The Big Barker 7" Pillow Top dog bed has taken the doggy world by storm in recent years - despite having a hefty price tag. But is it really worth the money? And does it provide better support for large dogs? Richard Cross investigates...
Large dog breeds have unique sleeping requirements - and many beds simply aren't up to the job.
Heavy dogs can sink through thin padding, so they are effectively sleeping on the floor. Large dogs with joint pain also suffer more from pressure points on the hips and shoulders.
Despite these problems, most dog beds only vary in size - not support. If you buy a large or extra large edition of a bed, it still has the same thickness and foam density.
This is why Big Barker created a bed specifically for large or giant dogs. With a thick 7" mattress, comfortable liner and foam that's calibrated for the needs of large breeds, it's proven to be extremely popular amongst dog owners.
In this Big Barker dog bed review, we'll analyse the bed in terms of comfort, durability and value for money. So if you're thinking of buying one, make sure you read right to the end!
As you know, the Big Barker is a foam orthopedic dog bed that's designed for breeds weighing 50lbs or more. Some of the most important features include:
When you first get the Big Barker, you might be surprised by the small packaging (especially if you haven't bought a foam mattress in the past). This is just because it's vacuum sealed though - once you unwrap the plastic it quickly expands. You'll need to leave it for 24-48 hours to reach its full size though.
The Big Barker is designed for any medium, large or giant dog. It's not suitable for lighter dogs, as the foam is too firm and won't allow your pet to sink in.
While any big breed will enjoy the Big Barker, the orthopedic foam also makes it an excellent choice for dogs with arthritis, joint pain, hip dysplasia or recovering from surgeries.
The Big Barker dog bed is marketed as being the ultimate bed for large dogs - and its features certainly seem to match this claim. Let's take a closer look at its construction, support and features to see whether it lives up to the hype.
A few decades ago when I had my first canine companion, dog beds were nearly always filled with cheap polyester. They were also thin and provided little support - so they probably caused joint pain and reduced sleep quality.
How things have changed!
Today, the best dog beds are being built with human-grade materials. The Big Barker is a good example of this, as the construction quality rivals foam mattresses found in bedrooms across the country.
While some people might consider this to be excessive, it's vital for larger breeds or those with joint pain to be properly supported. It's not fair for big dogs to sleep on beds that are so thin they are practically sleeping on the floor.
For this reason, the most important feature of the Big Barker is its thick and supportive foam mattress.
This is made with three layers of foam for a combined depth of 7". Considering most dog beds have a maximum of 4" foam, it's immediately obvious that the Big Barker is likely to provide greater support.
There are two layers of 2" comfort foam, which provide soft support for your dog's joints. The middle 3" layer is denser support foam to prevent your dog sinking too deeply into the bed.
Unlike many other dog beds, the Big Barker's foam is calibrated for larger breeds. This means it's dense enough to spread the dog's weight evenly without allowing the dog to sink close to the floor. The 7" thickness, which is amongst the deepest on the market, also makes it much more suitable for big dogs than alternatives.
While many dog beds claim to provide great support, the Big Barker is proven to do so. In a test against other popular beds using pressure mapping technology, the Big Barker was shown to evenly spread the dog's weight across the bed. This prevents pressure points on the hips and shoulders.
It also won't flatten over time - even if slept on by the largest breeds. This is due to the high-quality, dense foam construction.
Big Barker only uses foam made in the USA. The foam is also certified by CertiPUR-US, which assesses factors such as safety, durability and the effect foam has on air quality. Foams made in China usually don't have this certification.
In practice, this means the bed doesn't include potentially harmful substances such as Ozone depleters, Formaldehyde (which may be carcinogenic), toxic heavy metals or PBDE.
Aside from the mattress, there's an additional 4" foam bolster (although you can choose an option without this if you prefer). This is great for providing your dog with a comfy pillow to sleep on.
One thing to note is that the Big Barker isn't made with memory foam. While the comfort foam provides a soft and supportive surface, it doesn't have the same molding capabilities of memory foam. I don't think this is a major drawback, as the Big Barker does a great job of preventing pressure points, but if your dog suffers from severe joint pain or arthritis you may want to look for a memory foam bed.
Now let's talk about the cover.
The external microfiber cover is designed to be durable and comfortable to sleep on. As you would expect from a premium bed, it's machine washable and easy to remove via the three-sided zipper. It also fits easily over the internal mattress so you don't need to battle to put it back together.
It's clear the cover is made to a high standard. Big Barker has a team in the USA sewing the covers using double-stitches, which is a refreshing change from most dog beds which are often made in China.
If your dog is an aggressive chewer, however, the cover may not be durable enough to withstand repeated abuse.
A downside is that there isn't a waterproof cover included. You can buy a separate liner, but this costs nearly $90 which significantly increases the price of an already expensive bed. If your dog is getting older and has difficulty controlling his bladder, however, the liner is essential for protecting the foam.
There are three sizes available - large, extra large and giant. The largest is 60" long, making it suitable for even the biggest dogs (such as Great Danes).
As you've probably noticed, there isn't a small or medium option. This is because the Big Barker foam is too dense for lighter breeds, so it isn't suitable for small dogs (check out our best beds for small dogs page for some great alternatives). Or to quote Big Barker themselves:
"If you have a smaller breed like a Beagle, Jack Russell, or anything under 50 pounds, the Big Barker will be too powerful for you. This bed is specifically calibrated for the comfort of a big, heavy dog. Big dogs have more demanding support requirements than smaller dogs, and we formulate our sizes and foam properties to meet the demands of a big dog."
Which size should you go for though?
Medium-large dogs, such as Golden Retrievers and Labradors, may be suited to the Large option which is 48" long. For larger breeds the XL is a better choice. The Giant option is only required for the biggest breeds such as Great Danes.
Of course, if you have more than one dog sleeping on the bed, you'll probably want to go for the XL or Giant to give your pets enough space.
As I mentioned earlier, the microfiber cover is machine washable on a cold temperature. It's durable enough to withstand repeated washing without falling apart - which can't be said for low-quality dog beds! You can also tumble dry the cover without worrying about it shrinking. This makes it easy to keep clean and helps to avoid odors.
Cleaning the foam is a little trickier - although this is the same with any foam bed. If there's a spill on the foam, Big Barker recommends soaking it with warm soapy water for around 10 minutes. You'll then need to press out moisture (don't wring as you might tear the foam) and leave it to dry for a few days.
Make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the cover or foam mattress though, as doing so incorrectly could cause permanent damage.
Let's be honest about it - the Big Barker is an expensive bed.
The price can range from around $220-$400 depending on the size and where you buy from. If you want to get the waterproof lining, which is essential if your dog often has accidents, then it could cost even more.
But is it worth the money?
In my opinion: yes - but with a few exceptions.
If you have a large dog then the Big Barker is probably the best on the market. In fact, we ranked it #1 in our list of the best dog beds for large dogs and #2 on our list of the best all-round dog beds. It provides excellent support, which can relieve joint pain and improve sleep quality, and is durable enough to last a long time.
While many other beds are cheaper, they sag, lose their shape and are easy for a dog to destroy. This can mean they cost more in the long run.
I don't recommend it for aggressive chewers though. While the microfiber cover is strong and durable, I wouldn't expect it to last against a determined chewer or digger. Light biting and digging is fine, but destructive dogs probably need an elevated bed.
I also think the lack of a waterproof cover is a drawback. With the waterproof liner, it's a great choice for elderly dogs or those that aren't house trained. Without the extra liner I don't recommend it for these categories though.
The Big Barker comes with a 10 year guarantee for the foam. If the foam loses more than 10% of its loft and shape at any point during the next decade, Big Barker will give your money back.
This is an impressive guarantee that helps to justify the high cost of the bed. While you pay more upfront, the Big Barker is almost a bed for life for your dog - as if it sags you get your money back.
Keep in mind that this guarantee only applies if the foam loses its shape. If the foam is scratched, torn or damaged, you won't be able to get a refund. The same goes for the cover.
As you can probably tell from the positive tone of this review, I think the Big Barker is the best bed for large dog breeds. If you have an XL dog that needs a comfortable and supportive place to sleep, you won't find better than the Big Barker.
In fact, I would go as far to say that giant breeds (such as Great Danes) require a bed like the Big Barker. The heaviest dogs simply don't get the support they need from beds that are designed to handle dogs of any size.
It's not perfect though. The lack of a waterproof liner with the main bed is disappointing, as this is a requirement for dogs that aren't house trained or have incontinence. The external cover is tough and durable, but may not withstand aggressive chewing (although there are replacements available).
It's also a very pricey dog bed - although I still think it provides great value due to its durability and long foam guarantee. Click here to view the Big Barker and check its current price.
I hope this Big Barker dog bed review has helped you decide whether it's right for your pet. If you have any questions - or want to give feedback on the bed - please use the comments section below.