- Prepare the LickiMat with a known, high value food/treat your dog loves.
Greek Yoghurt works for most dogs. Peanut butter works with most but not all dogs. Tuna, sardines, salmon, Baby Food, vegetable puree, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, mushy dog food and wet or liquid dog food also work well.
Please make sure the food you start with is safe for dogs and something your dog really likes.
- Make it easy for your dog to learn to lick the LickiMat!
To start with, load a small circle in the middle of your LickiMat. Press the food in with a spatula or the back of a spoon and then load the area above (to say half an inch or 1cm) so that they will get maximum reward for minimal effort at the start.
As your dog learns to lick (instead of chew) you can widen the circle but steer away from the edges of the LickiMat for the first week or two to avoid tempting your dog to chew until the training has kicked in.
- Set your dog up in an area they will be comfortable in.
If you have multiple dogs, they may require their own separate areas for this new activity.
In time, and depending on what you load your mat with, you may wish to set your dog up outside or on a mat that is easily cleaned.
- Sit on the ground with your dog and place the loaded LickiMat on the floor in front of them.
This ensures that you can help your dog interact with the LickiMat correctly, licking at it and not attempting to chew the LickiMat.
Having the food/treat in the middle of the LickiMat when you are first starting should make this easier. If your dog attempts to chew, use your stop command, remove the LickiMat and try again in 5-10 minutes. Repeat until your dog’s training kicks in.
- As your dog becomes more familiar with using the LickiMat, you can start to include a wider range of foods, make it more challenging by spreading the food out thinly over the LickiMat or using stickier foods so they really need to invest in licking to get it all, or even to freezing the loaded LickiMat prior to use.
- Make sure that you pick up the mat once they have finished with it. If you are using a Classic Soother, Buddy or Playdate, simply wash it under running water in the sink after each use. Most LickiMats (Tuff Series, Slomo, Wobble and Splash) are dishwasher safe which is handy for peanut butter.
- Experiment with your dog’s favourite foods, as well as foods of different textures and consistency. Please remember to check ingredients on foods you use to make sure they are safe for your dog. If in doubt, ask your Dog Trainer or Vet. You must avoid using any food with Xylitol as it is harmful to dogs (and cats).
- Have fun! Become your own doggie Master Chef and discover what your dog truly loves. You may be surprised! Remember that investing the time to train your dog to lick will pay you and your dog dividends in the long run in the form of better physical health and better emotional health. Used correctly, the LickiMat can become a perfect training aid, a great anxiety reliever, a slow feeder, a healthy distractor, a breath freshener and provide your dog with fun and enrichment.
Ramin and the LickiMat Team (Jude, Jane, Hazel and others)