Finally, I did it – I created my own snuffle mat for my pup. I’ve seen it online created many different ways, but the basics of making a dog snuffle mat remain consistent: Tie strips of fleece fabric to some kind of grid-like base.
It was the base that initially tripped me up – where do you find a rubber foundation wide enough to wedge fleece strips through, but close enough together to make the process a bit challenging for the dog? I used a rubber sink liner I found in the dollar store, specifically a Better Crocker brand for $2.50. Then I gathered up the fleece squares left over from my obsession with making fleece dog blankets.
What are the benefits of providing your dog with a snuffle mat (whether you make it or not)?
Dog snuffle mats are used as enrichment tools, specifically nose work. Treats, particularly strong smelling ones, are hidden in mats and dogs spend time searching for them. It’s a great indoor activity that stimulates their mind and natural instincts – usually tiring them out. My dog doesn’t seem to get tired. But she is amused by a snuffle mat and similar activities (including SniffScape in Kitchener).
Here are the steps I followed to make a snuffle mat for my dog:
- Rubber mat with a grid. I used a Betty Crocker sink liner.
- Fleece fabric, preferably scraps. I used the 4-inch squares left over from fleece dog blanket projects.
- Scissors, preferably sharp ones specifically for fabric.
Step one: Cut Fleece Strips
First, you’ll need to cut a lot of strips. I had a lot of 4-inch square squares of fleece left over from blanket projects, so I cut each four-inch square into four strips ending up with strips one-inch-wide and four-inches long.
Four inches is long enough to tie each strip tightly. But here’s the trick: cut the strips in the direction of the stretch. That way, you have four-inch strips that stretch easily as you tie them. Cutting this way is key because it makes the tying a lot easier – and you will be tying a lot.
Cut the non-slip rubber mat to the size you want – if you’ve bought a big one. The advantage of buying a kitchen sink liner is that it already has neatly finished edges. At about 12×12 inches, it’s a good size for a medium to small sized dog.
Step Two: Tie Fleece Strips
Second, starting at one corner of the mat, tie each fleece strip in each square. (I followed the rows on the sink liner). Simply, push the loop through a hole in the mat from the top side, then pull the ends of the strip through the loop. Knot both ends together as tightly as possible.
Continue tying on strips until you’ve filled up the entire mat. I chose to create a random colour pattern on my first try to keep it simple. Sunflowers and colour patterns might come next … but not yet.
Finally, when you’ve tied on all the strips and secured each in place with a tight knot, your snuffle mat is ready to use. But the tying process takes time. Like doing puzzles, I worked at it in short stages, embracing it as a decompressing Zen activity. It took me about one week to complete the snuffle mat, about an hour at a time.
Step Three: Scatter Treats
To use a snuffle mat, sprinkle treats or kibble into the fleece strips and let your dog sniff around to find them. But, because the strips are only tied not sewn, it’s possible for them to come loose. Supervise your dog using the snuffle mat to make sure they don’t accidentally ingest any fleece strips.
How to clean your dog’s snuffle mat? Other than vacuuming, I haven’t tried to clean the snuffle mat yet. Because the sink liner is very rigid, hand washing is likely the only option.
Purchasing a Dog Snuffle Mat
Of course, if hours of crafting isn’t your thing, there are plenty of dog snuffle mats available in pet stores and likely pet festivals. I recently purchased an iDig for my pup (affiliate link), which works much like a snuffle mat but involves digging. I first saw the iDig (brought invented by the makers of iFetch ball launcher affiliate link) at SuperZoo when it won a best new product award.
The iDig is a sturdy circle of plastic that contains three layers of durable canvas fabric, each with pockets to hide treats, or Fido’s favourite toy if you’re watching calorie intake. The idea is that your dog will search for the desirable items by digging (or flipping) the fabric layers in search of the prize.
My dog’s review of iDig – my Cocker Spaniel/Springer Spaniel cross used the iDig as designed (affiliate link), but found the desired treats quickly even the chew I hid in the pocket of the bottom layer. Then when she was done, she curled up in the plastic circle. In the end, she used the iDig as intended, but not for much longer than she spends with her snuffle mat. The iDig, however, involves more full-body engagement.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and a travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research.