Are subscription boxes for dogs worth it?
Reviewed's top dog Gus tested them out so you wouldn't have to. (Ruff job.)
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Whether you’re a dog owner or want to get a gift for one, a monthly subscription box full of toys and treats can be an extra-special delivery for a beloved pup and owner—provided it fulfills the promises of being low effort, good quality, and worth the money.
I volunteered the testing services of my three-year-old, 18-pound rescue mutt, Gus, to find out which of the most popular services—BarkBox, PupBox, and RescueBox—is top dog, and which (if any) belong in the doghouse. (It’s a ruff job, but someone’s gotta do it.)
Here’s how they fared, from best on down.
The best dog subscription box: BarkBox
Launched in 2012, BarkBox is the one that started it all, as far as pet subscription boxes go. BarkBox also ranked heads and wagging tails above the others, in terms of quality and value, especially if you commit to a longer term to reduce the monthly cost.
How much is BarkBox?
A single box or a “one-month plan” costs $35, a six-month subscription costs $150 total or $25 a month, and a 12-month subscription costs $264 or $22 per box. Gift subscriptions are also available, for one month at $35 (same price), three months for $89 (an option not available for regular purchase, averaging $29.66 per box), six months for $149 ($1 less than if you signed up for yourself?), and 12 months for $249—or $15 less than if you subscribe the regular way. (Yeah, not sure what’s up with that.)
What comes in a BarkBox?
Each BarkBox is assembled around a seasonal monthly—and very cute—theme, from the items within to the printed packing paper enclosing them. When Gus and I tested, we got a jungle-themed box and a gym-themed box, the latter of which I especially appreciated as I’m also a personal trainer. The quantity and quality of the items impressed both of us: Each box included two toys, two four-ounce bags of bite-sized soft treats, and one larger single chew treat.
When you sign up, you customize the box based on your dog’s age and size: “small and cute” at 0 to 20 pounds, “just right” at 20 to 50 pounds and “big and bold” at 50-plus. Unfortunately, we found the plush toys—a fuzzy monkey and a caterpillar with a removable ball in its mouth—in the “small and cute” jungle box to be a little too large for 18-pound Gus (save for the ball, which didn’t interest him much on its own). The gym toys, however, were a huge hit (I swear, I’m not biased). One toy in particular, a crinkly, squeaky plush “gym rat,” captured Gus’s attention for a spirited game of fetch, though he also enjoyed playing tug-of-war with the “resistance band.”
As for the treats, that was a mixed bag—though mainly because Gus can’t eat chicken, and I didn’t realize you can customize the boxes for dogs with allergies. Still, he gobbled up the alligator treats (that were made with actual alligator meat) and practically tackled me when I dangled the elk chew just above his nose. (Don’t worry, I didn’t tease him too long.)
In addition to the monthly boxes that are BarkBox’s hallmark, the company sells “Super Chewer” boxes for stronger-jawed dogs. Gus still has plush toys that he got as a puppy, so this does not describe him—we didn’t test those.
How do you cancel BarkBox?
All of the subscriptions automatically renew as the term’s end closes in, which means that if you don’t want to continue your BarkBox deliveries, you must disable this in your account or by contacting customer service. It’s not a huge deal but is an extra step to avoid unwanted charges and deliveries. You also cannot cancel mid-term, so if you opt for a longer sub, you’re stuck paying for it regardless, though BarkBox suggests messaging customer service if you’re unhappy and “we’ll do everything we can to make the remainder of your plan amazing.”
Is BarkBox worth it?
In terms of bang for your buck, BarkBox is the cat’s pajamas (to mix pet metaphors), if you opt for a multi-month subscription. The plush toys range from $8 to $12 each at the Bark Shop—the retail store where you can buy BarkBox items a la carte—and the treats are $5 a bag and $3 a chew. For each box, that’s a $29 to $37 value (the higher end, I think, is if your dog is bigger and you’re getting bigger toys). It’s not a great deal if you pay $35 for a single-box subscription (though the cute packaging makes it a nice gift, say, for a new dog parent), but it’s a relative value if you go with the three-month gift subscription and a bargain at the six- and 12-month options—that is, if you actually need 12 to 24 new toys over the course of those respective time periods.
Unless the company's execs read this review and change the pricing policies, I recommend opting to buy BarkBox as a gift even if it’s for yourself, for a few reasons. First, there’s a three-month option this way, which provides more than enough toys to expand your collection (well, if your dog is like Gus and he never destroys anything). And, second, the six- and 12-month subscriptions are cheaper when purchased this way. Plus, none of the gifts require you to go through the minor hassle of canceling before the automatic renewal that happens with the regular subscriptions, though you will have to pay in full for the gifts up front.
A worthy puppy-focused dog subscription box: PupBox
Catering to the new dog “paw-rent,” PupBox focuses on the needs of puppies up to a year old, with an “adult” dog option as well. It’s pricier than BarkBox, but you get more stuff that’s on par, quality-wise.
How much is PupBox?
PupBox costs $39 for a single box whether you sign up for the subscription model (which must be canceled if you don’t want a second charge and box) or the gift. The three-month plan is $102 or $34 each box; six months costs $192 or $32 per box; and a one-year subscription costs $348 or $29 a month.
What comes in a PupBox?
The contents of a PupBox are as much for the owner as they are for the dog. We had a snafu in ordering, but the helpful customer service was quick to step in and request details so our subscription would be customized to Gus’s age, size, and gender. Still, somehow I missed that she requested my pup’s age in months, not years. Our first box, therefore, came with a training guide for new puppy owners; a full-size spray bottle of concentrated stain cleaning spray (just add water—brilliant!); some grooming wipes for a quick paw cleaning; two toys: a fleecy ring and a latex squeaker; a Nylabone teether for puppies (which my gentle adult dog loved gnawing on); and a bag of duck-meat training treats (yum, says Gus).
We corrected the age to “adult” for the second box and received more developmentally appropriate items, including two toys: a cute (if too large) plush avocado from the brand Zippy Paws and a rubber Kong-like soda can for “hard chewers”; a silky, barbecue-themed bandana, which looks adorable tied around Gus’s neck; a foot-long treat made of tripe that Gus mawed down; a bag of “baked” biscuits; and a pint of peanut-butter dog ice cream mix that you add water to, blend, and freeze (it’s made of milk, peanuts, sugar, gelatin, and salt). PupBoxes also come in sizes based on the weight of your dog: “itty bitty” (1 to 10 pounds), “smallish” (10 to 30 pounds), “mid-sized” (30 to 50 pounds), and “large and in charge” (50-plus pounds).
How do you cancel PupBox?
Like BarkBox, all of PupBox’s subscriptions automatically renew at the end of their terms, and you can’t cancel early and avoid charges for the remainder of the boxes in the term you selected. Canceling is easy, but if you want to avoid the rigamarole, you can always give yourself a gift subscription and avoid that automatic renewal entirely—the tradeoff being, you have to pay upfront for the gift cost in full.
Is PupBox worth it?
Pricing out the contents of PupBox is a bit more complicated than BarkBox because its store for buying stuff a la carte isn’t currently live. But based on my price sleuthing for the second box, the items would’ve totaled about $39 … or exactly what a single PupBox costs. (And that includes $7 for the fancy dog ice cream, which is personally not something I would pay that much for.)
Still, for the packaging as a gift, or if you opt for a longer-term subscription at a cheaper per-box price, it’s not a bad deal for the quality of the contents.
Nice premise, disappointing execution: RescueBox
RescueBox, a subscription service from TheAnimalRescueSite.com and parent charity GreaterGood, lets you treat your (or a friend’s) pet while donating “10 pounds of food to shelter pets in need throughout the USA” per box sold. It’s a lovely idea, but some of the boxes’ contents leave a bit to be desired. (Also, once you’ve signed up, the emails do not quit!)
How much is RescueBox?
Like the others, RescueBox subscriptions are available in one-month to one-year terms. A single month subscription costs $29.95; three months is $83.85, or $27.95 each; six months is $152.70 or $24.45 each; and one year is $281.40, or $23.45. The terms renew automatically and you’ll have to cancel. Unlike the others, the gift subscriptions cost more (from 50 cents per box on the 12-month gift to $5 on the single box-gift), and these don’t auto-renew.
What comes in a RescueBox?
These boxes aren’t as consistent in terms of quantity and quality of items inside as the other two. The intro box is not themed, but subsequent boxes in a multi-month subscription are. Gus’s intro box contained a Zippy Paws bottle squeaker toy shaped like a duck, which was the biggest hit in the box, despite it being a little too big for him; a rather small Rogz rubber ball by Kong into which you could fit a treat, which he happily chased when it was treat-laden and then ignored; a heavy-duty rubber teether that was too big and tough for him; and a box of puffed corn cheese treats, not unlike mini rice cakes, which my Cheetos-loving pup happily munched.
The second box had a Fourth of July theme and contained two soft toys, a simple ball and rocket, from Cash & Coop (RescueBox’s in-house brand), a small red, white, and blue braided rope suitable for tug-of-war, and two food treats: a small tray of sandwich cookies for dogs and a frosted star-shaped sugar-looking cookie. The plush squeaker toys were much better suited for Gus, size-wise. But these Cash & Coop items didn’t appear to be the best quality or even all that cute, composed entirely of screen-printed fabric and a simple rope tail on the rocket as the only embellishment. I wasn’t overly enthused about all the cookies, either—I try to choose treats with at least some nutritional value. And the star cookie didn’t even have an ingredients label for me to peruse. Gus also wasn’t into them, though he’s often picky. (No joke: He can tell the difference between Jif and generic peanut butter.)
RescueBox comes in three sizes, small (0 to 20 pounds), medium (20 to 50 pounds) and large (50-plus pounds), same as BarkBox. Still, somehow the items we received from RescueBox just weren’t consistent, with some being too large and others being too small.
How do you cancel Rescue Box?
You can cancel to avoid the recurring charges within your account, but you can’t cancel mid-term and get your money back (i.e., it’s the same policy as BarkBox and PupBox).
Is RescueBox worth it?
This is a tough one. On the one hand, I love that buying into this helps charities that feed abandoned animals, as my Gus is also a rescue. But the quality of what you get just wasn’t up to snuff for us. I tallied up the items inside our second box using the RescueBox store and Amazon, and got a value of about $31, which is more than the per-box cost, but less than the $40 claimed on the site.
When given as a gift, RescueBox costs more, which makes sense because gifts have no subscription commitment, but also makes me feel like they’re counting on people forgetting to cancel their auto-renewals. Personally, I’d prefer to donate money to an animal welfare charity (even to RescueBox’s parent charity, GreaterGood) than buy these boxes. But there isn’t anything wrong with them, other than the contents just aren’t as good as what you get from the other (for-profit) pet subscription box companies.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.