Tips & Tricks

Lick Mats vs. Kongs: Which Dog Enrichment Toy is Best?

lick mat vs kongs

Is your dog giving you the side-eye? You know that look – the one that says, “I’m bored, entertain me!” We all want to keep our furry friends happy and engaged, but with so many dog toys out there, it’s hard to pick the right one.

Two of the most popular choices are lick mats and Kongs. You might have heard they’re great for keeping pups busy. But what exactly are they, and which one is best for your dog?

Let’s take a closer look.

What are Lick Mats?

Lick mats are flat mats made of silicone or rubber with raised textures and grooves. The purpose of a lick mat is quite simple – you spread a thin layer of dog-safe wet food or treats over the textured surface, and your dog gets to work licking it all up.

It may seem like a basic concept, but the act of licking can actually provide a surprising number of benefits for our four-legged friends:

Promotes Calmness & Reduces Anxiety

The repetitive licking motion has been shown to be incredibly soothing for dogs, similar to how sucking a pacifier calms human babies. If your pup gets anxious during storms, fireworks, vet visits, or other stressful situations, a lick mat can be a great way to relax them.

Prevents Boredom & Destructive Behaviors  

As your dog focuses all their energy on licking every last morsel off the grooved mat, it keeps their mind engaged and occupied.

As we all know, if a dog doesn’t have enough mental stimulation, they will start finding their own “entertainment” – like chewing furniture, barking excessively, or exhibiting other problematic behaviors.

doodle barking dog woof brown dog

Slows Down Eating for Gulpers

Some dogs are prone to eating too quickly, which can lead to vomiting, bloat, or obesity over time. The effort required to lick the food off the mat encourages your pup to take their time and eat more slowly.

Easy to Use for Crate Training  

Lick mats make excellent crate toys since they’re contained, mess-free, and provide a calming activity. You can even freeze the mat with treats for extra long-lasting entertainment.

puppy crate trainning

Pro Tips: How to Teach Your Dog to Use a Lick Mat:

If you’ve gone ahead and ordered a lick mat for your furry friend, you’re probably wondering – how exactly do I get them to use this strange, groovy plastic thing? Have no fear; with a little guidance, your dog will be licking away like a pro in no time.

Start With a Clean Slate First thing’s first, give that lick mat a good scrub before introducing it to your pup. Use some warm water and dish soap to remove any residue or odors. You want the mat completely clean so it doesn’t throw off any confusing smells at first.

how to wash lick mat

Let Them Sniff It Out

With your squeaky clean mat, let your dog give it a good sniff over. Pups explore the world through their noses, so allowing them to get familiar with the new object’s scent helps build positive associations. You can even place a treat on the mat to spark their interest!

Spread on the Goods

Once your pooch seems comfortable around the lick mat, it’s time to load it up with something tasty. Start with just a small amount of dog-safe wet food like peanut butter, yogurt, or pumpkin puree spread thinly across the grooves. You don’t want to overwhelm them.

Lick It Up

Now for the fun part! With the lick mat loaded, place it down on the floor and encourage your pup to “get it!” You can point to the mat, use a cue like “lick,” or even hold it for easier access at first. Be ready with praise and treats when they give it a tentative first lick.

Go the Distance

As your dog starts getting the idea, you can let them lick the mat for longer periods of time. Start with just 30 seconds to a minute, and work your way up to keeping them happily licking for 5-10 minutes. The licking motion is self-soothing, so staying power is a good thing!

Keep an Eye Out

While lick mats are designed to be hard to destroy, you’ll still want to stick around and supervise while your dog uses it, at least at first. That way, you can nip any attempts to chew or ingest the mat in the bud with a firm “leave it” command.

Once your dog is an old pro at focusing intently on their lick mat buffet, you can use it for all sorts of situations. Need to keep them calm during fireworks or a thunderstorm? The lick mat is here to help! Want to manage barking when the mailman arrives? Bring out that trusty lick mat.

adorable cute little french bulldog

The Versatile Kong

While lick mats specialize in, well, licking – Kongs are the swiss army knives of dog toys. These hollow rubber cones can be used for chewing, treat dispensing, games of fetch, and so much more.

To use a Kong for enrichment, you simply stuff the cavity with your dog’s kibble, treats like peanut butter or canned pumpkin, or a combination. Your pup then has to use their paws, tongue, and teeth to try to dislodge and access the tasty contents.

Here are some of the key benefits Kongs provide:

Prevents Boredom & Separation Anxiety

Like lick mats, stuffed Kongs give dogs a mentally stimulating activity to focus on rather than destructive chewing or barking. They’re particularly useful for keeping your dog busy when you’re away from home.

cute french bulldog boring dog

Durable Chew Toy

Even for aggressive chewers, Kongs are tough to destroy thanks to their thick, high-quality rubber construction. They can stand up to hours of dedicated chewing.

Interactive Fun

You can turn stuffing and retrieving the Kong into a fun game by tossing it for your pup to chase and “unstuff.” Kongs also bounce erratically, adding to the challenge.

puppy play with kong toy

So Which One Should You Choose?

The best enrichment toy for your dog depends on their specific needs and personality. Here’s a quick rundown of when to use each:

Go for a Lick Mat if:

– Your dog gets anxious or stressed easily

– You want a low-energy, calming activity

– You’re crate training or need to keep them occupied briefly

– Your dog is recovering from surgery/injury and needs low-impact enrichment

– Your pup is a quick or “gulper” eater

dog licking the mat

Grab a Kong if:

– Your dog is a power chewer and needs an ultra-durable chew toy

– You want to provide long-lasting entertainment when you’re away  

– Your dog has lots of energy to expend through interactive play

– You’re looking for versatility – Kongs can dispense treats, be chew toys, and play fetch

dog kong toys


1. Do vets recommend lick mats?

Yes, many vets recommend lick mats as they can provide a helpful distraction during periods of extreme anxiety, such as bathtime and grooming. You can use a lick mat for any anxiety-inducing event to help reduce stress and distract your dog. However, this only works for food-motivated dogs. If your dog isn’t motivated by food or is too stressed to take treats, lick mats may not provide the distraction they need.

2. Do lick mats actually tire out dogs?

Yes, lick mats can definitely tire out dogs. The focus and concentration needed to lick every crevice of the textured mat provide substantial mental stimulation. Additionally, the repetitive licking motion and slow eating promote physical exertion and satisfaction, leading to tiredness. While it might not seem strenuous, cleaning a lick mat requires enough mental and physical energy to pleasantly tire out most pups.

Final Words

Of course, there’s no rule that says you can’t use both! Many dog owners like to give their pups a stuffed Kong alongside a lick mat for variety. The lick mat can keep them busy while prepping the Kong. Or you can freeze the stuffed Kong for longer entertainment after they’ve polished off the lick mat.

smiley dog sitting couch

No matter which option you choose, lick mats and Kongs are fantastic ways to provide healthy mental and physical stimulation for your dog. So get creative with textures, tastes, and stuffings—and get ready for a happier, less boring pup!


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.