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Buster the Chihuahua Takes on the BUSTER ActivityMat

The name is especially fitting, considering that my running buddy, Buster, needs a ton of exercise.

Abbie Mood, Dip. CBST  |  Dec 23rd 2015


During the winter months in Colorado, it can be tough to get the dogs out for as much exercise as we would like, and they can get pretty stir crazy. So when the opportunity came up to test out the BUSTER ActivityMat, it couldn’t be better timing. Considering that my running buddy, Buster, needs more exercise than anyone else, the name was especially fitting, and we were really excited to try it out.

The whole kit. We were excited to try it out! Photo By: Abbie Mood

The whole kit. We were excited to try it out! (Photo by Abbie Mood)

The BUSTER ActivityMat comes with the mat, two Level 1 (aka easy difficulty) tasks, and one Level 2 (aka medium difficulty) tasks, all in a really nice carrying bag. The first thing I noticed was the quality of the mat and the corresponding activities. The mat has a rubber-like coating on the bottom, and two dowel rods inside, which really keeps it from sliding. We tested it on hardwood and carpet, and it stayed put on both (unless our bigger dog really dug into it, but more on that later). Both the mat and the activities are made of a durable, canvas-like material, which is very study and has some weight to it.

The gray top of the mat is made of the durable canvas and the bottom has the rubber lining. There is a dowel rod in each end to keep it flat. Photo By: Abbie Mood

The gray top of the mat is made of the durable canvas, and the bottom has the rubber lining. There is a dowel rod in each end to keep it flat. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

The point of all of the tasks/activities is to retrieve a treat. For most of the activities, you put the treats in pockets, but for others, like the Cone Cloth, the treats are loose in the cloth once your dog gets into it. I used really smelly, crumbly treats so that my dogs would be really interested in finding them, and would get crumbs if they were close.

The mat has 35 fasteners, so you can attach multiple activities at once. The directions for each task also give you three different options for making the task easier or harder, depending on your dog’s skill level. As a positive reinforcement dog trainer, I really appreciated the notes at the beginning of the instruction booklet, which included tips such as:

  • “Dogs are different. Some dogs choose to use their paws a lot, other use their snout. Accept the way your dog chooses to solve the tasks.”
  • “It is important the dog is experiencing success with the ActivityMat.”
  • “If the dog does not know what to do, it is a good idea to give it a treat just for touching the ActivityMat.”
The mat set up with the three activities that it comes with: Envelope, Cone Cloth, and Water Lily. Photo By: Abbie Mood

The mat setup with the three activities that it comes with: Envelope, Cone Cloth, and Water Lily. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

My dogs are already familiar with me pointing to the ground for them to find treats, so that was helpful. With each task, I started with the easiest way to do it and pointed to the pocket/flap/etc. to get them started. The instructions were easy to understand, and the activities were pretty easy to put together.

Daisy, our bigger dog, was able to lift the mat when she dug at the pockets. Photo By: Abbie Mood

Daisy, our bigger dog, was able to lift the mat when she dug at the pockets in the Envelope game. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

Even though all three of my dogs LOVED the BUSTER ActivityMat, it is definitely better for smaller dogs. Our bigger dog, Daisy, is 35 pounds and was able to lift the mat while digging in the pockets. Some of the pockets were also too small for her snout, while Buster the 10-pound Chihuahua and Sadie the 17-pound terrier mix could fit their whole heads into many of the pockets. All of the dogs tried to use their teeth to get to the treats, and as long as a dog wasn’t simply chewing on the pocket, the material would definitely stand up to some mouthing.

Buster's little head fit into most of the pockets. Photo By: Abbie Mood

Buster’s little head fit into most of the pockets. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

I started all of my dogs on the easiest levels and plan to work up to some of the more difficult levels over time. With the varying levels of difficulty, this ActivityMat and all of the associated activities could be useful for a very long time without your dog getting bored. As I mentioned above, the mat comes with three activities, and then there are nine additional activities, which are sold separately.

Sadie loved the Mouse Trap task. Photo By: Abbie Mood

Sadie loved the Mouse Trap task. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

Dogster scorecard for the BUSTER ActivityMat

  • Quality: Great. The materials are very well made, and I imagine they are going to be long-lasting.
  • Style: The activities are simple colors with no designs, which I really like. The different colored panels on the activities are helpful for the human who is putting them together.
  • Function: Great. I’ve used some plastic treat games for the dogs, and they got bored very quickly. We will be using this a lot this winter! I love that there are so many options with the mat, and that it can be stored easily in the included bag.
  • Creativity: The activities are really creative. While they all involve hiding treats in pockets (except the Cone Cloth), the variety of ways to get to the pockets and the ability to make them different difficulty levels are very creative.
  • Value: The ActivityMat with the three starter activities is priced at $69.99, with additional activities at $14.99. Before trying it out, I thought that sounded like a lot of money, but between the craftsmanship and the longevity of the activities, this is money well spent.
Buster used his snout and his paws to get to the treats. Photo By: Abbie Mood

Buster used his snout and his paws to get to the treats, like with the Top Hat. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

Bottom line

We tested the Envelope, Water Lily, Cone Cloth, Top Hat, Mouse Trap, and Rock’n Roll. Buster and Daisy loved the Water Lily, and Sadie loved the Mouse Trap. Their least favorite was the Cone Cloth. Overall, we highly recommend this for humans and their bored or too-smart-for-their-own-good pups (as long as you can keep an eye on them while they use the mat). This one gets two thumbs and many paws up!

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About the author: Abbie Mood lives in Colorado with her dogs Daisy, Sadie, and Buster, and can usually be found outside with one of them. She is a freelance writer who loves to explore environmental and animal rights issues, food culture, and the human experience through her writing. You can find out more about her atabbiemood.com or her blog, lifediscoveryproject.com. Follow Abbie on Twitter @abbiemood or Instagram @abbiemood.