleaning.
Oh, and no wet food. You don’t want to deal with that mess. Canned and raw food is best served in a bowl, not on a mat.
2. One snuffle mat per dog
If you have multiple dogs, you may consider buying a snuffle mat for them to share. Typically speaking, this isn’t the best idea.
Some dogs are perfectly happy to share with the other dogs they live with, but for others, sharing food brings out the worst – even if your pup is normally comfortable with sharing.
It’s best to think of a snuffle mat like a dog bowl. You wouldn’t let your dogs share a dish, would you?
Of course, you know your dog best. But if you choose to share mats, monitor mealtime closely. If you notice any aggression, you’ll need to buy another mat.
3. Some dogs just don’t get snuffle mats
When it comes to snuffle mats, there are two types of dogs:
The puzzle solver – This dog happily uses his nose to track down each treat or piece of kibble hiding in the mat, no matter how long it takes.
The flipper – This dog merely wants the food as quickly as possible.
Interestingly, we only came across the first type of dog.
During testing, none of the 22 different dogs who used the snuffle mats attempted to flip the the snuffle mats we reviewed. Even a super-sized Great Dane and an overly enthusiastic Pitbull played nice.
It’s possible that this behavior isn’t common. Even so, you’ll want to keep it in mind, as snuffle mats are unsuitable for flippers…
One German Shepherd owner we interviewed gave up on snuffle mats for this very reason. Her pup figured out that it was quicker to eat kibble off the floor and constantly flipped the snuffle mat.
Will your dog do the same? It’s hard to say. We came across conflicting reports even among the same breed. Some used the snuffle mat as intended while others flipped it.
Unfortunately, it may be trial and error to see if your pup will upend his mat. However, if your dog has a history of getting frustrated by puzzle toys, then it might be worth skipping the snuffle mat.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about smaller dogs flipping their mat – they don’t have the strength.
The best snuffle mats
By the end, we tested 7 different snuffle mats. After spending over 80 hours testing and reviewing, we narrowed down the competition to just two winners, each great in their own way…
1. Best all-round snuffle mat
|12 x 18 inches||Cotton/polyester blend|
Every other snuffle mat we reviewed was made of a fleece/felt material. Not the Paw5 Wooly. They use a blend of cotton and polyester. And the result is the best snuffle mat on the market.
At first glance, the Paw5 Wooly looks like a shaggy rug with one difference… The strands are thick and stiff.
Designed to imitate dense grass, these stiff strands are gentle enough that they won’t irritate your pup’s nose. To me, it feels like soft denim. After weeks of testing, none of our dogs showed any signs of abrasion.
But where the Paw5 Wooly shines is its ability to hide food. Sprinkling your dog’s kibble over the top of the mat is more than enough to slow down mealtime.
As your dog noses around, pieces of kibble work themselves deeper and deeper into the mat. Fortunately, even when the kibble sinks to the very bottom, it’s not unreachable for a dog.
This behavior actually made the mat suitable for short-snouted dogs. You can decide just how far down you hide the treats. Obviously for a flat-faced Pug, you want to place them closer to the surface. Their smooshed faces can’t squeeze in tight spaces the same way a long-nosed dog can. Alternatively, consider a flat-faced dog bowl!
Larger treats like Milk Bones require a little more effort. Since these don’t fall into the snuffle mat, you must manually hide each one. If you don’t, they will sit on top of the mat within easy reach of your pooch.
Once the mat begins to gunk up, throw it in the wash, and it will come out as good as new. Don’t worry… If you don’t use greasy or wet treats, you won’t need to clean it every day. Simply turn the mat over, give it a shake, and it’s good to go for the next snuffle session.
Interestingly, this was one of the only snuffle mats we tested that didn’t have a non-slip base. Instead, the mat relied on it’s weight to stay in place.
With less than an inch of movement during meal times we were satisfied with it’s performance on wood, tiled and laminate flooring. If you find the Paw5 Wooly moves too much, placing it against a wall will hold it in position.
My only complaint is that I wish they made the Paw5 in a bigger size. Larger dogs need more food, and this mat holds only so much before it piles up and sits on top.
During testing, I found that it held roughly two cups of kibble. If your pup eats more than that, then you might have to split mealtimes in two or use a slow-feed dog bowl instead.
Otherwise, this is the perfect snuffle mat. Highly recommended.
2. Best snuffle mat for training (nosework mat)
When it comes to nosework training, you want a mat that provides more hiding spaces.
And that’s exactly what the Nosework Feeding Mat offers. Some of the hiding places include:
- Ruffles for hiding treats
- Cups that dogs must stick their snout into
- Flaps to open
- Straps to lift
As you see, there are many choices when it comes to hiding treats or training tools. By mixing up the hiding spots, your dog is forced to rely on smell alone to track down each treat.
The soft fleece/felt fabric is gentle on noses. Even with multiple daily feedings, none of us saw signs of irritation or abrasion in our snout inspections.
The Nosework Feeding Mat is available in two sizes:
|23.6 x 39.4 inches||39.4 x 39.4 inches|
For those not serious about nosework, I recommend the medium size for two reasons:
- Dogs are less likely to walk over the mat, tracking gunk and dirt over it.
- It’s more affordable.
But for those training a dog to hunt or track, choose the larger size because it offers more hiding places.
And, that’s basically the only difference between the two. The pockets, flaps and ruffles are not bigger on the large size, but there are more of them.
Whichever size you choose, the non-slip backing holds it in place. Even when dogs walk over the mat, the design of the hiding spots made it difficult to accidentally lift the mat when sniffing around.
When cleaning time rolls around, a trip through the wash will remove all the crumbs and dirt. However, we noticed that the mat trapped pet hair that a wash cycle alone couldn’t remove.
Fortunately, this is easily fixed. If you have a dog that is a heavy shedder, use the wool balls recommended in our best pet hair remover guide. Not only will they keep your snuffle mat hair-free but your other laundry too!
Once playtime is over, roll up the mat and use the attached ties to keep the mat in a neat coil.
If you want a snuffle mat with a wide variety of hiding spots, then this is as good as it gets! Highly recommended.
The snuffle mats that didn’t make the cut
Not every snuffle mat can be a winner. While our top picks outperformed, the following snuffle mats fell short in one way or another.
I really wanted to love the SlowTon Dog Snuffle Mat, mostly because of its adorable theme. It’s set up like a soccer field, complete with goals at both ends! Unfortunately, the flaps and folds were too fiddly to load with kibble. Unless you do it precisely, it won’t be a challenge for dogs. We also observed that teeth catch on the tight loops in the middle of the field, which causes the mat to lift upward, releasing kibble from the hiding places. If you want to buy your dog a soccer-themed toy, grab a dog soccer ball instead!
The SNiFFiz SmellyMatty is unique in that it is a round snuffle mat, as opposed to the rectangular designs. Interestingly, this was one of the most popular snuffle mats we reviewed. It almost looks like a giant flower. It’s the pockets that attach by velcro that were its downfall. Not only do these pockets extend the time it takes to set up the mat, but they were easily knocked off by our larger tester. Many times, I had to chase down Tucker, our playful Labrador tester, because he ran off with his “pouch of food” once it disconnected. Finally, the mat doesn’t roll up in a single piece and requires separate storage.
The Premium Quality Pet Snuffle Mat was sold under a wide range of different brands. Made from hundreds of curled pieces of fleece, it is designed to imitate grass. Kibble didn’t sink into it as easily as the Paw5 Wooly mat. While we liked the idea of connecting multiple mats to make a giant mat, it was cheaper to buy a larger mat with different hiding places.
Opening the AWOOF Foraging Snuffle Mat reminded me of a giant taco. The lack of a non-slip base was too big of a flaw to overlook. Even the smallest of our dogs was able to slide it around the floor while sniffing around.
The iDig Digging Toy is an interesting toy that engages a dog’s natural digging instinct with sniffing out food. However, we decided to skip it because of its high price and that it wasn’t a dedicated snuffle mat.
Phew, if you made it this far, congratulations! You now know which snuffle mat is best for your pooch.
A recap of our results…
The best snuffle mats we reviewed:
- Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat – Best for most dogs
- Nosework Feeding Mat – Best for nosework training
Which snuffle mat does your dog use? Let me know in the comments below!
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