Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: The Big Barker Dog Bed

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When I was offered the opportunity to test and write about The Big Barker Dog Bed, I knew that this was a review opportunity I would pass along to one of my trusted reviewers. The bed is meant for big dogs although good bedding is as important for all dogs, just as it is for us. The bed is the brainchild of Eric Shannon who was worried about his own dog and how many big dogs suffer from joint and hip problems. He set out to create the best possible orthopedic bed for dogs. My chosen reviewer,  Linda Aronson, DVM, is a long-time breeder of Bearded Collies. She also breeds Havanese and has friends and clients with dogs of all sizes. I trust her.  Here, with my thanks, is  Dr. Aronson's review

I have to admit I was excited when Darlene asked me to test the Big Barker dog bed. I had drooled over them with our last two seniors, but wasn’t sure I could justify the expenditure.   Compared to a human mattress of similar construction though they are a steal, and with a 10 year guarantee you could go through a whole lot of inferior dog beds - which really have a limited shelf life – without giving your dog much more support than lying on the floor.  On the other hand, my elderly Beardie boy really wasn’t a fan of beds, we had to resort to a giant crate and a memory foam mattress to stop him sleeping on the floor. My daughter’s German Shepherd liked dog beds, but she also liked the twin sized human mattress, and the Beardie would often join her on it.  As we all know though dogs don’t complain, and I don’t know if the human mattress really supplied the support they needed.  Sadly both of those dogs passed before they got to try the new Big Barker bed.
Having agreed to test the bed I needed to decide on the options.  The Big Barker comes in two styles:  sleek (just the rectangular mattress), and headrest (with a mounded pillow at one of the short ends), and three sizes: large (48” x 30”), XL (52” x 36”), and giant (60” x 48”).  They are all 7” thick, making it easier for the dog to get off the mattress if they have physical limitations.  The mattresses also come in three colors: khaki, chocolate and burgundy.  I chose the XL headrest model in chocolate.  These mattresses are really meant for dogs weighing more than 50 lbs.  They may be too firm for smaller dogs.  For those you can buy the Barker Junior beds, same colors and styles but in small (27” x 18”) or medium (33.25” x 21.25”), both of which are 4” thick.  Then again if your dog likes firm and likes to spread out he will probably prefer the larger models.

I eagerly awaited the arrival of my bed, and not having gone through all the material on the company web site  I thought there must have been some mistake when I saw the comparatively tiny box in which it arrived.  I carefully opened the box, and struggled to extract the plastic swathed mattress.  It was rather akin to delivering a calf!

As more and more of the plastic gave way it grew and grew and seemed to take on a life of its own.  Remarkably as soon as it had emerged the bed assumed its correct shape.  It is recommended that you let the mattress sit for 24-48 hours while the last wrinkles ease out.  I can’t say I saw a lot of change. 

Construction was fabulous; everything is made in the USA.  The mattress is made of 3 layers of foam, a 3” layer of H45 support foam is sandwiched between 2 layers of 2” H10 comfort foam.  Meanwhile the headrest is a semicircle of countoured foam,  4” at its gratest height.  The support foam can easily support the weight of a 300 lb dog – maybe that should be small horse - while the comfort foam contours itself round the body adding cushioning to joints and other pointy bits.  The foam is guaranteed CertiPUR-US®, and free of toxins – carcinogenic formaldehyde and flame retardants most notably – as well as produced to be environmentally friendly.  The cover, made of furniture grade microfiber, has a sturdy zipper that runs round most of the two long sides and the short side with the headrest, so that the cover is easily removed for laundering (cold water and tumble dry on low).  The cover is moisture resistant which means that it will protect the bed from licking or wet fur.  However, I would really recommend getting the waterproof liner.  I did not get this for testing, but it is in my estimation well worth the extra expense.  It is constructed to perfectly fit the mattress zipping on and off.  The material is sleek and the same as that used for hospital beds, so it won’t make a lot of noise as your dog adjusts his position, nor will it have a bad odor that some plastics have.  All dogs sooner or later have accidents, but I think the major market for this bed will be for older dogs many of whom may be incontinent.  You can also buy replacement covers for your bed.  Some dogs are major chewers and will attack the bed like a giant chew toy.  The cover won’t offer a great deal of protection against the jaws of a large or giant breed dog intent on destruction.  You can request that the company provide a special order chew resistant cover.  This is made of Cordura which is made to military standards, but much stiffer than the microfiber cover (think back pack material).  However, if your dog is intent on destroying his bed sadly even this cover will probably succumb.  If you are interested in the bed, I do encourage you to look at the company’s website Be sure to scroll down and look at the wonderful Tactilus sensor maps.  These show you the pressure on your poor dog’s body when he lies on one of more popular (and inferior) dog mattresses.  It’s pretty revealing. 

My son and his family arrived for a visit right after the Big Barker arrived.  It was a perfect size for my 3 year old grandson to sleep on.  Admittedly he doesn’t even weigh 30 lbs, but over the next 10 days most of the adult humans got down on “his” bed with him.  I have to say although it was short for us, it was every bit as comfortable as a top end human bed.  He was enchanted with it.  He also bounced on it a good deal and the Big Barker took everything he could think of in stride and showed absolutely no signs of wear!

Having read the information on my Big Barker I realized my 5 current dogs are all under the recommended 50# and up weight – the 2 Bearded collie girls are about 44 lbs each and the Havanese between 9.5 and 11.5 lbs.  So I asked a fellow vet to please take the bed for a few days to see what her seniors, Minnie the Lab and Daisy the corgi, thought of it.  I think this photo taken the first night at their house says it all.

To quote their owner: “This is the first time they have willingly slept in the same bed. I can't get either of them off it.”  After I collected it from them – feeling like a wretch for doing so - this was her assessment. “The dog bed was awesome - Minnie actually stayed out in the living room with us to lie on it instead of going off on her own, and both dogs lay together.  It was easy on and off for her with her knees (torn anterior cruciate ligaments) and for Daisy with hip dysplasia.  I would definitely consider buying a smaller one in the future.”  It looks to me like the size is pretty perfect for the two of them, but her husband felt they just didn’t have the room for such a big bed.  Clearly the girls strongly disagreed.

Their owner also agreed with the importance of having the waterproof liner.  Although Daisy is not close to 50 lbs the firmness of the mattress clearly didn’t worry her in the least.
Now it was time to seriously test the bed with my own crew.  Unfortunately they really aren’t keen on beds.  The Havanese quite like the snuggle nests in the colder weather, and having found my old Beardie boy lying on them I bought him a snuggle nest in his size with eggshell foam.  It became the favorite bed in the house, they all slept there.  The orthopedic mattress though as I said in my first paragraph was rejected unless he was forced to lie on it.  I always thought my Beardies rejected dog beds because with their hair they became too warm and this may well be the case.  I don’t see long haired breeds in the photos of the Big Barker, and I’ve looked through a lot of photos, but as the company’s senior manager of customer relations, Matt Brannon points out, the Big Barker bed is most popular with owners of Great Danes, Mastiffs and German Shepherds.  Then again they will sleep on the leather couches and even upholstered chairs.  I can get all the dogs – especially the Havanese - to get on the Big Barker bed, but they don’t stay long, back they go to hardwood or tile.  I did posit the question to the folks who make the Big Barker, and they explained that: “body heat isn’t generally a problem with the Big Barker beds. It’s a problem with memory foam, which is a “closed cell” foam. That means that there’s no air flow within the bed, so body heat can get trapped. Big Barkers use open cell foam, which does not have a heat retention problem like memory foam does.” So the jury is out as to why my dogs aren’t bed fans.  Perhaps as the weather gets cooler or after I add the waterproof liner I will find that my hairy beasties change their minds.  In the meantime when the dogs’ massage therapist comes the Big Barker is a huge hit for working on them.  With the pleasant associations, I hope that soon I will be able to report my dogs are as hooked on the Big Barker as Minnie and Daisy.  It is a wonderful bed, especially for large or giant breed dogs that aren’t super destructive.  If your dog isn’t a bed fan though, you may need to encourage him to sleep there with the judicious use of an ex-pen and cookies.  Sometimes they just don’t know what’s good for them; I’m looking at my older Beardie, Chaos, as I write, as she has a problem with her shoulders from excessive jumping and hurling herself at sliding doors.  The Big Barker would be perfect - if she’d sleep on it.  Meanwhile here is Imp enjoying a massage on the Big Barker.

Overall this is an excellent product manufactured to the highest standards and should last a lifetime.  The designers have pretty much thought of everything, and used the highest quality and safest materials possible. 


PetShrink said...

Somehow my postscript to the review was omitted. Here it is:

So, I took my own advice and I ordered the waterproof liner for my Big Barker bed. The box was tiny, and the liner is as light as a feather and soft as silk. I don't know what the actual material is as it doesn't say anywhere, although it's clearly synthetic. It is noiseless. I think I expected something tailored for the bed, but it's a single sheet of material sewn bottom and top with a zip down one side, which in retrospect makes a lot more sense as seams would be points where fluids could leak through. As it is the seams and zip lie along the sides of the mattress and the liner adopts the shape of the bed pretty well The corners do stand out, but once the outer cover is back on only the zip can be felt along one side of the mattress so not something that will disturb the dog if he is the sensitive type. I do feel though that the price is a bit high. The XL headrest model I bought (no indication of which end belongs at the top and which at the bottom) was $89.95. Amazon is currently selling the King size Sureguard mattress cover for human mattresses which seems to be made of similar material for under $50, maybe it's the zipper! Now I can rest easy that no matter what spills on the bed in future the mattress is protected. We did have a spill before I got the liner though, and the liquid pooled on the outer cover and did not go through. The cover washed nicely, and it looks as good as new, although there are a lot of loose threads coming from the seams on the inside. There was no shrinking and it was easy to put back on the mattress. The liner makes the mattress slicker though and the cover goes back on even more easily.

PetShrink said...

Now the weather is cooler, Imp is sleeping on the Big Barker bed most nights, and has decided that it suits her very well.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much for adding your post script, and the update on Imp sleeping on it now that the weather is cooler! I'm sure our readers will be happy with the additional information.

Jim said...

Great idea for a large and perhaps heavy dog.

My 14-pound terrier mix sleeps ANYWHERE.....choice of one (dog) bed, one pillow on the floor, four recliners and, of course, our bedroom bed, where she spends most of the night. Maybe she does prefer a Sealy mattress!

Our former neighbors have a large Lab, and will get a copy of this blog!

Thanks, Darlene!

Gordon Brice said...

This sounds like a wonderful product for dogs of all sizes, especially with the various bed sizes available, plus covers and liners as required. Kudos to Linda Aronson for such a detailed description of the product and both dog and human reaction to it.
Thank you Darlene for sharing this excellent blog with us.......very interesting and informative as always.

Darlene said...

Thanks for the comment, James Stagg. I'm glad you'll share this post with your former neighbors. It's important that people with large dogs know about choices available to them, especially something that has been independently tested by someone qualified to do the test.

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