Spending more time with my dog, Maggie, was one of my few early-pandemic joys. Working from home gave us more walks, more playtime, and more cuddles. It also meant much more exposure to Maggie’s quirks. Her barking (at our neighbors — both animal and human) interrupted my meetings. In turn, the chattiness of those meetings interrupted Maggie’s naps. Then she’d whine until I gave her treats. And on and on went the cycle of our mutual disruption.
So I started searching for things to occupy Maggie when I needed quiet. My first purchase: a Strategist-approved snuffle mat that resembles a bowl of salad. As writer Kelly Conaboy explains, treats and food are hidden among the “leaves” of the salad, and your pet gets lost in the search. Maggie loved foraging at first, but she eventually figured out that by flipping the mat over, she had a direct line to her treats. She’d gobble them up and was immediately at my side barking for more.
Next, I tried both a treat ball and a puzzle but quickly learned she still needed supervision while playing with those. She would push the ball out of reach under the couch, then whine about it. Or, with the puzzle, I noticed her scheming again for shortcuts. The search continued.
Two months ago, I stumbled upon the LickiMat on my friend’s Instagram Story. Her two extremely hyper dogs (an Australian shepherd and Chow mix— both known to chew on furniture out of boredom) were licking away at two rubber squares stuck to her refrigerator. I messaged her immediately, asking what this miracle toy was and how long it kept her dogs busy. She replied with a link, saying, “A loooong time.” I ordered it right away.
Once the LickiMat arrived, I got skeptical because it didn’t seem like this sort of plain rubber square could keep my clever dog’s attention. But I spread a tablespoon of peanut butter across its grooves and stuck it to my fridge. Maggie licked for 15 minutes straight, not even looking up to bark at squirrels scurrying past our window. I was surprised, but the LickiMat’s simplicity is exactly what makes it work: It doesn’t require any searches or problem-solving. All Maggie had to do was lick.
Despite its grooved texture, the mat isn’t hard to clean. All the peanut butter comes off easily in the dishwasher, and by hand I just use a dish brush to scrub it out. Finally Maggie and I have a reliable pre-meeting routine. Right before my calls, Maggie gets all drooly while I spread a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter on her LickiMat. Licking keeps her occupied for at least 20 minutes (I spread on a little more PB for long meetings). And it has eased her separation anxiety, or at least I know she doesn’t bark when I leave the mat out. The mat has meant one less thing for me to stress over while I work, and Maggie is a little calmer, too.
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