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Four weeks. It’s not that long, but it can feel like forever when you’re really looking forward to something. And it’s no time at all if you’re preparing for something and you feel like it’s a race against the clock.
Four weeks is how long my people had to wait for me to go and live with them after we’d first met. You see, they chose me the day before Christmas Eve 2018 (well, they think they chose me, but really, I chose them) but I was only four weeks old and not yet old enough to leave my mum and siblings.
They were so excited (who wouldn’t be when they’re waiting for a dog as awesome as me?!) so that wait felt like forever. But at the same time, they needed to get all the stuff they’d need for me so there was that strange feeling of time going fast because they had to make sure they had everything I needed. They were keen to ensure canine enrichment and entertainment.
How do you know if toys are any good?
But then panic set in. What if the things they bought me weren’t actually suitable for me? What if bits came off in my mouth and got stuck in my throat? Squeakers – what if I managed to dislodge one and swallow it, so that I sounded like that dog from Snatch? Joking aside, I might have choked on a squeaker, ended up with a mouthful of fur from a stuffed toy, anything
My people weren’t new to dog ownership; far from it. But it had been a few years since they’d had a fur around the house because it took a long time to get over losing my predecessor. It was like being first-time parents all over again!
And that’s where the inspiration for The Bark Side came from. If seasoned dog owners like my people could be so nervous, then how must new owners feel? Everyone who wants to sell you a dog toy or puppy toy will tell you that theirs is fine, it’ll be loads of fun, won’t be easily destroyed, it’s great quality, the works. But those people or companies are interested in selling you their toys; they’re not going to have a Ratner moment and tell you their stuff is ‘crap’. So how do you know that the stuff is decent? Really decent? My people eventually realised that every other dog owner and puppy owner was doing exactly that they’d have to: chance it. If it transpired that a toy was rubbish, poor quality, or easily destroyed, then they’d just need to throw it away and buy another. That’s brilliant for us doggos (so long as we don’t end up choking on a piece of toy) because we get loads of new toys, but it’s not good for people, because apparently money doesn’t grow on trees.
So that’s where my expertise came in. We decided together (but you know I’m the boss, right?) that we’d take the gamble out of it for dogs and their people: sell dog toys that were tried and tested. But not just tried and tested by some imaginary dog or a robo-dog in a factory. Tried and tested by a real dog in real life conditions: me playing with them in my every day life. Genius!
Some don’t make the grade
It paid dividends when they decided they might sell some rubberised puppy bones; I was about ten weeks old and had those sharp little puppy teeth but not really powerful jaws. They gave me a branded puppy bone to try and even though I was pretty gentle, in under 10 minutes the bone was full of holes and there were bits starting to come away from the main part of the bone. Wait! I was a puppy, this was a puppy bone, surely it was a match made in heaven? Sadly not, for I was separated from my new toy as soon as that damage was identified. I hadn’t even destroyed it yet! But my people didn’t want it to get that far; they didn’t want to have to rummage around in my mouth to retrieve pieces of rubber.
Fortunately, they had some other stuff for me to try so I barely noticed that the poor quality bone had disappeared. It meant that my people didn’t have the frustration of having to find a replacement toy, but they also didn’t have to fund another purchase. As the saying goes: buy cheap, buy twice.
So is The Bark Side expensive?
No. Absolutely not. Our products are not cheap, but neither are they expensive. The stuff we sell won’t be found in a pound shop, nor will you see it on the bottom shelf at the supermarket. If you’re used to spending £2 or £3 on a supermarket dog toy every week, then you’re going to have a pleasant surprise when you spend £8 or £10 on The Bark Side and find that the toy lasts for months or years. And the thing is: happy customers make my tail wag.
Can I find a tennis ball or a squeaky burger on The Bark Side?
Not really, although it depends whether one of our favourite brands decides to make a quality version. I’m a dog who loves something a little bit different. Much of our stuff has a story behind it; things like dog bowls made from bamboo (a sustainable material), or toys made from recycled plastic bottles. How cool is that? Keeping plastic waste out of the oceans is a big deal as we seek to make our world better. There is also a guaranteed range that comes with a one-time replacement or refund guarantee; those toys are great for tough chewers with strong jaws, and who usually destroy dog toys. I can’t say that they’re indestructible dog toys, but with their manufacturer-backed guarantee, they’re as close as it’s possible to get.
But above all, our toys are fun. Canine enrichment is important; no-one wants a bored dog, because a bored dog can become a destructive dog. A variety of textures and sounds is important to keep your dog occupied, and that’s why we look for things that are a little bit different. Treat toys (that can be used with or without dog treats), plush toys, stuffing-free toys, toys with squeakers, toys that crinkle, toys made from rice husk, natural rubber, recycled plastic bottles, hemp rope, Zogoflex (a synthetic, recyclable material), you’ll find them all on The Bark Side. And if you have any suggestions for what you’d like us to stock, let me know and I’ll put them through my testing process. Whether it's a game of fetch, a tug toy, or a chew toy, I'm happy to test them.
I do hope you enjoy being a member of The Bark Side pack. All customers and their dogs are friends and members of our pack. We love to see photos of our products in use by happy dogs, and testimonials are always appreciated.