Dog Lick Mat, you are a rubbery puzzle that comes in many different sizes, textures, shapes and patterns and I know I can smear food onto you for my dog’s benefit, but you are more than a toy to me. You are a friend! Sometimes you even come not as a mat, but as a small plate or a shallow bowl, and every time I see you I think to myself: Lick Mat, oh Lick Mat, how I love thee.
You encourage the act of licking
I mean, duh, it’s in your name, but still, to watch my dogs experience the endorphins that licking sets off in their brain is a sweet surprise. Afterwards, they are always calmer. If I pair you with a guest coming over or a dinner party, they’re too distracted by licking to be stressed or overstimulated. I’ll toast to that.
You keep my dogs busy
Saying it again but in capital letters for emphasis: YOU KEEP MY DOGS BUSY.
Dearest Lick Mat, there are not enough ways to thank you for this gift. Sometimes I worry I am not doing enough for my dogs, me with my work and my grocery runs, and my kids and my big life. And they’re a part of it, and I want them to enjoy, and I want them to have more than enough. You help make it more possible. Otherwise, I’d worry they spend too much time staring at the walls.
I like to bring you out when I’m trimming my shy dog’s nails or giving her a bath
This is an activity she hates. You’re able to offer some positive reinforcement. By adding you to the mix, she’s too occupied licking up the yummies I’ve put on your nubs to fret or growl. L.M., have I told you that you’re awesome?
For the mental stimulation, you provide my dogs and the work you make them do
I truly admire you, Lickster MatMcGee. You bolster my relationship with my pups, you give us a fun project to do, and you boost their listening skills because my dogs know the cues that mean you’re coming out. And thanks in part to you, they believe in me as a benevolent leader. It’s not about authority or domination; it is about respect, and you help me lay the groundwork for the trust between me and my best friend.
You support oral health
All your grooves and brittles scrape the tongue, remove bacteria, and keep saliva producing and massaging the gums. You help keep teeth clean. Like, that’s a big job, you literally are the equivalent of floss for my dog! (If only you could be invented for my children? Please? Thank you? I’ll be waiting.)
Can you imagine eating the same kibble every meal, every day of your life?
Me neither. I’m not saying we have to open up dog restaurants (although – wait, maybe we should? Am I saying that?) but here are some of my favorite lick mat recipes to use for a meal or to pair with you leaving the house or anytime you want. Yes, because of the food and the taste, but also for the advantage this activity will bring to their minds. Who knew that a crossword-puzzle-style activity could also be a gourmet experience? Bon appétit, puppers!
Please find below some quick inspo for your lick mat:
Low-fat wet dog food with frozen carrots and green beans for crunch
This dinnertime recipe is a hit in my house. I like to get the wet food into the crevices and make it hard, and experiment with all kinds of cans and flavors.
Greek yogurt, apple cubes and blueberries
Probiotics and fiber represent! Of course, I have to make sure the yogurt sits well with my dog’s digestion by trying a little bit at a time, but this one is always a winner. We use it often while my dogs are in the crate and wouldn’t you know they love their crates now.
Steamed sweet potato and honey
Mash that papa up, add a little Manuka honey for an immune system boost, and watch your dog’s mind explode with sticky goodness.
When there’s time, I puree veggies, make a bone broth, or buy canine-specific bone broth
Freeze it to make the mat extra challenging. Great for special occasions like birthday parties and packed full of nutrients for your boo boo.
If I need to whip up something quick, I spread pumpkin or doggie peanut butter on the Lick Mat
Sprinkle a few dots of peas or kibbles to add crunch. Mashed-up banana works too if you’re looking to change it up!
To top it all off, Lick – can I call you Lick? – you are easy to clean. With a spray-head nozzle or via a nice, warm, soapy soak, you don’t make it hard. When food has been frozen or gone messy, all it takes is a scrubbing brush to wipe up what’s left behind on ya. And hey, if not, there’s always a dishwasher, which I imagine is like being on a rollercoaster for you so don’t mind if I put you in the cycle once in a while.
Though I use you carefully and separate my dogs from one another when I do, though I always ask for a “sit” before you contact the ground and take you away when the food is gone, you represent so much joy in my house. What I’m getting at is, you keep it interesting, Licky Maty, and I’m grateful for it. You decrease boredom and increase excitement; you keep my dogs happy. And when they’re happy, so am I.