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The Scoop

The Two-Sided Enrichment Mat Every Dog Owner Needs

The Feast Mat™ is an all-in-one slow feeder and lick mat.
Made with recycled ocean-bound plastic.

Feast Mat




When it comes to enrichment for dogs, there are many unique ways that we can provide it to our dogs at home. A fun and versatile way to add enrichment at home is by using a lick mat or slow feeder!

Lick Mats vs. Slow Feeders

Lick mats for dogs are textured mats peppered with grooves, divots, and sections that encourage your dog to lock into their genetic foraging instincts. These mats have raised surfaces designed to encourage licking, which has many benefits for your furry companion.

You may be wondering, “Are slow feeders good for dogs?” and the answer is yes! A slow feeder is similar to a lick mat but with some subtle differences. Slow feeders help deter food gulpers by slowing down their meals in different ways. Like lick mats, slow feeders are vessels that incorporate mazes and obstacles to get your dog thinking about how to obtain their treat or meal. The intricacies of these feeders also allow your dog the chance to think about food order and give them a sense of choice.

While lick mats are provided to encourage the sole behavior of licking, a slow feeder is provided to encourage foraging and problem-solving.

Why your dog needs both

Why use a lick mat or slow feeder?

Lick mats and slow feeders provide many benefits for our canine counterparts through very subtle designs that pack a punch. These vessels create a sort of “grazing maze” that locks food into place, helping your dog slow down at mealtime. In lick mats, the act of licking releases pleasure endorphins into your dog’s brain, creating a calmer, less anxious pup. Think of serving a lick mat as giving your dog a “sigh of relief” after a long day while simultaneously adding some brainwork into the mix. This sigh of relief is often seen across beneficial decompression activities for pets.*

What is a “Decompression Activity”?

The technical definition of decompression is: “A state of relief from pressure; a return to normalcy after a stressful period or situation.” That “sigh of relief” I was talking about earlier? That’s exactly what decompression activities aim to do for our dogs! Decompression activities seek to create a calm, even playing field where our dogs can come back to a relaxed headspace free of unnecessary stressors.

Additionally, adding something novel (like a slow feeder or lick mat) into your dog’s routine can be extremely exciting and fun for them. These mats and bowls encourage a sense of choice, as your dog can choose how they go about their mats (and trust me, some dogs have a unique style!) to obtain their treats and/or food. Studies show that providing unique ways for our dogs to “work” for their meals is extremely beneficial to their health, well-being, and brain – all of which is a win-win! This phenomenon is known as contra freeloading**.

What is “Contrafreeloading”?

Contrafreeloading is an incredible behavior seen across many animal species, including our furry canines. This concept shows that when an animal is provided a choice between free food and food that requires work, they’ll often choose the option that takes a certain amount of effort. This preference to obtain food with effort relates to deeply sewn genetic traits, which makes the act of foraging and “working” for food extremely enjoyable for a multitude of animal species. The Contrafreeloading concept helps us understand why our dogs love food puzzles and enrichment toys so much.

There’s a common misconception that the teenier the design is, the more difficult it will be for your dog, hence making it more effective. This misconception is linked to the idea that the longer an enrichment activity lasts, the more beneficial it will be for your dog. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! We always want enrichment games to be fun and attainable for our furry friends, and mats that have sections that are too small can lead to frustration. As a result, try not to focus on how difficult a lick mat or slow feeder may look; larger gaps are not the enemy. In fact, having better spacing in lick mats and slow feeders is vital in making sure that our dogs’ treats and meals are attainable.

What Makes Feast Mat Unique?

In my opinion, the Feast Mat is the “beast mode” of lick mats and slow feeders on the market today. With its carefully planned design and the ability to use both sides, the West Paw Feast Mat adds a ton of novelty and creativity into the mix, which may be lacking in other designs on the market.

The no-slip construction holds the mat perfectly in place for your dog, and its size is perfect for amping up meals as opposed to small treats and snacks. Especially for larger breeds, most lick mats on the market can be too small, making the mat frustrating and not a good fit for their routine. The spacing on both sides is cleverly constructed and done in a way that makes food attainable for your dog. No frustrated pups, here!

Lastly, the material of the Feast Mat makes it an absolute star in my eyes. The emphasis on sustainability is fantastic, as the West Paw Feast Mats are made with their signature Seaflex® material. West Paw Seaflex contains recycled ocean-bound plastic, but in a way that’s completely safe for your pets (no harmful toxins!). These Feast Mats are also completely recyclable through West Paw’s “Join the Loop®” initiative, making it an entirely recyclable (and sustainable) product. This differs from certain mats on the market that are made with low-grade materials that are often destined for landfills.

Overall, lick mats can be small but mighty tools when it comes to our furry companions. With the ability to calm our dogs and make them happier, why not give them a go?

 

Taylor McDonald is a passionate dog mom who shares all things enrichment for your furry friends.

Taylor began her enrichment journey in 2018 upon rescuing not one, but two very busy rescue pups. Her enrichment DIYs and informational content quickly took the internet by storm, and the Bindi's Bucket List platforms were born. Working with trainers and behaviorists worldwide, Taylor aims to make enrichment content accessible for pet parents everywhere. Whether you listen to her content via her enrichment seminars, read it through her enrichment guides, or swipe through the bounty that is her accessible free content - you're bound to learn something new. What's her goal, you might ask? To make more happy dogs, and in turn, make more happy pet parents!

To learn more about the world of enrichment, feel free to follow Taylor (and her dogs Bindi and Rosie!) on Instagram at @bindisbucketlist, or visit their website www.bindisbucketlist.com.