The 6 Best Lick Mats for Dogs in 2022

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Anyone who has ever cared for a particularly nervous dog knows that you may find the occasional wet saliva spot around the house or find your dog licking the same place on a pillow over and over and over again. Now, it’s not that your pillow is particularly delicious, but rather that dogs lick as a way to calm themselves and self-soothe. So chances are, they are just feeling a little uneasy or insecure when they lick that pillow. 

A lick mat is a special way to help calm or distract your dog and serve them fun treats in a unique way. Usually the size of a small plate, a lick mat is like a shallow bowl with little patterned nubs (silicone, plastic, or rubber) that stick up out of the mat. By smearing a soft, spreadable treat onto the mat, your dog will need to lick repeatedly around the obstacles to get all of it. Not only are there the soothing benefits of licking, but it takes longer to clear the mat and can hold their attention for several minutes at a time.

“Lick mats can benefit multiple types of dogs,” says Dr. Laura Robinson, a veterinarian and medical advisor to Pawp. “Licking has an anti-anxiety effect on dogs, so it can be helpful for dogs prone to anxiety. It can also be used as a distraction for stressful situations such as strangers in the home, vet visits, and grooming appointments.”

Below, we’ve rounded up the best lick mats for dogs on the market.

Final Verdict

When it comes to choosing the best lick mat, the truth is that the decision isn’t up to us, and it isn’t up to you either. The final decision is up to that cute doggy curled up and sleeping next to you.

However, we ranked the Mighty Paw Dog Lick Pad (view at Amazon) as best overall because you can try out four different challenging mat patterns to see which one your dog prefers. In addition, the size offers a similar surface area to other mats on this list despite its rectangular shape, and the numerous suction cups on the back will help it stay in place while your dog works that treat out of every little corner.

If you are still on the fence about getting a lick mat or have had bad luck in the past introducing new toys to your favorite four-legged, we suggest trying out a lower-cost option. The Slow Dispensing Treater Mat with 37 Strong Suctions (view at Amazon) lets you try it out, experiment with different treats, and place it all around the house, like in the kitchen or bathtub.

There are a lot of different sizes and varieties when it comes to lick mats. Some lick mats are better for smaller dogs than for big dogs. Some patterns are best for anxious dogs, while other patterns benefit fast eaters and food gobblers. There’s certainly a lot to choose from, and you’ll want to make sure you get the one that best fits your unique pooch. 

“You want to get one that will not slide around as the dog is licking,” says Robinson. “You also want to get a size-appropriate mat. For example, you do not want to get a large hungry dog a tiny mat, or he may just eat the whole thing—treats and mat.” 

Many of the different patterns on a lick mat benefit your dog in different ways. For example, a complicated pattern, like a series of “X” shapes, will challenge your dog to approach this puzzle in another way than they would approach a series of vertical nubs that are very close together. But ultimately, it is up to your dog to choose the type they like best, so try out new varieties and try to be flexible. Just because your dog might be feeling anxious doesn’t mean they will enjoy using the mat meant to reduce anxiety.

What are the best foods to use with a lick mat? 

The best foods to use on a lick mat are anything that can spread easily with a knife and doesn’t upset your dog’s tummy. Don’t use anything too solid, like dry dog food, or anything too runny that will drip out if you hang it on a wall. 

“You want moist, wet types of food. Peanut butter is great; just make sure it does not contain xylitol,” explains Robinson. Xylitol is a sweetener that is used to replace sugar is extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. So make sure to check the ingredients before offering it to your dog. 

“You can also put canned dog food on it or non-fat yogurt,” says Robinson. “Pumpkin puree, non-fat cottage cheese, or mashed bananas also work.”

Are lick mats bad for some breeds?

If you are considering a lick mat, it will come down to your dog’s age, eating style, and size. Overall, the breed isn’t as big of a factor for lick mats unless your dog’s breed is known for being really big. Big dogs or aggressive chewers can apply too much force, making the mat move across the floor (defeating its purpose if you were hoping to keep your pup still for grooming) or causing some of the nubs to come loose. 

Puppies are notorious for chewing everything during their teething stage, which means they will likely tear chunks off the mat and potentially swallow them. So wait until your puppy grows up a little more and can better control themselves while eating.

Are lick mats a good alternative to treats?

Lick mats are popular because they serve a very specific purpose that just giving your dog a treat can’t do. If you want to help your dog feel less anxious or stay still during grooming or nail trimming, a lick mat works better than a treat can.

However, lick mats can be used as a treat and reward incentive. Every time your dog repeats a trick or action that you want them to do, you can absolutely bring out the lick mat as a reward. As they learn to associate the mat with yummy treats, it can become a significant motivator to learn something new or correct bad behavior. 

This article was written by Steven Rowe, who has been a pet parent to two rescue beagles. Both beagles were retired research laboratory dogs and were adopted to give them a better life in their “retirement” years. Due to their history, both beagles were very nervous in their daily lives when they found themselves in new situations. Steven understands the importance of working with an anxious dog to help them calm themselves in a way specific to their individual needs.

When building this list, he always considered what products were best for his nervous pup and how dog-friendly and pet parent-friendly they were. He consulted numerous user reviews, interviewed a veterinarian, and compared product specs and manufacturer details even down to the quality of the mat’s material.

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