Tips & Tricks

What to Put on Your Dog’s Lick Mat for a Healthy and Engaging Treat

text dog with bone white wooden surface

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is, “What should I put on my dog’s lick mat?” Lick mats have become an incredibly popular enrichment tool in recent years, and for good reason! These textured mats or pads are designed to be covered in soft, delicious treats that keep your pup happily engaged as they lick away. Not only do lick mats provide essential mental stimulation, but they can also help reduce stress, alleviate boredom, and even make grooming or bathing a more positive experience.


With so many options available, you might wonder what the best toppings are for a dog lick mat. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with a list of healthy and delicious topping ideas your dog will love.

Let’s dive in!

Choose a Nutritious Base Layer

The foundation of a great lick mat recipe is a thick, nutritious base layer that will coat the mat and help the other toppings stick. Here are some healthy options to consider:

  • Natural peanut butter (xylitol-free): The creamy texture and tasty flavor makes peanut butter a doggy favorite. Just be mindful of the calories and ensure it doesn’t contain xylitol, as this ingredient is toxic to dogs.
  • Plain Greek yoghurt: Yogurt is another great base if your dog tolerates dairy. The probiotics may even provide digestive benefits. Start with a small amount to see how your pup reacts.
crop man taking natural yogurt with spoon from jar

  • Canned pumpkin: For a lower calorie option that’s great for digestion, you can’t beat pumpkin! Most dogs love the taste too. Limit the amount though, as too much can cause tummy troubles.
  • Cottage cheese: A dollop of low-fat cottage cheese (without added fruit) can serve as a protein-rich and lick-worthy base. Again, make sure your dog does well with dairy first.
  • Minced meat: Spreading some minced chicken, beef, or salmon (unseasoned) over the mat makes for an enticing meaty surprise. Just pre-cook it for safety.

  • Bone broth: If your dog prefers a more savoury base, try using a little low-sodium or homemade bone broth. Pour a thin layer onto the mat and freeze it for a protein-rich treat. You can also mix it with mashed veggies or canned food for a more substantial base.
  • Canned dog food: High-quality wet dog food, especially a thick pate style food, can make a convenient and nutritionally balanced base layer. Avoid chunks or shreds as those won’t stick to the mat as well. Bonus: this is an easy way to make your dog’s normal food more exciting!
  • Homemade dog food: If you DIY your dog’s food at home, try pureeing a small batch to use as a lick mat base. A blended mixture of cooked meat, veggies, and healthy grains or legumes will provide balanced nutrition and stick to the mat nicely.


Add Some Natural Sweetness

To make the lick mat even more exciting for your pup, try mixing in a sweet and healthy treat. Fruits like apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, pineapples or watermelon chunks work well – just use frozen berries to minimize mess. You can also try:

  • Unsweetened applesauce: Opt for a natural variety without added sugars or artificial sweeteners. The smooth texture is great for licking.
  • Cooked oatmeal: Oatmeal is a filling and nutritious treat – just don’t add any sugar and let it cool before spreading on the mat. Many dogs enjoy the mushy consistency.
  • Carrot pieces: Carrots are crunchy, refreshing, and packed with vitamins. They’re one of the healthiest veggies for dogs. Chop or shred them to make it easier.
  • Honey: All-natural honey takes time and effort to lick off, engaging your dog even more. Use it sparingly, though, due to the sugar content.


Balance with Savory Flavors

Round out your lick mat creation with some savoury tastes and nutrient-dense ingredients. Cooked, mashed veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, or sugar-free sweet potato are great options. You can also try:

  • Mashed regular potatoes: Have some plain leftover mashed potatoes? Put them to use as a lick mat topper! Just avoid using potatoes with added butter, milk or seasonings.
mashed potato in a clear glass mini bowl

  • Ground meat: Sprinkle on some cooked lean ground chicken, turkey, beef or salmon for an irresistible protein boost. Make sure it’s unseasoned.
  • Low-calorie dog treats: Crush up some small dog biscuits or training treats to mix into the base for added crunch and flavour in moderation.
  • Scrambled eggs: Eggs are a healthy treat in small amounts. Make sure they’re fully cooked and chopped up before adding to the lick pad.
dachshund eating

  • Frozen liver pieces: Many dogs go wild for liver! Freezing it first will make it last longer on the mat. The liver is rich in nutrients but high in calories, so only use a little.
  • Cooked quinoa: If you have some leftover plain quinoa from your own dinner, you can share it with your pup on the lick mat. It’s a healthy, lick-able grain option.

For the ultimate lick mat treat, combine one ingredient from each category – a base, a sweet item, and a savoury item. The variety of flavours and textures will engage your dog’s senses. Just keep the portions small, so you don’t exceed your dog’s ideal calorie range.

Do lick mats actually help alleviate anxiety in dogs?

While lick mats and food-based treats alone won’t eliminate anxiety disorders in dogs, they can definitely have a calming effect and help soothe anxious pups in stressful situations. This is especially true when lick mats are used to distract and redirect a dog’s focus during triggering activities they may find overwhelming, such as grooming, nail trims, vet visits, car rides, or baths.

The reason lick mats can have this calming effect is that the repetitive licking action itself is soothing and stress-relieving for many dogs. The act of licking releases feel-good endorphins in the brain, helping anxious pups feel more relaxed and content. Licking is also a natural self-soothing behaviour for dogs, similar to how a baby sucks their thumb to regulate their emotions.

Additionally, the mental stimulation and engagement provided by the tasty lick mat serve as a positive distraction, giving nervous dogs something else to focus on rather than a stressful situation. Instead of fixating on something scary, the dog becomes engrossed in licking the mat clean.

dog licking the mat

In addition, lick mats can be especially effective when used as part of a desensitization and counterconditioning training program aimed at changing a dog’s emotional response to something they fear.

For example, my dog Scout used to dislike bath time, but pairing it with the high-value reward of a peanut butter-covered lick mat suctioned to the shower wall slowly transformed bath time into a positive experience that she now looks forward to.

Of course, every dog is an individual, and some may be too anxious to eat in a stressful situation. However, for many pups, lick mats can be a highly effective anxiety-reducing tool as part of a well-rounded behavioural wellness plan.

greyhound dog laying floor

How long do lick mats last?

Curious about how long your dog can stay entertained with their lick mat? The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all! Here’s a breakdown of the factors influencing their lick mat playtime:

  • The type and quantity of food used: Thicker, stickier spreads like peanut butter or mashed pumpkin will typically last longer than thinner, more liquid spreads like yoghurt or bone broth. Using smaller quantities will also make the mat quicker to lick clean.

  • Whether the mat is frozen: Freezing a loaded lick mat significantly increases the level of difficulty and time required for your dog to lick the mat clean. A frozen mat covered in a thick layer of peanut butter can easily last 30+ minutes for many dogs, as opposed to just a few minutes when unfrozen.
  • The size of the mat relative to your dog: Larger mats with more surface area and grooves will generally take more time and effort to finish than smaller mats.
  • Your individual dog’s level of food motivation, licking style, and tongue size/shape: Some dogs are more persistent and determined when it comes to food rewards, while others are more easily frustrated or distracted. Some dogs also just have larger, stronger tongues and more efficient licking styles that get the job done faster.

On average, an unfrozen lick mat with a spreadable treat will probably last most dogs somewhere between 5-10 minutes. Freezing the mat can easily extend the duration of the activity to 20, 30, or even 45+ minutes, depending on the factors I mentioned above.

Final Words

Lick mats are a budget-friendly and super practical way to take your dog’s treat time to the next level. They turn a simple snack into a long-lasting activity that keeps your pup happily engaged. Plus, you get to choose healthy ingredients and portion them perfectly for your furry friend’s needs. Lick mats become a part of a well-rounded routine that keeps your dog mentally stimulated and feeling relaxed.

cute chihuahua dog

The best part? Prepping a lick mat takes just a few minutes, but the benefits are pawsome! You get a calmer pup and a happier you. So, next time your dog needs some chill time or solo play, grab the lick mat and pile on the yummy toppings. They’ll be busy licking the day away in no time (and you might just score a few moments of peace!).


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.