We know there are no quick fixes when it comes to changing unwanted behaviours in dogs (or cats), but there is one small and inexpensive gadget that can do miracles if used well: LickiMat®.
Dr Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free certification program says licking “releases hormones called endorphins that serve a stress-relieving function and help the dog feel comfortable or contented.”
HOW DOES IT HELP PETS TO RELAX?
When used pre-emptively, LickiMat® can help pets feel more comfortable in a mildly stressful situation or environment. If you aren’t quick enough or the stressor is less predictable, you can still use a LickiMat® to help settle your pet quicker after a stressful event (such as a parcel delivery, a tradesperson visiting, a dog walking past the house – whatever upsets your pet).
HOW TO USE A LICKIMAT®?
Use spreadable food items to smear on a LickiMat®. Most dogs like peanut butter, cream cheese, Kong paste, yoghurt, but you can use canned dog food. For cats, you can try wet food, liquid treats or fish paste – if you can stand the smell!
Certain foods such as yoghurt is easier to lick off, so it won’t last as long as thicker pastes like crunchy peanut butter.
If you have a dog that is sensitive to dairy, you can use lactose-free cheese. Get creative by mixing different textures and tastes – whatever your pet enjoys the most! How about some cream cheese with a tiny bit of vegemite on top?
Just be sure to check the ingredients list and make sure there are no items that are dangerous to dogs or cats e.g. grapes, onions or garlic.
WHEN TO USE A LICKIMAT®?
You can use the LickiMat® in many different situations, whenever you would like to calm your pet. It is small and portable, perfect to help your pet relax during car rides or at the vet clinic. They are particularly useful for increasing duration with crate training and can help pets tolerate grooming a bit better.
Some dogs can get stressed when hearing loud noises such as power tools, thunder, or they may try to chase the lawn mower or whipper snipper. Giving your pet a LickiMat® while keeping him inside during these stressful events can set your dog up for success. Classical or soothing music playing in the background could help your dog relax and mask those scary noises too.
Don’t only use the LickiMat® in stressful situations, as your pet may associate it with a negative event and may start to dislike it. This is what we trainers call “poisoning of the food”.
If your dog is an avid chewer, we recommend using the tougher version. Always supervise your dog to make sure he is only licking, not eating the LickiMat®…
“BUT MY DOG IS NOT INTERESTED IN IT”
Does your pet turn up his nose when seeing a LickiMat®? Experiment with something he really likes – anchovy paste, smoky cream cheese, liver pate. If he is not interested in high value food, it may be because he is too stressed to eat.
If your dog is showing more severe signs of fear or stress (some signs include pacing, barking, howling, destruction, inappropriate elimination) during problem situations e.g. thunderstorms, being left home alone or visitors coming over, we recommend seeing a behaviour veterinarian for further assessment of the underlying problems to help your pet cope better.
For more information on behaviour consultations, click here.
Written by Bea Labady MA CPDT (MDI)