Tips & Tricks

Does Your Dog Need a Lick Mat?

side view cute dog bathtub outdoors

If you’re a dog parent, you’ve probably seen the latest craze taking over your social media feeds: dog lick mats. These textured rubber or silicone mats are designed to be covered in spreadable treats like peanut butter or wet food. As your pup licks away to get every last morsel, they supposedly reap a host of benefits – everything from reduced anxiety to cleaner teeth. But are dog lick mats really all they’re cracked up to be?


Let’s dig in and find out if your furry friend could benefit from one of these popular enrichment toys.

What Exactly is a Dog Lick Mat?

Dog lick mats come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have one key thing in common: a textured surface full of nooks and crannies to hold soft, sticky treats in place. Most are made of food-grade silicone or TPR rubber and feature a variety of different patterns. Some of the most popular designs include:

Classic Mats: The most basic lick mats are flat, rectangular pads with a textured surface. For example, the popular Lickimat Soother features a waffle-like grid that’s perfect for smearing with peanut butter, yogurt, or wet food. These mats are usually made of soft, flexible silicone that can be throwing in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.


Bowl Mats: If you’ve got a messy eater on your hands, a bowl-style lick mat might be just the ticket. These mats have a shallow, textured bowl that’s perfect for holding wet or raw food. The raised edges help contain the mess, while the uneven surface encourages your dog to use their tongue to get every last bite. Some bowl mats even have a wobbling base for an added challenge.

Wall Mats: For pups who need a distraction during bath time or grooming, there are lick mats designed to stick to vertical surfaces like your shower wall or the side of the bathtub. These mats often have suction cups on the back to keep them securely in place while your dog goes to town.

The idea is that your dog has to use their tongue to work the goodies out of all the little crevices. This licking action is said to have a variety of positive effects. But does the science support the hype? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most commonly touted benefits.

The Surprising Truth About Lick Mats and Dental Health

One of the biggest selling points of dog lick mats is their supposed ability to promote dental health. The claim is that all the licking stimulates saliva production, which then helps rinse away plaque and tartar. Some manufacturers even go so far as to say their mats can reduce the need for tooth brushing.

As a pet parent myself, I’ll admit I was intrigued by the idea of a dog toy that could help keep my pup’s teeth clean. However, when I dug into the research, I couldn’t find any studies specifically looking at the impact of lick mats on dental health.

close up dog with beautiful eyes smiling

I contacted my vet, Dr. Sarah, to get her take. She explained that while licking can promote some saliva production, it’s unlikely to significantly impact oral hygiene. “Lick mats might provide a bit of abrasion on the front teeth if the dog nibbles the mat,” she told me. But they won’t do much for the back teeth, where plaque and tartar usually build up.”

In other words, lick mats shouldn’t take the place of regular tooth brushing and professional dental cleanings. They can be a fun addition to your dog’s dental care routine, but they’re not a miracle cure for stinky breath and yellowing chompers.

close up pet small dog breed pomeranian it lying down granite floor owner brush pet teeth

Can Lick Mats Really Reduce Anxiety and Stress?

Another common claim is that lick mats have powerful calming properties for anxious pups. The repetitive licking action is said to be soothing and meditative, kind of like a dog version of a stress ball.

There may be some truth to this. Studies have shown that licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain, helping them to relax. In fact, excessive licking is one of the ways dogs self-soothe during times of stress.

By encouraging your dog to lick on cue, lick mats may help redirect that nervous energy to a more positive outlet. For example, you could try using a lick mat to distract your dog during triggering situations like thunderstorms, vet visits, or when strangers come to the door. The novelty of the sticky treat, combined with the calming action of licking, maybe just the thing to take the edge off your dog’s anxiety.

With that said, it’s important to remember that lick mats are not a replacement for training and behavior modification when it comes to serious anxiety issues. If your dog is experiencing severe stress, it’s best to consult with a professional trainer or veterinary behaviorist to develop a tailored treatment plan.

close up blurry woman holding dog

Are Lick Mats Right for Your Dog?

So, does your dog NEED a lick mat? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be a useful (and fun!) addition to your enrichment toolbox.

Lick mats are a great choice for dogs who tend to gulp their food since they encourage slower, more mindful eating. They can also provide much-needed mental stimulation for busy-minded pups prone to boredom and destructive behaviors. And when used strategically, they may help take the edge off of mild stressors and anxiety triggers.

dog lick mat


On the flip side, dogs who are easily frustrated by food puzzles may find lick mats more annoying than enriching. Hardcore chewers can also make quick work of the softer rubber, so it’s important to supervise your pup closely to prevent them from ingesting any large chunks.

As with any new enrichment item, it’s a good idea to introduce lick mats slowly and make it a positive experience for your pup. Smear on something irresistible like plain yogurt, pumpkin puree, or dog-friendly peanut butter (I like to freeze mine for an extra long-lasting challenge). Praise your pup as they start to get the hang of it.

crop man taking natural yogurt with spoon from jar

It’s also important to keep an eye on your dog’s overall calorie intake. Treats and toppers can quickly add up, especially if you’re using high-calorie options like peanut butter. Whenever possible, use your dog’s regular food or opt for healthy, low-calorie fillers like canned pumpkin and unsweetened applesauce.

How to Choose the Right Lick Mat for Your Pup?

With so many different lick mat options on the market, it can be tough to know which one is right for your dog. Here are a few things to consider when making your selection:

old person with their beagles dog

1. Beginner’s Guide to Lick Mats

If you’re introducing your pup to lick mats for the first time, start with a simple, flat design. Look for a mat with a basic texture that will be easy for your dog to navigate. You want them to have a positive first experience so they’ll be excited to use their new toy again and again.

2. Matching Treats to Texture

Think about what kinds of treats and toppings you’ll be using on your lick mat. For thicker spreads like peanut butter or cream cheese, a standard mat should do the trick. But if you’re planning to use wet food, raw food, or other messier options, consider a bowl-style mat with raised edges to contain the chaos.

dog licking mat on the floors

3. Distraction Level

If you’re using your lick mat to keep your pup occupied during stressful situations, look for a design with a tighter, more complex texture. The added difficulty will keep them engaged longer, providing maximum distraction from whatever’s causing them anxiety.

dogs licking the mats

4. Lick Mats for Easier Grooming

For pups who dread bath time or fuss about having their nails trimmed, a suction-cup lick mat can be a grooming game-changer. These mats stick securely to your tub or shower wall, keeping your dog happily distracted while you work. Plus, they’ll be in the perfect position for a thorough rinse when it’s all done.

closeup shot panting border collie standing field

5. Promoting Slower Eating with Lick Mats

If your dog is a speed-eater, a lick mat can help encourage them to slow down and savor their food. Look for a mat with multiple sections and crevices to keep them interested. You can also try freezing their portion on the mat to make mealtime last even longer. Just be sure to choose a freezer-safe option if you plan to go this route.

dog licking the mat

How to Clean a Dog Lick Mat?

Lick mats are a fantastic way to keep your small pet entertained and mentally stimulated. But just like any dog toy, they need regular cleaning to maintain hygiene and prevent bacteria buildup . Here’s a detailed guide on how to keep your dog’s lick mat squeaky clean and ready for their next playtime adventure:

1. Soak it

To begin, fill your sink with warm water. The temperature should be comfortable to the touch, not too hot for your hands. Next, add a squirt of dish soap specifically formulated for dishes (not hand soap!). Dishwashing liquid is more effective at breaking down grease and food residue that can accumulate on the lick mat compared to hand soap.

wash lick mat with dish soap

2. Let it Loosen Up

Once you’ve created your soapy bath, place the lick mat in the sink and let it soak for a good 15-20 minutes. This allows the warm water and dish soap to loosen any dried-on food particles or treats that might be clinging to the mat’s surface, making them easier to remove later.

wash lick mats 1

3. Gentle Scrubbing

After soaking, grab a soft-bristled brush or a non-abrasive sponge. Scrub the lick mat gently, paying particular attention to any textured areas or crevices where food particles might be hiding. This ensures a thorough cleaning and removes any lingering bacteria.

4. High-Pressure Rinse (Optional)

Here’s where the high-pressure faucet comes in, if you have one. Start with a moderate water pressure setting and hold the lick mat a few inches away from the spray. Move it around to ensure all areas, especially the nooks and crannies, are rinsed clean. Be mindful of the pressure; too strong can damage the lick mat or force food deeper into the crevices.

Don’t have a high-pressure faucet? No problem! A regular rinse under running water for a good amount of time will still remove most food residue. Just like with the scrub, make sure to get into all the textured areas to remove any lingering bits.

wash lick mats

5. Bonus Tip: Dishwash Some Mats (Double-Check First!)

While soaking and scrubbing are the most common cleaning methods, some lick mats are actually dishwasher-safe! However, it’s crucial to always check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific lick mat before placing it in the dishwasher. Using the wrong setting or placing a non-dishwasher-safe mat could damage it.

man front open dishwasher takes out clean dishes after washing

6. Tackling Stubborn Messes

If you encounter particularly stubborn food residue that just won’t budge, consider extending the soak time or using a stronger cleaning solution, such as a pet-safe dishwashing mousse.

Final Words

The right lick mat for your dog will depend on their unique needs and preferences. Don’t be afraid to try a few different styles to see what works best. With a little trial and error, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your furry friend.


About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.