I'm a New BarkBox Subscriber—Here's What I Think After Receiving My First Box
If there's anything I'm an expert at, it's spoiling my dog. Whether it's sneaking her little bits of Gala apples under the table or paying extra for a facial at the groomer, you can rest assured that Pickles the cockapoo is well taken care of. For that reason, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Pickles' first BarkBox.
BarkBox is a subscription service by Bark that delivers a themed box of toys and treats to your doorstep every month. Owners can choose between a monthly, six-month, or yearly plan; the more boxes you sign up for upfront, the cheaper BarkBox is. Owners can also choose the theme of their box or opt to be surprised—I love surprises. Each box includes an assortment of handmade toys as well as a few yummy treats for your dog to enjoy.
How I Tested BarkBox
I requested my first BarkBox delivery in the middle of March and have been evaluating the company ever since. Since I was a new customer, I signed up for a monthly plan so I could cancel if I wasn't satisfied post-review.
Going into my review, the key factors I considered were:
- Price - My gut reaction to the upfront cost prior to receiving the box.
- Value - Was the box worth the price to both me and Pickles?
- Uniqueness - What does BarkBox offer that other brands don't?
- Customer service - Delivery window/condition upon arrival
$35 per box
No. of items per shipment
Types of products
Toys, treats, and chews
How Does BarkBox Work?
To get started with BarkBox, I selected a monthly plan and then filled out a brief questionnaire about Pickles, which included providing her weight, sex, and applicable food allergies. Once I filled out the questionnaire, I was able to choose between picking that month's predetermined box theme (March was SpongeBob SquarePants) or leaving the theme up to the BarkBox gods. I went for the latter, which gave me a thrill, if I do say so myself. According to the BarkBox website, most boxes are shipped out and delivered within five business days, so after I paid, I anxiously waited to see what BarkBox had in store for me and Pickles.
The more boxes you sign up for, the cheaper BarkBox is, with boxes starting at $35 per month for a month-to-month subscription. Subscription prices decrease from there; a six-month subscription evens out to around $26 per BarkBox, and an annual subscription evens out to around $22 per BarkBox. BarkBox also offers a Super Chewers box for dogs who require their toys to be a little more indestructible. Super Chewers' monthly subscription costs $40 per box, a six-month subscription costs $30 per box, and a yearly subscription costs $25 per box.
I paid just over $40 for my regular BarkBox, which was full price. I was pretty disappointed to discover there was no promotion or discount for first-time customers unless I signed up for a six-month or annual plan—a lot of other pet subscription services at least incentivize new customers with a little perk for customers to subscribe longer. I was also disappointed to find out that shipping wasn't free, costing an additional $5 on top of the box fee.
It's worth noting that BarkBox also offers a dental kit that includes toothpaste and either the brand's Original or Durable Dental Chews starting at $25 a month.
Delivery and Packaging
I will say that at first glance, the box was a lot smaller than I anticipated—a lot of the company's promotional photos show overflowing boxes with oodles of toys and treats to gawk at. I could hold the little box in one hand, and I have tiny hands. As someone who has treated herself to multiple human subscription boxes before, I was a little surprised.
However, the delivery was great. My first BarkBox arrived right on time; I placed my order on March 22 and received it on March 27, right in line with BarkBox's five-business-day estimate that's featured on the company's website. The package was also in good shape upon arrival, and I appreciated the folded top design, which helped set up an exciting reveal (more on that later). BarkBox ships deliveries in a standard cardboard box, so no problems with recycling it on my end. And if I had to cash in on BarkBox's 100-percent satisfaction guarantee, I could easily relabel the box and send it back as is.
Now to the fun part. If I knew anything about BarkBox before signing up, it was that BarkBox loves a theme. Immediately after opening the box, I was greeted with a colorful insert that had the box's theme clearly spelled out, which really set the tone for the rest of the box. Pickles and I received the "City Sniffers" box, which boasted New York City-esque toys and artwork. You can tell that the BarkBox staff works hard on graphic design, which was a treat to discover.
As hinted at before, I was a little underwhelmed with the number of products included in my BarkBox, especially for the price that I paid. Pickles and I received two small toys, two midsized bags of treats, and one chew for just over $40. I'm not a mathematician, but based on products I've bought Pickles in the past, I would estimate I spend less on the same amount of items during a normal shopping trip.
When it comes to toy quality, both of the toys that we received—one Statue of Liberty bouncy ball and one soft Chinese takeout box—are tied into the cityscape theme well. In fact, they are two of the cutest dog toys I've ever seen. The Chinese takeout box had little dumplings inside, which almost made it function like a puzzle toy, and the Statue of Liberty bouncy ball had a little crown. But Pickles and I were both a little disappointed that each toy was covered in fabric. I wouldn't consider Pickles to be a Super Chewer, but she still likes to play tug-of-war and tear up toys from time to time. I've been hesitant about giving her the Chinese takeout box to play with, due to its soft exterior and squishy dumplings, and I'm not sure if it would last very long.
I was pleased, however, to receive a variety of flavors in the edible items that came in my BarkBox. One bag of treats was savory (lamb and cheddar cheese), while the other bag was on the sweeter side (oatmeal and berries). The chew was right in the middle (pumpkin and honey-flavored). Additionally, I checked beef as one of Pickles' allergens when I signed up, and BarkBox listened. But it should be noted that the treats didn't necessarily tie into the city theme, if that's important to you—no New York pizza slice treats in this box.
Pros and Cons
- Timely delivery
- Engaging box themes with unique toys
- Wide variety of treat flavors
- Good balance of items
- Variety of subscription options
- Price (without subscription) doesn't feel like you're getting the best value
- Soft toys are not durable for heavy playtime
- Shipping isn't free for one-time purchases
Who's BarkBox Good For?
BarkBox is a good subscription service for dog owners who have a little extra money lying around to spoil their furry friend each month. The company puts time and effort into creating themed boxes that make it stand out in the dog subscription box world.
I think BarkBox is a great concept—who doesn't love themed dog toys? However, I don't know if your investment in BarkBox would be worth it unless you signed up for a six-month or annual plan and were able to enjoy perks like free shipping and a cheaper per-box price.
However, I loved seeing how BarkBox creatively tied the box's theme to the contents of the box, especially from a graphic design standpoint. Plus, the toys were incredibly cute and just the right size for my small dog. I would challenge BarkBox to take the themes even further and brand the treats or throw in one more themed toy. (Pickles and her dog friends can't really enjoy a themed paper insert, no matter how good it looks.)
In summary, I would give the service another shot if I saw a few improvements. Pickles' happiness ranks above all else, of course. But I'd like to see a little more bang for my buck first.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Pick the Items You Want in a Dog Subscription Box?
Some dog subscription boxes allow you to hand-select the toys you want to receive in your order. Others, like BarkBox, operate by a monthly theme but the items are a surprise. Whether or not you like surprises, there's a dog subscription box out there for you.
How Many Toys Should a Dog Have at a Time?
The number of toys a dog should have at one time can vary depending on the individual dog's preferences, activity level, and behavior. In general, it's a good idea to have at least three to four different types of toys available for your dog to play with: a ball, a squeaky toy, and a puzzle toy, for example. Other types of toys to check out are rope toys, Frisbees, and even stuffed animals if your dog likes to cuddle.
It's important to note that dogs can become bored with their toys if they are always available, so it's a good idea to rotate the toys every few days or weeks to keep your dog interested and engaged. Additionally, it's important to choose toys that are appropriate for your dog's size, age, and chewing habits to avoid any potential choking hazards or damage to your dog's teeth.
Also, note that dogs can become possessive over their favorite toys, so if you have more than one dog or are looking to add another dog to your pack in the near future, the guidelines for how many toys you should have out at one time may shift a little as your old furry friend learns how to welcome the new one. Overall, it's best to observe your dog's behavior and play style to determine the appropriate number and types of toys to have available for them at any given time.
Do Dog Subscription Boxes Save You Money?
Dog subscription boxes can save you money, especially if you find yourself spending a lot of money on a regular basis to drive to the store and restock your dog's necessities. Dog subscription boxes are convenient because they deliver your dog's must-haves straight to your door, removing the need for you to venture out yourself. Generally, though, the savings that dog subscription boxes can provide largely depend on your existing spending habits when it comes to your furry friend. If you are currently spending around $35 per month on dog toys as it is, then a service like BarkBox could save you money if you sign up for a semiannual or annual plan.
Are Pet Subscription Boxes Healthy for Dogs?
Pet subscription boxes can be a fun way to provide your dog with new toys and treats on a regular basis. But it's important to carefully consider the ingredients and quality of the items included in the box to ensure they are healthy and safe for your dog.
When choosing a pet subscription box, look for one that uses high-quality ingredients in its edible offerings, whether that be food or treats, and avoids any artificial preservatives or additives. Additionally, make sure that any toys included are made from safe materials and appropriately accommodate your dog's size and chewing habits.
It's also a good idea to consider the frequency of the subscription box and whether it aligns with your dog's dietary needs and overall health. If your dog has any dietary restrictions or health concerns, it's important to consult with your veterinarian before introducing any new treats or food into their diet.