Product Review: Bugsy’s Box

Yep, you saw that right. Someone out there sent the Soapbox free stuff in exchange for my candid opinion.

Sure, I’ve waxed poetic about my Dyson and Musher’s Secret before, but those were unsolicited. This is different.

So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to an inaugural ‘official’ product review when this arrived in the mail.

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Who is Bugsy, you may be asking?

That’s real-life Bugsy, there on the right. He’s the pug BFF of the founder of the company.

Bugsy’s Box? It’s a subscription that gets you a different selection of toys and treats for your dog every month.

How does it work?

Easy. Go to bugsysbox.com and follow the ridiculously easy instructions. You can pick a plan based on the size of your dog and the length of subscription that you want: 1 month, 3 months, or 6 months. Then you wait.

And before you ask – yes, those of us above the 49th parallel are included! Canadians are often excluded from these kind of programs, and Canadian bloggers are often not eligible for many product reviews or giveaways, but Bugsy’s Box has free shipping to Canada AND the U.S.!

We just like to be included...

We just like to be included…

On communication: overall I’m very impressed with the communications I’ve had with Bugsy’s staff – mostly same-day email replies, and they seem very engaged on social media. Definitely important factors when shopping online!

The feel-good element: aside from including only US-made treats, Bugsy’s Box is also a supporter of dog rescue.

Bugsy Twitter

So now that we’ve reviewed the ‘who’, let’s get to what’s in the box.

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In addition to what you see here, you also get a one-page insert detailing the items you’ve received and any current Bugsy promotions/contests. Thumbs up for simple, recyclable packaging.

You typically get 5-7 items in a Bugsy’s Box. We got the following 6 things:

Total estimated value of contents of box: ~$65 CAD. Not bad when a one-month subscription is $29!

The best part? The timing worked out perfectly and Alma’s home and able to participate with testing out the loot!

First up – the water toy. An excellent choice for a couple of Newfoundlands, and I can’t wait for things to thaw so we can really test it out in water. It’s made of a neoprene-like fabric, and it’s been around the house for over a week now and Alma has yet to tear it open.

Moses and the new toy

Moses and the new toy

Moses and Alma could even be goaded into a game of tug with the new toy, which is rare.

tug

Unexpected downside: neoprene toy + drooly dogs… you do the math. The thing holds some moisture and you’re going to want to rinse it out. Overall, home run, though.

Next up is the treats.

The bully stick is an easy win for sure – they’re always a huge hit in our house.

ingredients labels

For the bagged treats, as you can see, oatmeal and rice are main ingredients in both kinds – so even though the one is “grilled bison flavour”, actual bison is pretty far down the ingredients list.

Though, the good news is I don’t see any of the real red flags for dog food: corn, corn meal, corn gluten meal, wheat, or soy.

Sure, there’s not a lot of actual meat there, but when it comes to dog treats – something given sparingly – I don’t really care. That’s the thing about treats – they’re treats! I don’t pretend Nutella is good for me, but I still like it from time to time… with a spoon… straight out of the jar… perhaps I’ve said too much….

Alma and Moses - very willing product testing participants. The big treat is the , and the smaller one is the

Alma and Moses – very willing product testing participants. The big treat is the cheddar and bacon one, and the smaller one is the bison-flavoured one.

Now, to be honest, Moses and Alma like everything. They’re dogs. Their approach to life is “oh, we’re doing [x]?! That’s great! [X] is my favourite!”

So needless to say, both treats went over very well.

Moses & Alma taste-testing

Moses & Alma taste-testing

The smaller treats, the Fruitables skinny minis – Grilled Bison, reminded me of Swedish berries for dogs in texture. Only gross bison-scented berries. While I did not think they smelled delicious (I was alone in that opinion), I did think they’d be a great size for those who treat train. Despite only really smelling like the meat you’d expect them to contain, the dogs dug them.

And they weren’t the only ones.

"What's going on here?" - Isaac

“I’ll just help myself, thank you.” – Isaac

The cats were also huge fans of those treats.

The bigger treats, the Lucky Pet Brands Cheesy Cheddar and Smokehouse Bacon Dog Treats, were great for Moses and Alma, because, well, they’re big dogs. They’re a bit crumbly and therefore messy, but we have enough animals in our house that the mess disappeared quickly.

Out of curiosity, I put out one of each treat to see which one the dogs picked first, and they both went for the bigger one first. Though, I think that might just be because it was bigger.

Interestingly, the cats wanted nothing to do with the bigger cheese and bacon treats. I suspect the size and harder texture worked against them there, because they gnawed at one for a bit before giving up.

Both kinds of treats came in resealable packaging, which is basically essential.

Alma post treat-tasting. A photo for anyone who thinks she's 'not very drooly.'

Alma post treat-tasting. A photo for anyone who thinks she’s ‘not very drooly.’

Last up: the paw butter.

Moses unaware the taste-testing portion of the review is over

Moses unaware the taste-testing portion of the review is over

Now, I’m already a fan of Pet Head grooming products for dogs. Both the deodorizing spray and spray shampoo are essential products in our house.

The paw butter, like the packaging promises, smells great (to me – Moses and Alma didn’t seem overly impressed). It’s used for dry and cracked pads, which should prove useful as we go through our spring melt and have just endured a winter of snow, ice, gravel, and road salt. Moses didn’t even lick it all off after application! The all-natural product will go easy on your carpets or furniture or whatever else the paws may come in contact with.

Moses' paw before and after paw butter application

Moses’ paw before and after paw butter application

Overall: definitely impressed with the Bugsy’s Box delivery!

We don’t have to deal with pet food allergies or sensitivities in our house, so we can roll the dice on receiving random treats. And I don’t have any strict loyalties to brands or types of treats and toys, so this is a great way to try out new products and get some selection outside of what local stores might be able to offer.

Would I recommend it? Sure, if you like to spoil your pets – and who doesn’t?! I mean, look at the value of the contents vs. the price you pay – who doesn’t love a good deal!?

I would definitely buy it for myself, but I think I like it even better as a gift for dog-owner friends and family members, which you can arrange through the site.

And now for the best part: 

Just for being a Soapbox reader, you can save $10 on your next Bugsy’s Box subscription! Just enter the code SOAPBOX at the checkout. That saves you 15% off a three-month subscription!

And once you’ve exhausted that discount, like Bugsy’s Box on Facebook or follow on Twitter for more occasional savings opportunities.

Bugsy's Box comes with a box?! Isaac approves.

Bugsy’s Box comes with a box?! Isaac approves.

The fine print: Bugsy’s Box sent me the products you just read about free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. I admit a little bit of pre-bias in that I love free stuff and was pretty excited for the first Soapbox product review. Bugsy’s Box is in no way responsible for the content of this post and I have not been otherwise financially compensated for it.

 

Bringing Toys to the Dog Park – A Good or Bad Idea?

I used to think that taking toys to the dog park was just a recipe for trouble.

I am no longer quite so definitive or absolute on that idea.

I mean, sure, you may run into that super-possessive or obsessed dog that could start a fight if it doesn’t know how to share toys, but I’d say that realistically that’s a small minority of dogs, and I’d like to hope owners of those dogs would have enough foresight to avoid the park in the first place. (Rational self reminder: you know what they say about common sense.…)

But recent trips to the dog park over the holidays have really made me wonder if that no-toy policy is maybe a bit too rigid?

There were tonnes of people playing fetch with their dogs and I saw no such melee.

In fact, maybe toys can be a good thing.

Toys sure are a great distraction – a good way to get a dog into a socializing environment where other dogs aren’t the only things to focus on.

Playing fetch also keeps dogs moving – quickly and at great distances. This way, large, tight groups of dogs and people don’t congregate in one specific spot in the park; those always make me nervous.

And it’s a great way to provide exercise and play, with a little bit of structure, rather than just letting dogs run amok at the park and not interact with them.

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Way, way back: Practicing fetch with puppy Moses. (Forgive the ridiculous outfit – all fashion rules are forgotten during dry suit diving surface intervals.)

Granted, this won’t change whether or not I bring toys to the park.

I will continue not to.

Neither Moses nor Alma is a reliable enough retriever for my frugal self to put dog toy investments at risk.

Bonus puppy Moses photo from the archives - same day as the above, curled up with our scuba gear

Bonus puppy Moses photo from the archives – same day as the above, curled up with our scuba gear

Moses won’t fetch anything that is thrown particularly far away. He won’t even budge. He’ll just look at you, his expression saying “that was silly – you had it right here and now it’s WAY over there – what are you planning to do about that?”

A rare Moses retrieve

A rare Moses retrieve with Alma bouncing in the background

And if you lob it short enough that Moses is motivated to fetch, it’s just once and then he wants to find some snow (winter) or shade (summer) and gnaw on whatever it is that you threw. Or he’s happy to play tug with you. But fetch is not his game.

Moses, frisbee-gnawing

Moses, frisbee-gnawing

Alma is similarly unreliable. She likes to run and will occasionally fetch, but her philosophy is very grass-is-greener.

If another dog is there providing competition for ball or frisbee, she’ll fetch with approximately 90% consistency. The other 10% of the time she’ll fetch and then drop the object far away from where she got it, but also far away from the other dogs and whoever discharged it.

If she’s alone (or with Moses), there’s no real competition for her, and after a handful of throws she’s done with retrieving. She may still run to the frisbee, but then sniff it and walk away nonchalantly. Then, when you go pick it up, she feigns interest again just up until you throw it again. I think this is her way of getting us to fetch.

Alma returning a big stick - both Newfs' successful fetching rates increase drastically if water is involved

Alma returning a big stick – both Newfs’ successful fetching rates increase drastically if water is involved

Needless to say, I won’t bother carting toys – toys that I’m likely to end up fetching myself – to the dog park.

If on the move, Moses likes to carry the frisbee

Besides, I see the dog park as valuable socialization time and training time – the dogs get to meet and play with other dogs and we all get to work on our obedience skills in a high-distraction environment.

But there are still lots of people who bring toys to the park, and that’s maybe perfectly okay if the dog – and the dog’s human – is good about it.

I say human because I’ve come to realize that maybe dogs aren’t the real issue I should be concerned about when it comes to toys and parks.

Maybe it’s the people.

This became vastly evident when we were looking after Crosby and I took her to the park.

Crosby LOVES fetch!

She will happily fetch each and every time you throw something. She brings the ball right back and patiently waits for you to throw it again. And if another dog beats her to it, she hurries back to politely wait for the next throw.

"Throw it again!" - Crosby

“Throw it again!” – Crosby

The thing with Crosby is… very infrequently do dogs beat her to it.

That canine is quick!

She can overtake labs and collies from behind to make first contact. For a Newf owner, this speed is bewildering and impressive.

Crosby beats the competition

Crosby beats the competition

So this means that when another owner throws something for their dog, even if Crosby is late on the draw, she can get that ball first and very likely will.

Of course, not being familiar with the other owner who threw it, she takes the toy and runs – towards a familiar human – to have it tossed again. In other words – she is a perceived Ball Thief.

This can make some people irrational. “Your dog stole my ball!” “ Your dog retrieved our ball!”

Like some malicious intent is read into a dog’s natural inclination to chase and capture a fast-moving object.

It’s bizarre. And wildly off-base.

Even if the protesting isn’t verbal, you can see the frustration in the furrowed brow of the toy-owner as you sheepishly return their stuff.

Like it’s a pain-in-the-ass interruption that ruined their dog park groove.

To that I say two things:

1. Don’t bring toys to the park if you’re unwilling to lose them.

If you bring expensive balls to the park, you need to be prepared to leave without them. Fetch-induced losses happen all the time – balls are often lost in perfectly innocent, non-theft incidents. It’s dog park force majeure – outside of anyone’s control. Besides, I hear from other toy-bringers that there’s a sort of dog-park toy karma: one day you may lose one, the next day you may find two. Like looking for lost balls on the golf course. Someone should track this phenomenon – I’d like to see some statistics.

2. Don’t be an idiot.

Dogs are dogs. Like a squirrel, an in-flight frisbee is irresistible. Even Moses will be interested in an ariel object if it’s headed in his general direction/aimed right at his face (and if you think for a second about giving me the stink-eye because Moses got your toy slobbery, I highly recommend you reconsider that thought or keep it to yourself).

There is no nefarious intent when a dog retrieves a toy that wasn’t thrown “for” them; they have no concept of property ownership. Relax. The other owner will do his/her best to return your item. Just keep in mind a dog with a newly retrieved toy is certainly more likely to play keep-away if all of a sudden there is an unusual increased interest (by both their owner and this new stranger) in them and their loot.

Crosby fetches, with Alma in hot pursuit

Crosby fetches, with Alma in hot pursuit

Perhaps this is the real reason I don’t actually go to the dog park that often – sometimes other dog owners are just nuts.

Now I wonder if this sociological observation is just my own experience.

What’s your policy on bringing toys to the park? Have you lost or gained in personal toy count as a result? Have you seen toy-related tension between dogs and/or humans at the park? Are you a crazy person who gets all bent out of shape because some other dog retrieved the ball intended for your dog?