The £14 enrichment snuffle mats as seen on ITV’s This Morning

Did you know that 15 minutes of mentally stimulating sniffing can burn as many calories as an hour of walking for your dog? And as Phoebe and Frank are both quite nervous, daily walks could potentially cause further behavioural issues due to stress. According to trainer Niki French, ‘replacing walk time with training games at home can give dogs the skills they’re missing to live calm and happy lives’.

We recently invested in some snuffle mats, which has been on our wish list for a while now, and I only wish we’d got them sooner because they’re an absolute god send.

There are so many reasons we may avoid a dog walk, from simply not having enough time after work, to the weather being either to wet or too hot, and sometimes the dogs just give off an energy we know won’t be resolved with a walk. Luckily, we have a large back garden they can regularly run around in and play together, but mental enrichment is a hugely important part of training and ensuring the Scamps are happy and healthy.

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A snuffle mat is typically made with fleece strips tied to a plastic base with holes in it, leaving a fluffy, ruffly top like a deep shag carpet. The objective is to encorage sniffing and foraging, which are innate behaviours for all dogs, but even more so for terrier breeds like Phoebe and Frank. Treats can be buried within the mat and hidden under folds in the fabric for your dog to use their nose to sniff out. 

Not only does this provide essential mental stimulation, it also initiates those parts of the brain that find pleasure in sniffing, while also alleviating stress and encouraging slower eating habits. Some days, you might even consider ditching the dog bowl all together and feeding your dog their kibble on the snuffle mat, making meal times fun, exciting and engaging.

Our snuffle mats are from Dogtastic Bandanas on Etsy, who were featured on This Morning in 2020, dubbed as one of the best enrichment toys on the market by Alice Beer. She told Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond during the segment: “They’re really good, you hide the treats inside and they have to snuffle to get them out and it takes them ages. It’s a really good occupying brain stimulating thing.”

We got ours from independent dog shop Darwin’s Pet Supplies, priced at £14 each for two large 30cm by 20cm mats. This is the same price as their Etsy listings, with smaller mats available for £7 too. There were limited colours available in store, but we got Phoebe a pink and purple mat, while Frank’s is black and yellow.

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Based in Northamptonshire, Dogtastic Bandanas said: “Our mission at Dogtastic Bandanas is to provide a high level of quality, at an affordable price.  These are enrichment toys that are hand made. You simply put treats or dried food between the pieces of fabric for your dog to “snuffle” them out.”

Some of our favourite treats to use in the mat is the Denzel’s bites as they’re the perfect size for stuffing into the small creavaces at the very base of the mat to make it more challenging – we also add kibble to make the enrichment last longer without too many excess calories. A snuffle mat can keep Phoebe and Frank good for 10 to 15 minutes, which is plenty of time to tire them out. They usually get all the treats out, using verious methods from snuffling to scratching or even throwing and shaking the mat, and only occasionally do I have to dig out a lone treat lost in the fabric.

The snuffle mats are all double knotted around the edges and tied as tightly as possible to avoid any loose fabric, but owners are reminded to keep an eye out for any straglers. We’ve not had any issues with ours so far, though.

After 15 minutes, the dogs are ready to wind down in their beds for a while, having burned off all their pent up energy – and you can see that they’ve genuinely had fun foraging. It’s so cute to see their scrunched up noses rooting for snacks, too, which makes for some adorable pictures. We use our Dogtastic Bandandas snuffle mats around three times a week, whether they’ve had a walk or not, and they’re much easier to clean than LickiMats too!

You can buy your own snuffle mat from Dogtastic Bandanas on Etsy here.