Categories: Small Dog Nutrition-Published On: November 13, 2023-

1267 Words, 5 Minute Read. The best snuffle mat for small dogs might surprise you. Learn why snuffle mats are ideal for small dog picky eaters and see our top pick!

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Karen Lena Izzo, The Small Dog Rules

Feeding Frustration with Small Dogs

If you’ve been following my website or social media for a while, you know that feeding and dog food is a hot topic in our household. For the first three years of Scout’s life, we struggled to find food she relished. And Phoebe has always had a sensitive stomach, at least compared to our golden retrievers, who happily ingested THE most disgusting things.

Unlike my golden retrievers, however, both my Havanese Phoebe and Scout behave like some of my family members, who’ve been known to flick peas off their plates or hide their salad under a napkin. They will turn food down and walk away.

Eventually, though, we settled on several freeze-dried raw foods the girls love, and I thought I’d ended picky eating for good.

Turning Up Noses: The Breakfast Dilemma

Two adult Havenese looking expectantly at camera, waiting for their dinner

And then, out of nowhere, both dogs started snubbing their breakfast. I tried everything, including homemade meals and their favorite treats on top. Despite my efforts, they remained uninterested.

Desperate, I even adopted the “they’ll eat when they’re hungry” philosophy for two weeks. It didn’t work. They continued walking away from breakfast and just went down to one meal a day. Both Scout and Phoebe began to lose precious weight.

A Thin Line Between Healthy and Skinny

Dog trainers and Facebook pundits often advocate for such tough love feeding methods, but they likely don’t deal with the challenges of small dogs maintaining healthy weights. For petite canines like mine, there’s hardly any room for error before weight loss becomes a health hazard.

A Moment of Clarity Leads to Puzzle-Based Breakfasts

And then, just as I picked up the phone to call our vet, inspiration struck. I’d been researching the latest small dog science for The Small Dog Rules–the sequel to my book Downward Sizing Dog. This particular week, I’d been reading some cutting edge reports on avoiding doggie dementia and using mental exercise to do it — and realized breakfast could be a golden opportunity for enrichment.

Why not make mealtime mentally stimulating? Before I realized what I needed was the best snuffle mats for small dogs, I went through several other options, including bowls and puzzles

I pulled out our Outward Hound slow-feeder bowls first, and the girls both showed much more interest in their food. But not enough to encourage them to finish their entire meal. (We do still frequently use these for dinner, and if you don’t have any, now’s the time to grab the slow feeder bowls- they’re 70% off at Amazon right now).

I then turned to the more complex plastic puzzles from Outward Hound. Though these puzzles engage my girls, they (the puzzles, not the girls), are too small to hold a full meal. However, both Phoebe and Scout approached breakfast with newfound vigor, which was a victory in itself. And again, if you don’t have these, now’s the time to pick up a couple, as several designs are currently 48% off.

Outward Hound aqua plastic dog puzzle toy with moveable white bones and orange drawers

Outward Hound

Casino Puzzle Dog Toy

40%off: Pay $14.98

Breakfast Becomes a Game

I felt so grateful that they were finally enthusiastic about eating, rather than playing the dreaded game of would eat what.

Fuschia Colored Slow Feeder Bowl with Kibble

Outward Hound Fun Feeder

70% off: Pay $4.93

Scent Work and Best Snuffle Mats for Small Dogs

Realizing I was onto something, I dove into research about scent work to enrich the girls’ lives further. I ordered an Outward Hound puzzle mat that could hold their entire meal and promised more of a challenge, keeping them engaged during breakfast. They were drawn in by the task, indicating that perhaps I had found one of the best snuffle mats for small dogs.

Challenges with Sturdy Velcro

Yet, these mats had their pitfalls. The velcro on parts of the toy, designed to withstand vigorous searching, was too tough for Phoebe and Scout to pull apart. They resorted to hurling the mats across the room to access their food—a solution that led to little pellets of freeze-dried food flying everywhere.

Plus, Scout was irritating her little mouth on the rough hook and loop closures.

Brown and green puzzle mat with pretend cabbage, a carrot, and velcro storage

On the Hunt for the Best Snuffle Mat for Small Dogs

Determined to find an even better solution, I searched for the best snuffle mats for small dogs that would cater to their size and slight frames.

But everything I found made specifically for small dogs presumed that little pups like working in small spaces. Mine don’t. And frankly, I think most small breeds appreciate room to explore. In addition, since I wanted these mats to accommodate an entire breakfast, I didn’t want something designed to hold only a few treats.

So, I expanded my search (literally) to include larger snuffle mats intended for big dogs. And, I believe I’ve found the perfect one. (Well, the perfect two, since both Phoebe and Scout have their own).

My Top Pick for

the Best Snuffle Mat for Small Dogs

The concept of engaging a dog’s sense of smell is nicely executed in this mat. It’s designed to tap into our dogs’ natural foraging instincts, mirroring, at least a little, the search for food in the wild, which not only enriches their mealtime but also sharpens their mental faculties.

Since integrating this mat into our routine, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in Phoebe and Scout’s engagement; they’re more eager to explore and their attitude toward breakfast is, well, intense. They stare at me with a growing sense of urgency as I fill each of their mats on the floor. They know not to dig in until I give the “okay,” but they sure lean in as close as they can.

White poodle sniffing fleece puzzle mat, looking for treats

Nosework Snuffle Mat for Small Dogs

(Amazon’s Choice)

$30.48 on Amazon

Ease of Use and Maintenance

The snuffle mat’s ease of use is another feature I can’t praise enough. Filling it up is incredibly straightforward, allowing me to mix their freeze-dried raw with hidden treats that pique their curiosity and prolong the dining experience. It’s a fun to watch them sniff and snuffle as they hunt for every morsel, turning mealtime into an exciting and rewarding game.

Another huge plus is how easy it is to keep these looking brand new. Unlike other mats and puzzles that take inordinate time and trouble to keep clean, these are incredible. The mat’s durable construction from polar fleece and upcycled materials makes it both eco-friendly and resilient. Cleaning is a breeze, as it withstands weekly machine washes without losing its shape or newness. These mats are truly built to last and are as easy to roll up and carry as they are to clean.

Perfect Size and Non-Slip Backing

Designed to cater to all dogs, its size is just perfect for Phoebe and Scout. The anti-slip backing is a practical feature, keeping the mat in place even with the most enthusiastic of sniffers. It provides a stable platform for their feeding adventures, ensuring the fun stays in one spot.

Fleece snuffle mat air drying in laundry room with pics of dogs above sink

Nosework Snuffle Mat for Small Dogs

(Amazon’s Choice)

$30.48 on Amazon

No More Drama at Breakfast

This snuffle mat has not just met but exceeded my expectations, turning the girls’ morning meal into a mentally stimulating activity they look forward to.

For those of you struggling with picky eaters or just looking to add more mental exercise, I wholeheartedly recommend this snuffle mat—your pups will thank you for it!

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