Have you seen this pet hack where they recommend putting a tennis ball in your dog’s food bowl to slow down eating? Maybe this works for small breeds who can’t get their mouths around the ball, but for my hound dog Scout, this would only encourage her to eat faster so she could get on to playing a game of fetch. We tried many methods to get her to slow down and eat at a healthy pace, but we finally learned how to win dinner with the Snuffle Mat.
Figuring Out Food Puzzles
The AKC recommends using Food Puzzles to slow down your pet while eating. Some of them are designed more for a few treats rather than a full cup of kibble. They work to provide some mental stimulation during the day, but these versions don’t work for mealtime. We did find a few puzzles that held enough kibble for a full meal. They typically consisted of different compartments that the dog would use their nose to push up or around to gain access to the kibble. I am not trying to brag about my dog’s intelligence, but she was averaging two feedings before hacking the system and returning to her warp-speed eating. (She also kills it at Sudoku.) At $15-$20 a pop for a puzzle, this would be a very expensive way to feed the dog. Maybe if you had a group of other dog parents, you could have a food puzzle swap. Also, another solution that might be better suited more for playtime than for meals.
Sheet Pan Hack or Slow Feeder
Another AKC recommendation is to spread their kibble on a sheet pan or an upside-down muffin tin to slow down mealtime. These worked pretty well at slowing down our hound dog. It was a little weird to have baking dishes on the floor, so we upgraded to a slow feeder dog bowl in a relaxing shade of aquamarine. The slow feeder bowl looks like a maze inside a dish, and it takes her about three times as long to finish than a standard ceramic bowl. However, the real mealtime hero is the Snuffle Mat.
How to Finally Win Mealtime with a Snuffle Mat
A snuffle mat looks a bit like a bath mat, covered in small strips of fabric. They are also called foraging mats because they mimic the dog’s experience of searching through the grass for food. They also combat some behavior issues because they can burn off some of the dog’s nervous energy. It has increased mealtime to over ten minutes, and we have been able to cut down her kibble without the blowback of begging between meals.
Buy or DIY
We bought the Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat in Gray. It’s machine washable and looks like a hip mini throw rug. It has a fun texture that I mistakenly thought would look cool on the floor of our home office. However, Scout became pretty attached after just the second feeding, and now we have to remove it after each meal to prevent any guarding or dog aggression issues. You could DIY a version pretty easily. There are three zillion videos on YouTube that show you how to create your own. We wash ours pretty often, so it doesn’t smell or attract any unwanted creatures. Make sure your DIY version is tough enough for regular washing.
Scout has always love mealtime, but the snuffle mat has provided a new Renaissance with dinner time. She seems excited in a positive way. It seems we may have finally figured out how to win dinner with a snuffle mat. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but we made a video so you can judge for yourself.