When you want to raise a healthy and happy dog, you will probably put physical stimulation ahead of everything else. But did you know that dogs need mental stimulation just as much? Just like humans, our dogs can get bored too and when this happens, their natural instincts will kick in and find ways to entertain themselves.
When they start, you can’t expect to see your home in perfect condition once they’re done having fun. In this article, we provide detailed instructions on how to make a DIY snuffle mat for dogs that’s not just a great project but also provides mental enrichment for your pet!
What is a Snuffle Mat?
It’s referred to as a snuffle mat because your pup will need to “snuffle” or do nose work to find their way to get food. Even if there are a lot of interesting dog puzzle feeders, a homemade snuffle mat is a fun project that you can make out of a few simple materials like a whole mat and just a few strips of fabric. The benefits of a snuffle mat that you make yourself are that you can make it using your favorite colors, or you can match it with your pet’s other accessories and puzzle toys.
Plus, you can be sure of the kinds of materials touching your dog’s dry food — from small puppies to bigger dogs, this great toy works for dogs of all sizes and ages. This straightforward dog trainer offers ease of use that encourages dogs to use their sense of smell and develop problem-solving skills through enrichment games. All you need to do is hide small treats throughout it and see how a DIY snuffle mat lets your dog’s mind figure out ways to capture these pieces of food.
There are different types of DIY dog snuffle mat designs that you can try, so you can check which works best for your furry friends. Below are simple step-by-step instructions on how to make a DIY holiday snuffle mat.
DIY Snuffle Mat #1
While you can buy a sniff mat from pet stores, you can buy the materials you need to make your own snuffle mat from a fabric store or Dollar Tree to save money. This solution is inexpensive and won’t take a lot of time to make; it’s also fun to make in different patterns and highly rewarding once you watch your pet have fun using it.
- Base: You have a few options to choose from, including a rubber sink mat, which is sturdy and already comes with small holes. If you don’t have a heavy rubber mat, you can also use a cardboard box with holes put in as a makeshift base.
- Fleece: Cut out fleece fabric strips (you can use a cheap fleece blanket) in different colors to give your toy some variation. The amount you’ll need will depend on the size of your mat and the width of your strips.
- Scissors: To help cut your fleece into strips.
- Skewer stick, capped pen, or mini screwdriver to help you easily push the fabric in and out of the base.
- Cut your fleece into strips; aim to make each piece of fleece around 1” wide x 6 to 8” long. You don’t need to make them perfectly — some will tend to be shorter or longer than others. If you’re working with a sink mat that measures 12.5” x 11”, you’ll need to make around 260 strips.
- Using your first color, weave the fleece strips into the mat, starting at the first hole by the upper right corner. Take one end of the strip and slide it through the hole that’s closest to your mat’s edge. Next, push the opposite end of the strip through the next hole; flip your mat over and tie a single knot since you won’t need to do a double knot.
- Move in the same direction and repeat the second step until your entire mat is covered with pieces of fleece.
- With the second color, repeat the second and third steps going in the opposite direction. By this time, there would be plenty of fleece on your mat, so you might want to use a skewer stick, capped pen, or mini screwdriver to help you push fleece into the base.
DIY Snuffle Mat #2
Here’s an alternative way of making your snuffle mat if you don’t want to use too much fleece. This simple project is a good option if you want to use it for both your dogs and cats.
- Rubber mats with holes, such as restaurant flooring mats measuring around 1-foot square in diameter.
- Fleece fabric around ⅔ yard of 44-inch wide fabric; again, you may want to use a minimum of two colors.
- Utility knife and scissors for cutting.
- If you’re working with a mat that’s bigger than 12 x 12 inches, make sure to cut it down to that size. It’s a good idea to use a utility knife to help with this.
- Count how many holes your rubber mat has and multiply it by two. This is how many pieces of fleece you need.
- Cut your fleece into pieces that are 7 inches long by 1 to 1.5 inches wide. You don’t need to follow this strictly since a little variation can make it more interesting. If you have a ruler, rotary cutter, and self-healing mat, you will be able to cut your strips much faster. Otherwise, you may use a sharp, long-bladed scissor to cut your fleece strips.
- Starting in a corner in your mat, thread a strip into two adjacent holes. Insert it from the back and push the ends of the strip until it reaches the top of the mat. Tie them into a knot by the front of your mat.
- Do the same for the next hole and continue tying the strips along this first row and move on to the next row when finished. Keep doing this repetition for the second row and when you’ve filled the whole mat, turn it by 90 degrees and start tying knots by the other direction. Cover all of the parts in your mat that are still exposed.
- Once you’ve filled your mat, you’re finished!
TIP: As your mat gets fuller, it will become easier to work from the back; poke the ends through the front of your mat and add pieces of strips. Next, turn your mat over and tie up the loose ends.
Feeding Your Pet with the Snuffle Mat
Now that you have your washable snuffle mat ready, simply put it on the floor and fill it up with cat food, dog food, or training treats. Be sure to hide kibble inside lots of little fabric flaps to give your pet a challenge. Using a few pieces of kibble, place them around the fleece and use the ties to hide them among the flaps. Make sure that the total amount of food you use will be based on either a snack or a meal so that your dog or cat gets the most out of this great toy!