Have a dog who always seems amped up? Or maybe your dog wolfs down his dinner so quickly you barely see it in his bowl!
Food-based brain games and mental engagement are great for tiring an over-aroused dog out, as well as slowing down a dog’s eating.
Hyper Pet’s Licking Mats (formerly dubbed “LickiMats”) are one of the best options out there, slowing your dog down at dinnertime while helping to engage and relax him.
What are Licking Mats?
HyperPet Licking Mats are lickable food feeders for your dog. These feeding mats are made of non-toxic FDA Grade TPE (short for Thermo-Plastic Elastome – basically a compound made of rubber and plastic).
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Hyper Pet Licking Mats
Non-toxic lickable food mats
These freezable, dishwasher-safe food feeders relax your dog while giving them a fun activity
These mats are covered in ridges and numbs, allowing you to spread your dog’s wet food (or other wet, soft snacks) into the crevices.
Your dog will then lick up the food from the mat!
What are LickiMats Used For?
But why – exactly – is this licking action so good for your dog? Well licking mats:
- Reduce anxiety. Studies have shown that licking is a relaxing activity for your dog, reducing stress and giving your dog an endorphin boost.
- Give your dog something to do. Boredom is a big cause of destructive behavior. Many dogs spend most of their day sitting around with nothing to do – that’s no fun at all! Licking mats give your dog fun, stimulating activity at meal time.
- Keep your dog’s mouth fresh. The licking mats’ unique ribbed patterns scrape bacteria from your dog’s tongue, resulting a fresher, healthier doggie mouth.
- Slow down your dog’s eating. Since licking mats require your dog to lick up his food, rather than gulp it all down, LickiMats functions great as slow feeders, forcing your dog to slow down and reducing the risk of bloat.
Here are some real-life examples of how I have used LickiMats with Remy:
Managing Over-Arousal and Excitement
Early on when I was working in beginner training with Remy, he was frequently a terror. He would get especially riled up in the evenings, barking and nipping at me. It was pretty stressfull!
When I really needed a break, these licking mats were a lifesaver. I knew that if I gave Remy a frozen LickiMat, he’d be fully occupied for the next 30 minutes, allowing me to just take a few minutes for myself to maintain my sanity.
Now of course you don’t want to reward your dog for being naughty, but if you sense your dog is on the edge of getting over-excited or riled up, stop your dog from practicing that bad behavior by taking the initiative and giving your dog a licking mat!
I also began giving LickiMats to Remy whenever he came indoors from outside – for some reason this always riled him up (and still does sometimes).
Practicing Being Calm Around Visitors
Remy is at a stage right now where he’s not sure how he feels about visitors. He seems pretty into them, but it’s easy for him to get over-aroused and amped up.
Whether your dog is overexcited by visitors or frightened of them, LickiMats are great management tools.
I’ve found great success sitting down at the kitchen table with visitors and giving Remy a licking mat in the room next over. This way, he can still keep an eye on things, get used to strangers in his home, and realize that when visitors come, good things happen, building positive associations.
Licking mats are easier to work with than treats, as when you’re getting a dog used to strangers with treats, you have to keep throwing the dog goodies. With a LickiMat, it’s one and done!
Other Licking Mat Benefits
Some other cool things to note about LickiMats is that they are:
- Freezer-friendly. One of my favorite things to do with licking mats is fill several up and stack them in the freezer. Freezing the mats takes your dog even longer to lick them up. Plus they work as great frozen treats on a hot day!
- Dishwasher safe. That’s right, you can throw them in the top rack of the dishwasher for super easy cleaning.
- Microwave safe. If you want to heat your dog’s food up a bit, LickiMats are microwave safe too!
- Affordable. Licking mats are a fair bit cheaper than your average puzzle toy or slow feeder.
- 90-day warranty. LickiMats come with a 90-day warrant for chewing issues. We’ll talk a bit more about that below.
- Dual designs. The HypetPet Licking Mat IQ Feeder 2-pack comes with a Calm model as well as a Reward & Calm model. The green Calm model has more nubs that result in a rougher texture for more calming sensations, while the orange has a lower nub design with a different pattern that still calms a pet, but not as powerfully.
LickiMat Recipes & Meal Ideas
LickiMats work with a variety of canine goodies, including:
- Wet dog food
- Fresh dog food
- Peanut butter
- Ripe banana
- Squash (canned, cooked, or mashed)
- Canned pumpkin (which is great for helping with constipation too – just opt for puree or regular, but not pie filling, which is sweeteed)
- Cottage cheese
- Mashed potatoes
LickiMats also have several quadrants, so you can experiment with different ingredients and see what your dog likes best!
There aren’t many drawbacks to LickiMats – in fact, the only issue some owners may have with LickiMats is that some dogs may tear them apart.
I had this issue myself with licking mats in the past (with their older designs, which have since been updated).
On both these occasions I left the house or went upstairs and forgot I had given Remy a LickiMat – he made quick work of them and, upon finishing the food, had decided to tear into the mats.
That is their only drawback – they are easy for dogs to destroy and tear apart, if you let them.
An easy solution to this is to simply take the licking mat away when your dog is finished eating. Just don’t give your dog the opportunity to tear into the mat!
In fact, since I started removing the mats when Remy finished eating for several months, he got out of the habit of trying to tear them up, and now he doesn’t even attempt it, even when he’s finished lapping up all the bits and crannies from the licking mats.
Some owners may find this a drawback, but it’s quite easy to manage. The vast majority of dog toys, chews, and treats should be consumed and enjoyed with owner supervision.
And if you do accidentally forget you’ve given your dog a LickiMat and he tears it up a bit, HyperPet (the company behind IQ Licking Mats) actually offers a 90-day warranty for chewing issues, and they’ll send you a new one (I know for a fact they are honest about this, since I requested a new mat when Remy destroyed the last one and they sent a new one right over)!
The only problem may occur if you’re dealing with a dog who has separation anxiety and you want to give them a durable treat they can mow down on while you are away to distract them and keep them happy.
This is really the only situation in which I would not recommend LickiMats. Instead, opt for something more durable like a stuffed Kong or a Chilly Penguin.
How do you clean a LickiMat?
LickiMats can be washed in the top rack of a dishwasher for easy cleaning.
Otherwise, just let the LickiMats soak in some warm water and soap, and then you should be able to rinse the residue off easily.
Is LickiMat dishwasher safe?
Yes – LickiMats are dishwasher safe. You just need to put them in the top rack of the dishwasher.
Licking Mats Could Be a Lifesaver
Remy has been a very difficult rescue dog – it’s been a real journey! It was very stressful going inside after walks knowing that he could become a biting beast at any moment.
Licking mats helped me give Remy a new behavior instead of nipping and biting at me in excitement – instead, he put all his focus and energy into getting every morsel out of that frozen Lickimat!
I can honestly say I am not sure what I would have done without licking mats in those first few months with Remy. I’m sure I could have found other options, but being able to freeze LickiMats so that they would take Remy a considerable amount of time to finish gave me a breather and allowed me to keep my sanity.
I really can’t recommend these things enough – I’m a huge fan!
Have you ever used licking mats with your dog? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!