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Is Licking Mentally Stimulating For Dogs?



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Licking is a natural behavior for dogs that can serve various purposes, such as grooming, expressing affection, or exploring their environment.

But did you know that licking can also provide mental stimulation for your canine companion?

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind your dog’s licking behavior and how it can contribute to their cognitive well-being.

What is a Dog Lick Mat?

Is Licking Mentally Stimulating For Dogs

A dog lick mat is a textured mat that is designed to provide an engaging and stimulating experience for dogs.

It is a padded mat with various ridges, bumps, and grooves that can hold different types of food, like peanut butter or cream cheese, so that dogs have to work to get their treat.

It helps satisfy their natural urge to lick, stimulates their taste buds, and improves their oral health.

They come in different sizes and styles, but they all serve the same purpose: to keep dogs occupied, calm, and entertained while you are away, during mealtime, or grooming sessions.

If your dog gets anxious, stressed, or bored quickly, the lick mat is a fantastic way to give them a distraction that keeps them calm and focused.

It also prevents them from destructive behavior, such as chewing on furniture or shoes. You can also freeze the lick mat treats to make it more challenging and time-consuming for your furry friend.

Because they are made from non-toxic materials, they are safe for dogs to lick and chew on.

Using a dog lick mat can become an enjoyable ritual for you and your dog, it can promote bonding while keeping their teeth clean, and their minds entertained.

Is Licking Mentally Stimulating For Dogs?

Yes, licking can be mentally stimulating for dogs. Licking is a form of self-care that helps to satisfy their desire for tactile stimulation.

It also provides them with an outlet for their instincts and helps them to release stress and anxiety.

In addition, it can provide the dog with mental stimulation by providing him/her with something new and different to do.

Some experts believe that licking may help dogs to learn as well since it’s an engaging activity.

Even if your pet doesn’t seem overly excited about licking, regularly including this activity in his/her routine may have a positive effect on its mental health.

Do You Need a Dog Lick Mat?

A dog lick mat can be an invaluable addition to your pet’s daily routine. Not only does it provide a fun and engaging activity for your pup, but it also provides essential grooming benefits too.

The grooves on the surface of the mat help to massage the gums and remove plaque build-up from their teeth, which can help improve their overall dental hygiene.

Plus, licks stimulate saliva production in dogs, which helps them to naturally cleanse and protect their mouths.

How To Use a Lick Mat

A lick mat is a versatile and useful tool designed to keep your dog engaged and mentally stimulated. It features raised patterns or grooves that hold soft foods, encouraging your dog to spend time licking the mat to access the treats.

Here’s how to use a lick mat effectively:

  1. Select a suitable lick mat: Choose a lick mat made from high-quality, food-grade silicone or rubber that is durable, easy to clean, and safe for your dog. The mat should have an appropriate size and texture for your dog’s breed and preferences.
  2. Prepare the treat mixture: Create a soft, spreadable mixture using your dog’s favorite treats or food items. Some popular options include peanut butter (without xylitol), wet dog food, plain yogurt, mashed banana, or pumpkin puree. You can also mix in crushed kibble or small treats for added interest.
  3. Spread the mixture on the mat: Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the treat mixture evenly into the grooves and patterns on the lick mat. Be sure to fill the entire surface to maximize licking time and mental stimulation.
  4. Introduce the lick mat to your dog: Place the prepared lick mat on a non-slip surface, such as a tiled floor or a tray, and encourage your dog to start licking. Supervise your dog during their first few experiences with the lick mat to ensure they enjoy it safely.
  5. Clean the lick mat: After your dog has finished licking the mat, clean it thoroughly with warm, soapy water or by placing it in the dishwasher (if dishwasher-safe). Ensure the mat is completely dry before storing it away.

What Are the Benefits of Dog Lick Mats?

Incorporating lick mats into your dog’s daily routine can provide numerous benefits that support their overall health, happiness, and well-being.

1. Reduces Anxiety and Stress

Lick mats can help calm anxious or stressed dogs by engaging them in a soothing, repetitive activity that releases endorphins and promotes relaxation.

2. Provides Mental Stimulation

The act of licking the mat to access the treat mixture challenges your dog’s mind, keeping them engaged and mentally stimulated.

3. Slows Down Eating

Lick mats can be used as slow feeders for dogs that tend to gulp their food, promoting healthy eating habits and reducing the risk of indigestion or bloating.

4. Promotes Oral Health

The licking action stimulates saliva production, which helps to clean your dog’s tongue, teeth, and gums, contributing to better oral hygiene.

5. Distracts from Unwanted Behaviors

Lick mats can serve as a positive distraction for dogs that exhibit unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking or chewing, by redirecting their energy and focus.

6. Enhances Training and Desensitization

Using lick mats during grooming, bathing, or veterinary visits can help desensitize your dog to these potentially stressful situations and reinforce positive associations.

7. Combats Boredom

Lick mats offer an enjoyable and time-consuming activity that helps prevent boredom and the development of related behavioral issues.

8. Easy to Use and Clean

Lick mats are simple to prepare, use, and clean, making them a convenient and practical tool for busy dog owners.

Are Lick Mats Good For All Dogs?

While many dogs enjoy these mats, they may not be suitable for all dogs. Some dogs may have a lower food drive or be hesitant to engage with new textures, making the mat less appealing.

Additionally, dogs with a history of resource guarding or possessiveness may become anxious or defensive when presented with a lick mat.

It’s important to introduce the mat slowly and monitor your dog’s behavior to ensure they feel comfortable and safe. Lick mats can also be helpful for dogs who struggle with anxiety or need help with behavioral issues, as the repetitive licking motion can have a calming effect.

Ultimately, lick mats can be a great tool for enriching your dog’s life and providing a healthy, interactive treat option, but it’s important to consider your dog’s individual personality and needs before introducing one into their routine.

Are Lick Mats Safe for Dogs?

Yes, lick mats are safe for dogs. They are designed to be 100% non-toxic and BPA-free, so they won’t harm your pup in any way.

The mat is also made from a durable rubber material that can withstand a dog’s vigorous licking. Plus, it’s easy to clean since the rubber surface is waterproof and dishwasher safe.

The primary purpose of a lick mat is to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your pet, which can help keep them mentally stimulated and reduce boredom.

It can also be used as a way to slow down your dog while eating or as a calming tool during stressful situations.

What Should I Put on My Dog’s Lick Mat?

If you have a lick mat for your pup, then you’re on the right track when it comes to providing mental stimulation and enrichment. But what should you put on it? Here are some ideas:

  • Applesauce – Combine applesauce with their kibble or treats
  • Peanut Butter – Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on the lick mat for them to lick and enjoy!
  • Wet Dog Food – Simply place wet dog food onto the mat so they can enjoy snacking.
  • Bananas– Mash up a banana and spread it across the lick mat as a tasty treat.
  • Cheese – Shredded cheese is an excellent choice as dogs love it!
  • Yogurt – Plain yogurt is a great option for dogs and the licking motion helps to keep their gums healthy.
  • Pumpkin Puree – Spread some of this puree on the lick mat for your pup to enjoy.
  • Vegetables – Finely chop carrots, broccoli, or other vegetables and place them in or on the lick mat.

No matter what you choose to put on your dog’s lick mat, make sure it’s all-natural, nutritious, and loaded with vitamins and minerals! Your pup will thank you for providing them with this extra special enrichment activity!

Can I Leave My Dog Alone with a Lick Mat?

Yes, as long as you take some precautions. First, make sure your dog is comfortable with the lick mat and using it regularly before leaving them alone with it.

Also, check that the mat is securely attached to a flat surface so your dog cannot move it around and possibly choke on it.

Another important factor to consider is the type of treat you put on the mat. It should be soft and easily lickable, with no small pieces or choking hazards.

Finally, never leave your dog alone with a lick mat for extended periods of time, as it is always best to supervise them when possible.

A good rule of thumb is to limit your dog’s lick mat time to 15-20 minutes per session.

Overall, a lick mat can be a great way to help keep your dog entertained and relaxed while you are away, as long as you follow these safety guidelines.

What the Experts Say About Dog Lick Mats

According to animal behavioral experts, lick mats can provide a fun and rewarding activity for dogs, especially those with anxiety or stress.

The repetitive licking motion can have a calming effect on the dog and release endorphins, similar to how massage therapy can benefit humans.

However, it’s important to use the lick mats in moderation and monitor the dog’s behavior while using them. Some dogs may become too fixated on the mat and may chew on it or become possessive of it, leading to potential behavioral issues.

Additionally, it’s important to choose a high-quality mat made from safe, non-toxic materials. Some mats may be made with materials that can cause harm if ingested, and dogs may try to chew on them.

Overall, using a lick mat can be a beneficial addition to a dog’s routine, but it’s important to use them properly and monitor the dog’s behavior to ensure their safety and well-being.

How To Clean Dog Lick Mats

By following these steps, you can effectively clean and maintain your dog’s lick mat, ensuring that it remains a safe and enjoyable tool for mental stimulation and enrichment.

1. Remove Excess Food

Begin by scraping off any remaining food particles from the surface of the lick mat using a spatula or the back of a spoon.

2. Rinse with Warm Water

Hold the lick mat under warm running water to rinse away any loosened food debris and soften any stuck-on residue.

3. Apply Dish Soap

Apply a small amount of dish soap to a soft sponge, cloth, or brush that is safe for use on silicone or rubber surfaces.

4. Gently Scrub the Mat

Using the soapy sponge, cloth, or brush, gently scrub the surface of the lick mat, paying particular attention to the grooves and patterns where food may be lodged.

5. Rinse Thoroughly

Rinse the lick mat under warm running water again to remove any soap residue and dislodge food particles. Ensure all soap has been rinsed away to avoid any potential irritation for your dog.

6. Inspect the Mat

Examine the lick mat closely to ensure all food residue has been removed. If necessary, repeat steps 3-5 to clean any stubborn areas.

7. Dry the Mat

Allow the lick mat to air dry completely or gently pat it dry with a clean towel before storing it away.

8. Optional: Use a Dishwasher

If your lick mat is labeled as dishwasher-safe, you can also opt to clean it in the dishwasher. Place the mat on the top rack and run it through a normal wash cycle to ensure thorough cleaning and sanitization.


Q: Is licking mentally stimulating for dogs?

A: Yes, licking can be mentally stimulating for dogs. They enjoy the repetitive motion and the act itself can release endorphins which can have a calming effect on them.

Q: What are lick mats for dogs?

A: Lick mats are textured surfaces designed to provide mental and physical stimulation for dogs through the use of food. They can be spread with peanut butter, wet dog food, or other spreadable dog food and suctioned to the floor or wall.

Q: What is a lick pad?

A: A lick pad is another type of textured surface designed to provide mental and physical stimulation for dogs through the use of food. They are typically made of silicone and feature suction cups on the back to stick to walls or other surfaces.

Q: What are the benefits of lick mats for dogs?

A: Lick mats can provide mental exercise and enrichment for dogs, as well as a fun and engaging activity. They can also help keep them calm and occupied in stressful situations, such as during grooming or in the car.

Q: How do I use a lick mat for my dog?

A: Simply spread a small amount of peanut butter, wet food, or other spreadable dog food onto the lick mat and suction it to a flat surface, such as a wall or floor. Supervise your dog while they use the lick mat and remove it after they are done.

Q: How often should I provide my dog with a lick mat?

A: Lick mats can be used as often as you like, but make sure to supervise your pet to ensure they do not overindulge. They can be particularly helpful during times of separation anxiety, or when you need to keep your dog occupied for a period of time.

Q: Can I give my dog canned dog food on a lick mat?

A: Yes, you can use wet dog food or other spreadable dog food to give your dog a different experience with their lick mat. Just make sure not to overfeed them or use food that could upset their stomach.

Q: How can a lick mat help reduce anxiety in my dog?

A: The repetitive licking motion can release endorphins that can have a calming effect on dogs. Additionally, the mental stimulation and distraction provided by the lick mat can help take your dog’s mind off stressful situations.

Q: Is using a lick mat a good activity for my dog?

A: Yes, using a lick mat can be a great activity for your dog. It provides mental and physical stimulation and can be used to encourage your dog’s mental and emotional well-being.

Q: Can a lick mat be used for anxious dogs?

A: Yes, a lick mat can be a great tool for anxious dogs. The repetitive motion and the release of endorphins can help calm them down and provide a positive and engaging activity.

Q: Are there any benefits for pups in using a lick mat?

A: Yes, using a lick mat can provide mental and physical stimulation for puppies, as well as help them develop good habits and behaviors. It can also be a fun and engaging way to help your pup get accustomed to different textures and tastes.

In Conclusion

Licking can indeed provide mental stimulation for dogs as it allows them to explore their surroundings, gather information, and engage in self-soothing behaviors.

While excessive licking may indicate underlying issues, moderate licking is a natural and beneficial activity that supports your dog’s cognitive well-being.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to understand and appreciate the role that licking plays in your dog’s mental health and overall happiness.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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