Before we can talk about how to use a foraging mat, we need to talk about what a foraging mat is. What does it do and what exactly is it for?
There are several styles of foraging mat on the market, but we’ll be focusing on the ruffled foraging mat. Our Fenrir Foraging Mat is a great example. The folds allow you to hide pieces of food that your dog has to sniff and pick out from the mat.
A foraging mat is a great tool to help your dog in daily life. Whether you’re trying to slow a dog that eats too quickly or looking to make meal time an opportunity to play: a foraging mat is right for you.
Since they can be used as a slow feeder or a way to play, it makes them a versatile tool to keep around. Your dog will enjoy many benefits when a foraging mat is included in their life.
So, let’s take a look at some of the best ways you can use one of these tools to help your dog get the most out of it.
Training Your Dog to Use a Foraging Mat
As with any other enrichment toy or training tool, your dog needs to understand what the foraging mat is for before you can really implement it into their daily life.
Start out with treats that are of high value and easy to find. You can place them right on top of the mat and let your dog sniff for them and eat them. If at any point they try to pull the mat up or shred it, you can give them the ‘leave it’ command.
We recommend doing this twice a day until your dog understands what the mat is for and then you can make it a little more challenging. You can start hiding treats more deeply in the foraging mat and eventually you should be able to tuck them down in all the way to give your dog a real challenge.
A foraging mat isn’t a toy that’s meant to be carried around or chewed on. It may take multiple sessions for your dog to understand that. And that’s okay! Patience is always key when your dog is learning something new. Once your dog is comfortable with the foraging mat and understands how to use the item, you’re all set to start implementing it into other parts of their day aside from two short play sessions.
Foraging Mats Recreate a Natural Experience
There have probably been many times where you’re out for a walk and your dog starts sniffing around. They root through grass, dead leaves, and whatever else to try and find what they smell. This is a natural instinct for dogs and a foraging mat is a tool you can use to recreate this experience in a safe and rewarding manner.
You give your dog the chance to forage and snuffle by hiding kibble or treats in their favourite mat. This type of work also counts as mental stimulation, because your dog has to think about what they’re doing rather than just scarfing down food.
Mental stimulation is just as effective- if not more- than physical exercise alone. Think of it as a crossword puzzle for your dog. It’ll keep them busy and engaged. That’s exhausting.
By using this in conjunction with normal play, you’ll keep your dog happy and satisfied which will help to curb unwanted habits such as chewing up the furniture.
Enrichment with a Foraging Mat
There are many different ways you can include a foraging mat in your dog’s day to help not only with play but with mental stimulation. Afterall, a tired dog is a good dog.
We’ll take a look at some of the ways you can use one of these to enrich your dog’s daily life.
Foraging Mat for Play
Foraging mats are first and foremost a fun toy for your dog to play with. Did you know that fifteen minutes of sniffing can be as tiring as an hour of walking?
That makes a foraging mat a great toy for those rainy days where you may not be able to get out and go for a long walk.
All you need to do is bury some high value treats deep down in the mat and let your dog get to work. They’ll sniff them out and dig them up for a tasty and rewarding play session.
Slow Feeding with a Foraging Mat
Foraging Mats are great for slow feeding. They’re large and flat so there’s no risk of them getting flipped over. Your dog has to dig the treats out from a large amount of ruffles and wrinkles meaning they can’t simply eat it. It can be difficult to shake the kibble loose from all of the ruffles which slows them down considerably.
Make Mealtime Fun with a Foraging Mat
Perhaps you have the opposite issue where your dog just isn’t interested in meal time. Not all dogs are food driven after all.
Making a game out of it can get them interested in eating again. You can hide their kibble along with a few high value treats in the foraging mat to help encourage them.
It can also be beneficial to break up their meals into two smaller portions to extend the game and give them a better chance of eating all of the food provided.
Practising Recall with a Foraging Mat
That’s right! You can use a foraging mat to help practise recall with your dog. It’s a great way to mix up your training routine so that no one gets too bored.
You’ll need some low value treats such as kibble or some dry treats to stuff in the mat. Then you’ll want to make sure you have some high value treats with you. Make sure you have your dog's favourite treat with you.
Let your dog snuffle the mat for a moment and then call to them. They should come to you. If they don’t, make sure they know you have a better treat than what’s in the mat.
This game will help with recall in a couple of ways. Your dog will learn to come to you when you call regardless of what has their attention and it will teach them to ignore distractions in favour of coming back to you.
Using a Foraging Mat as a Distraction
Sometimes you need to distract your dog and a foraging mat can be perfect for that. If your dog wiggles a lot while getting groomed, you can give them their mat with some treats as a way to keep them still and in one place.
Perhaps you have a dog that gets really excited over guests and you’re working on teaching them a command like ‘place.’ You can use the foraging mat as a quiet incentive to go to their place when someone comes in the door.
Maybe you need a few minutes to make a phone call or do the laundry, but your dog really wants to play, a mat and some treats will keep them distracted and happy for a few minutes until you can spend some time with them.
Things to Keep in Mind with Your Foraging Mat
You should always put away the mat when it isn’t in use. That way your dog understands that it’s only meant to be played with when you give permission.
If you leave it out, it could become like any other toy in the house to them. They could even decide to chew it up.
Our foraging mat is also machine washable. It’s important to keep the mat clean and free of food, especially after a messy play session to prevent mould and mildew.
You can place it in a pillowcase or mesh bag on the gentle cycle and then air dry it. This will keep it clean and new.
There are a lot of ways to include the natural urge to forage into your dog’s day. The list we’ve given you is just to get you started and give you some ideas.
If you have any unique ways you like to incorporate a foraging mat into your dogs day, make sure you share with us on social media. We always look forward to hearing from you!
If you don’t have a Fenrir Foraging Mat yet, make sure you pick up one today and try it out.