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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.
Best Overall: Mighty Paw Dog Lick Pad
Four-in-one style mat
Food-safe quality silicone
Easy to clean between uses
Teething puppies may chew material
Size is smaller than most other mats
There are so many different patterns on dog lick mats that aim to target a dog’s specific needs. For example, different patterns are intended to help with anxiety, provide a distraction, help with play, or even provide easy feeding. So before you start thinking that you’ll need to buy several different lick pads for your tightly wound doggy, consider this lick pad from Mighty Paw that has four separate quadrants that all target different needs.
One area is made of a large waffle pattern that allows for easy licking, while another features densely packed nubs that means your dog will have to work harder and longer to lick up their food, which provides a great distraction.
This mat is made out of food-safe quality silicone that measures 9 x 5 inches. It also features dozens of suction cups on the back to help keep it in place. You can try out each section, one at a time, or cover the whole mat in food and let your dog enjoy the challenge that each quadrant brings to their mealtime.
Best for Anxious Dogs: Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mats
Helps reduce anxiety
Keeps dogs and cats occupied
No bottom suction cups
Some dogs may finish licking up food too quickly
An important part of picking out a lick mat is to make sure that your dog likes the pattern of the mat, so this two-pack comes in handy. It comes with two separate patterns so you can test which pattern your dog likes better or if you have two dogs, then both puppies can get in on the fun.
This two-pack is for small and medium dogs and measures 8 x 8 inches. If you have a larger dog at home, you may want to consider the large model, which measures 11 x 11 inches. These lick mats are also made out of FDA-grade TPE, a type of plastic that acts like rubber. This type of plastic also means you can freeze the mat or put it in the microwave.
Best For Bathtime: Aquapaw Slow Treater
Stick it to the floor with suction cups
Great dog entertainment while grooming
Very large dogs may loosen the suction cups
Bath time can be particularly stressful for some dogs, and finding ways to keep them happily distracted during a bath can go a long way to getting you both through it. Equipped with suction cups, this mat lets you stick it on almost any smooth surface, including the tiles around your bathtub.
Not only will it keep your pooch occupied while they are licking off their favorite treat, but it also means you are more likely to keep them facing the right way during their bath.
This lick pad comes in two varieties with a triangle-shaped mat that’s 6.7 inches across and a larger square-shaped mat measuring 9 inches on all sides. These lick mats come off easily and can be moved almost anywhere.
The depth of the pad means that you can pack in more of their favorite treat and extend the time it takes them to finish licking. These lick pads are made of silicone and are dishwasher safe. You can even fill the lick pad and pop it in the freezer, so it takes your dog even longer to lick the mat clean.
Best For Small Dogs: Lick Lick Pad
Easy to clean and swap out food
Can stick to most surfaces
Only holds a small amount of food spread
If you have a smaller dog that doesn’t need as much food spread on their mat as larger dogs, then this may be the better choice for you and your small pooch. It is made of silicone and sticks to most smooth, solid surfaces without using suction cups.
The length of the pad is 9.5 x 4.5 inches wide. While it is as long as most other large-sized lick pads, its shorter width equals less surface area overall than other 8 x 8 inch mats. The little nubs are also more spread out and not as tall, meaning that they can be cleaned quickly and don’t take as much time to finish.
This pad is not great for larger dogs who are likely to finish quickly and return to whatever activity you were trying to distract them from, but the size is just right for little dogs.
Best Budget : Boence Slow Dispensing Treater Mat
Hanging hole and suction cups
Small size compared to other lick mats
As any dog lover knows, picky dogs can be tough to shop for because you never know quite what they will like or dislike. Certain treats may not tickle their tastebuds or a new squeaky toy may not squeak just right, meaning your new purchase gets abandoned on the floor.
Thus, if you’re trying something new, like lick pads, you may want to find a lower-priced item to make sure your pup likes it before investing in a fancier model. This lick pad comes in either red or blue or as a three-pack with blue, red and yellow. Even the three-pack is at a lower price than most single lick mats. Each lick pad is a circle shape with a complicated pattern on each one to help slow down your dog’s licking time and measures 5.9 inches from end to end.
This type of lick pad also has the added bonus of 37 little suction cups on the back to help it stick easily to most smooth surfaces. Glass, windows, and tile are the most recommended places to guarantee a good stick, but it also has a hanging hole at the top so you can hang it on a hook. This works great if you are using those quick sticky hooks too!
Best Durability: LickiMat Tuff
Built with tough chewers in mind
Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
Aggressive lickers may break rubber nubs
Maybe you’ve tried other lick mats that didn’t quite hold up when your dog was really in the mood for food. Or perhaps you left an old mat uncleaned on the floor and found it ripped to shreds the next morning. Well, this might be the best mat for you and your more powerful pup.
The mat is made out of tough human-grade rubber and is secured in a tough polypropylene casing. While you should always let your dog use this product with supervision, it is built to last longer and stand up better to teething puppies and heavy chewers. However, some very aggressive lickers were still able to snap off some of the rubber nubs. While non-toxic, it’s essential to check the mat after use to see if any tears or strain on the rubber is visible.
The mat measures a perfect square at 7.9 inches on all sides and has four non-slip rubber feet to help hold it in place. This model comes with three different colors to choose from: green, orange, and turquoise.
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.
What to Look for in Lick Mats
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.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
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.