What is a dog mat, and what does it really do for your students?

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  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

Most dog parents have probably heard of snuff mats, especially since new feeding pads come with an impressive array of health claims. They are hailed not only as fun puzzle toys, but also as tools to help manage separation anxiety and prevent dementia in dogs. Even our Rover test team has had success using inhalation mats for training and upskilling.

But what benefits do snuff mats really offer — and do they work the way their proponents claim? We wanted to know what the experts had to say, so we dug deeper into the topic and spoke with Gia Savocchi, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

How shaggy rugs for dogs work: What the science says

The concept behind snuff mats is simple: strips of fabric are attached to a flat mat to create pockets and folds, and then treats or small debris are tucked between the fibers. The dogs follow their noses to “crawl” through the soft fabric and find hidden items.

Golden Retriever Sniffs Paw5 Snuffle Mat

Some snuff mats look like simple fluffy rugslike Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat. Follow Rover is satisfied.

Other sniffing rugs are arranged in bright colors with More variety of designslike AWOOF Snuffle Mat. This rug features fleece strips, petals, pockets and cups, offering a variety of stuffing options. It measures about 29 square inches in sturdy, washable oxford fabric and folds up into a neat little bag for storage.

Then there are bowl type pattern like Barkz-friendly adjustable earpads. Its edges are tightened with a zipper, ranging from a 17-inch fully open shape to a 10-inch bowl shape for snackers and an 8-inch pack for storage. Non-slip bottom keeps it in place.

Barkz-friendly adjustable earpads

Like traditional jigsaw puzzles, the sniffer mat is designed to exercise your dog’s mind. But they are soft rather than rigid, and many people rely on hide and seek rather than creative problem solving.

However, for a dog, scent-based hide-and-seek is not accidental. Scent is the number one way for dogs to interpret the world around them. Dogs have tens (or even hundreds) of millions of scent receptors in their nose than humans (who have a small number of 5 to 6 million).

The scent processing part of the dog’s brain in dogs is about 40 times larger than in humans, and it takes up about one-eighth of a dog’s total brain space. One scientific research even found that dogs “see” through their noses, with a unique connection between brain regions that process scent and vision.

All of this means that when a dog sniffs, they don’t just appreciate the fresh air or decide if the milk has gone bad, as we can. Instead, they rely on instinct and use a large part of their brain. That theory is what drives snuff toys like snuff mats.

The dog in the tweed sweater smelled the brick road

Albina White via Pexels

The Benefits of Snuffle Mats, According to Fans

The air mattress, with its built-in rewards system, is said to offer an impressive range of benefits.

One obvious benefit is that they delay mealtime, forcing speed eaters to find small pieces rather than swallowing the whole bowl at once. Some dog parents have had an anecdote of success encourage reluctant eaters by eliciting their foraging instincts.

Anxious and bored dogs are also thought to benefit from snuff mats, as they distraction from triggers or destructive boredom. Some fans and trainers have claimed that 15 minutes with an inhalation mat can burn as much energy as an hour of walking, and they have particular appeal for like laborpeople who often become restless with nothing to do.

Since sniffing engages so much of a dog’s brain, snuff mats are also common Recommended for dogs with cognitive impairment or dementia. For human, Science has proven that mental stimulation keeps our brains healthy; The snuff mat applies those principles in a dog-friendly way.

Dog playing with red, white and blue sniffer rug

Ilona Shorokhova via iStock

Sometimes an air mattress is recommended as part of a training, especially in self-control. Ruffle Snuffle, a brand founded by British animal behaviorist Sarah White, offers workout tips with inhalation mats: First, ask the dog to sit or wait while you spread the mat. At your command, they can approach the mat and begin push-ups.

Finally, one of the biggest claims about snuff mats is they teach nose job, is the foundation of advanced scent detection. In nose work, dogs are trained to look for particular scents like birch or clove. More formally known as scent work, nose work is a competitive canine sport, and sniffing mats can help dogs keep their skills sharp.

But can a rug really do it? all of that?

Do Snuffle Mats Work? What does the experts say

Gia Savocchi is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant based in New York with over ten years of experience. She also has an undergraduate degree in psychology and is working on a master’s degree in clinical animal behavior.

Over the past few years, Savocchi has built up nearly 75,000 followers on Instagram by posting videos and training tips about furry clients and her own dogs. Felt mats are one of the tools that Savocchi uses in his practice and at home. We asked her: do inhalation mats work?

“The dogs can’t read or watch TV and can’t walk on their own, but they need entertainment, which we call enrichment,” she said. “Puzzle toys, and specifically food or foraging toys, are one of the best ways to provide enrichment.”

She explains that most dogs are essentially scavengers, not hunters, as many of us believe: “If you want it, they’re looking.”

By letting your dog rummage through cloth to find food, the sniffer mat will promote this foraging instinct. However, while Savocchi uses snuff mats for both meals and snacks, she doubts their usefulness in developing nasal motor skills, since the job of sniffing requires a dog to have Look for specific smells.

“The tragedy is about the dog having a simple, goal-oriented activity.”

Felt carpet with stuff in the bag

а ова via iStock

However, she agrees that the simple activity is great for combating anxiety and boredom. And pets of all ages can benefit, from older dogs struggling with dementia to puppies.

“When a pet has nothing to do, they get into trouble and they develop anxious behaviors,” she says. “If I don’t let a dog chew on a bone, they will gnaw on my furniture. And if I don’t give my dog ​​a chance to walk around or forage for their food, they’ll get my attention. It’s a way to develop some independence in your dog because they’re doing it on their own. “

That independence is especially good for dogs with separation anxiety issues. There’s a limit, though — Savocchi warns that dogs should never be allowed to use a sniffer mat without supervision. Dogs can easily tear and even eat them, so put the mat away when your puppy is done. She also isolates her dogs when using pads to prevent resource keeping and selects extra-large, custom ones. snuff mats from craft retailer Etsy.

First person impressions of the inhaler

Intrigued by my research and my conversation with Savocchi, I placed an order AWOOF Snuffle Mat for my own dogs. Both needed more replenishment than I could always give them (and more than their high-level bodies sometimes allow), and the match was a lot of fun.

My overthinking Terrier combination (so far) is terrible at finding hidden things, focusing intently on a single spot. Meanwhile, the Labrador Retriever happily moved around the rug, picking up all the snacks his sister missed.

Large AWOOF inhalation mat

I know my dogs, so I’m careful to let them explore the sniffer mat together. But I also positioned myself on the floor next to it to watch for negative behavior with Savocchi’s warnings.

I quickly discovered that pads work best when there are so many delicious bits to find. For my tall guy, a handful of snacks between meals isn’t a big deal, but his sister weighs just under 30 pounds and needs much less food during the day. We will need to manage junk food thoughtfully to avoid overeating.

Still, I’m excited to use the mat with my dogs and even my speed-eating cat.

Final Verdict: Do Dog Mats Work?

So, will a dog snuff mat work for all the claims out there? And should you buy one for your dog? As with most pet products, the answer is yes.

It is clear that snuff mats can keep dogs entertained for a relatively long time. They also have many behavioral and mental benefits—though maybe not all of the benefits some people might claim. For example, we cannot validate the widely accepted idea that 15 minutes of push-ups is equivalent to an hour of walking. (And most people would agree that one can’t completely replace the other anyway.)

Plus, snuff mats require surprising human involvement. That can be a challenge for some pet parents. Pet parents looking to entertain their dogs while they are away may need to explore other options. But if you have the time and inclination to hide junk food, keep an eye on dogs plucking feathers, and pick up the mat when they’re done, a sniffing mat can be a great tool to have at home. home.

The dog got his nose into the carpet and sniffed

Oscar the Rover test puppy happily laughs.

As we have seen, inhalation mats are especially good for:

  • High-energy dogs or those with anxiety, including separation anxiety
  • Older dogs with cognitive dysfunction or memory loss
  • Dogs who love the scent or love the treat
  • Puppies need a little more self-control training

They may not work for:

  • Disruptive dogs, or those that tend to shake the rug rather than sniff it
  • Teach how to make a professional nose for a puppy
  • Dogs are not motivated by scent or junk food
  • Baby mice love wet food; if that’s the goal, give it a try mat lick instead of

Overall, it seems like most dogs will find something to enjoy in a sniffer mat, especially with the right motivation—that is, the best. snacks.

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