Home Podcast TOP #4: Health Benefits of Dog Beds

TOP #4: Health Benefits of Dog Beds

This is our fourth episode of Theory of Pets podcast, and today we're discussing a topic that deserves a lot more attention than it receives: the importance of pet beds for dogs. We're covering everything from why dogs need a bed, how to choose the right one, how a bed helps and things to watch out for picking your pooch's next bed.

I was lucky to have a couple of pet industry experts join me for this episode to discuss everything related to dog beds – Eric Shannon, founder of Big Barker Dog Beds, and Dr. Sarah Wooten, a practicing veterinarian located in Colorado. For those curious about these popular dog beds, I've previously reviewed Eric's Big Barker large dog bed.

We also delve a little deeper into Eric's story on why he decided to create orthopedic dog beds, and Dr. Wooten shares her own personal stories with patients whose dogs health was improved with beds, anything from canine arthritis to other joint related problems.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

Health Benefits of Dog Beds
(podcast transcript)

Health Benefits of Dog Beds

Dog beds are something that I feel like a lot of people underestimate the power of.   I think people think that because their dog a comfy place to lay but they really don't realize just how important a really high-quality dog bed can be for your pet.  So that's something that I wanted to share with you today.  Dog beds can have a lot of great benefits, one of those being that it does give your dog his own space.

Just in the same way that we feel really good when we know we get to come home and lay in our own bed and that's your comfy happy place, your dog wants that same thing, so it's nice for him to have a spot for himself to relax whenever he wants to that nobody else goes, so he doesn't have to worry about being in the middle of floor and having people walking around him or kids laying on him or anything like that, he has his own space.  You should put a dog bed in an area where feels he comfortable, maybe in a family room or something like that.  Typically most dogs like to be around their humans so that would be great, and that center of safety and security is a really great feature of dog beds dogs.

Dog beds also keep your pet contained to one area, if they have their own bed and you train them to lay there then they're not jumping up on your furniture or jumping up on your bed which I can't say anything about that if you do allow that, because we allow it in our home too, our dogs do sleep on our furniture, but a lot of people don't like that.  So if you don't, a dog bed gives them a comfortable option that isn't your personal furniture, and it also keeps her from jumping up on things.

I will say we do allow our pets on our furniture but we have large breed dogs and we have steps for them to get onto the couch and also to get onto our bed because those are the two pieces of furniture that they're allowed on, and those steps keep your dog from jumping up and jumping down.  When your dog jumps, think of how much your dog weighs, we have for example an 80-pound Chocolate Lab, so when she jumps down all 80 pounds of her body weight are pushing down with force onto her joints, onto her paws and her legs and her shoulders that are all bearing that way, so that can really be damaging to your dog's joint health over time and you might not notice it when they're young, when they're one or two, three years old, but very soon when they're middle age that will catch up to them.

So dog beds give your pup a place to lay that's on the floor that's still comfortable, and again as I said, you can put that in a family room if you want to or somewhere centrally located so he still gets to be with you as well.  Of course you can have multiple dog beds, we do in our home, and there is one in our bedroom.  We do have one dog that she doesn't like to be… it's actually our Chocolate Lab, this time of year in the summer it's too hot for her to lay up in the bed with us so she likes to lie on the floor.

But if you provide your dog with multiple beds and you train him that that is his place to lay, one, it will keep him safe from jumping up and down; and two, it also kind of contains the pet hair a little bit more, instead of  it being all over your bed and your bedding and your clothes and your bedroom and your furniture, your couch and things like that, it's kind of… it's not necessarily a hundred percent contained but it certainly helps to contain it a lot more when you can just pull the cover of your dog bed off and wash that and get rid of the hair as opposed to it being spread out all over all of the furniture in your home.  So there are a lot of really great benefits to having a dog bed, there's benefits for your dog like that sense of safety and security, there's benefits for you, the health of your dog and of course that shedding.

But there's one major advantage to owning a dog bed, to providing your pet with a high quality dog bed that really sticks out above the rest, and that is his joint health.  We talked about the jumping up and down from the furniture but think about when your dog lays on a traditional dog bed, if it's made of polyfil or it's fairly flat your dogs essentially laying right on the floor and his joints are taking a lot of pressure.  That's what I want to talk about today, and that's what I discussed with Eric Shannon who is the founder of Big Barker Dog Beds.

Eric created that brand for just that reason, he had a large breed dog and he couldn't find a suitable product on the market so they created Big Barker; and Doctor Sarah Wooten, she is a licensed veterinarian that practices in Colorado, and she phoned in as well to speak with me and just add a little bit of insight from a veterinarians perspective because she recommends Big Barker beds to some of her clients and she actually tells us towards the end of this podcast you'll hear a personal story of hers that really hit home for me and I hope it will for you as well.

So I will just go ahead and jump into that interview that I did and if you guys enjoy this podcast, if you've listened to other episodes in the past and you enjoy it, I really highly encourage you to jump on to iTunes and give us a review that will help me grow our podcast really quickly.  So I would really appreciate that.  I'm going to go ahead and jump into the podcast and let you guys check it out and hear what Eric and Doctor Wooten had discussed with me and of their tips and pointers about providing your pet with a really high-quality dog bed.

Today I'm chatting with Eric Shannon who is the founder of Big Barker Dog Beds and Doctor Sarah Wooten, a licensed veterinarian, and we'll be discussing the importance of providing your canine companion with a high-quality dog bed, how the best dog beds can alleviate and help prevent joint pain, and of course we'll be talking all about the Big Barker Company.

So welcome to Theory of Pets guys, again thank you so much for being here, I appreciate your time.  If you want to  just start out by explaining the benefits of dog beds in general, I feel like this is a topic that a lot of pet parents aren't educated about and they don't really think about it until their dog starts to get a little bit older.

Interview with Eric and Dr Wooten

Eric:  Sure, so I'll start it.  So the first time I really became aware about that was probably about 10 years ago when I had a puppy named… and he was diagnosed with hip dysplexia when he was only about a year old, and the vet told me at the time that a couple things were keep his weight down, lots of exercise, and get him a good bed.  And I didn't know what that meant so I went online and I bought what I thought was a good bed, probably about a hundred dollars from one of the big pet catalogers, but when you lay on it, it's made of that polyfil material which is what you find in these pillows, and it really wasn't that comfortable to lay on.  And that was sort of how I got into the dog bed world in general was doing more research, finding some small suppliers that made better stuff.

So the best way to put it is if you've ever slept on a really bad pull-out coach or if when you were a kid if you slept in a sleeping bag on a hardwood floor when you were visiting your grandma, that's pretty much what a normal dog bed is like.  Though we designed thee beds …dog bed is to eliminate any direct pressure from the floor on the pressure points, and the pressure points are the hip, the elbow, any part that's really bearing a lot of weight.  So that's what the beds are designed to reduce so that when you lay on… your dog lays on them there's totally support, there are no joints grinding into the floor throughout.

Samantha:  Excellent.  That's a great way to explain it.  I never really had thought about it and compared it to us sleeping on an uncomfortable bed.  Certainly that's what our dogs feel like.  Eric I do have to mention, I just did a product review of a Big Barker bed and I was really amazed at the difference, and I compared it in my video, I have a, like you said, I thought it was a decent dog bed, I had done some research, we bought it about six months ago but we have two large breed dogs and there are spots on it already, that polyfil, those flaps so quickly.  So essentially if our dogs are laying on the bed there's not much between them and the floor that they're laying on.

Eric:  Absolutely.

Samantha:  And Doctor Wooten we spoke briefly earlier but could you touch on…we had talked about dogs that really suffer in silence because their symptoms and their signs are so different than the ones that we experience as humans so a lot of times pet parents don't realize what their dog is dealing with.

Dr. Wooten:  Absolutely. I think one of the most common things I hear in private practice, because I am a practicing veterinarian in Colorado and I do see a lot of just mainly dogs and cats, but I tell pet parents that their pet is painful, I say “Your dog is painful,” and they go “Really, well he doesn't cry out,”  or “…she doesn't cry out.”  And what people don't understand is that signs of pain in dogs is very different than in humans, we're two totally different species and we experience pain the same way but we exhibit it in very different ways.  And some of the signs are very subtle and they include things like sleeping more often, a decreased zest for activities they used to engage in such as play activities, fetch, walks; a decrease in exercise tolerance, so they can't go as long as they used to; some dogs just get really cranky when they are in pain, and so the pet owner will describe, “Yeah, he's just getting really grouchy.”  Well that's a sign of pain in your dog.

Another sign of pain is just slowing down, and a lot of pet owners will say, “Well yeah he or she is getting old and so he's just slowing down.”  Well old age in itself is not a disease and not usually affiliated with just slowing down.  Studies show that up to 70% of dogs over age six have some form of osteoarthritis which is degenerative joint disease and inflammation in the joints, and people just don't realize it.  So yeah, I hear that a lot and it's just that the signs of pain in dogs look different than it does in people.

Samantha:  Yeah absolutely.  And Eric so you would notice some of these issues with your dog and that's what got you started with Big Barker.  So I would say the biggest difference with the Big Barker beds is the materials that they're made out of.  Can you tell me how you found those materials and why you chose to use the ones that you did?

Eric:  Yes absolutely.  So I had a previous business that was an online retail business, and we sold… our mission then was to sell really high end dog supplies that you couldn't find in local pet stores, and we ended up specializing in dog beds.  And the reason I gravitated to it is because I feel like of all the stuff you can buy for a dog a bed is really the only thing you can buy that has a permanent quality of life difference, like the collars and the bowls and the toys they're all nice and fun but it's the bed that your dog can be on for 12 hours a day or more, it's really going to be a big difference.

So when I decided to build Big Barker I got in touch with somebody I had a relationship with already who has been in the foam industry, this guy is like a world-class expert when it comes to foam, and I told him, I said “Look here's what we're looking to do with the Big Barker: Number One, it's got to be made in the USA, you need to use American made foam, nothing less than that.

Number Two, we have to make them big enough for a Great Dane and Mastiffs out there so we have to fully support the big dogs; and we have to solve what the number one practical problem when it comes to dog beds, which is the flatten issue.

Now he mentioned before that he had a bed where he put a bigger dog on it for six months, a year and it started to get that crater in the middle, made of foam, or the polyfil you just have one that clumps and glosses which when that happens the beds has absolutely zero support.  So that's why we designed the bed the way we did using premium made American foam, everything is made in California so we're able to offer that 10-year warranty to guarantee the bed won't flatten, which is what most people are interested in right off the bat, especially people that have been through it.  Well ultimately it's not even about the flattening, it's about providing a bed that is going to give your pet or dog a better quality of life for as long as it needs to.

Samantha:  Yeah, absolutely.  And the different foams, now like I mentioned we have two large breed dogs so we have the traditional Big Barker bed, but you use two different types foam because you make a bed, also the Barker Junior, for dogs that are less than 50 pounds.  What is the difference between the foam that supports the bigger dogs, and the foam supporting the smaller breeds?

Eric: It's the level of resilience in the foam.  So we want to use a foam that is soft enough on the top layer that a dog can sink into it, and on the support layer stiff enough so that it prevents the dog from sinking all the way to the floor.  So for the normal beds that support layer needs to be a lot thicker, cause you're going to have Boxers and Labs and Mastiffs and Great Danes on it.  The Barker Junior Beds there are typically going to be dogs of 40 pounds, 30 pounds or less.    So really the difference is in the resilience which translates into the bed not being too stiff for the dogs.

Samantha:  Doctor Wooten do you think that all dogs should have a bed?  We've been talking a lot about how beds can help when your dog already has joint pain, arthritis, hip dysplexsia, things like that; but what about even brand new puppies or even younger dogs, is it still important to give them a high-quality dog bed?

Dr. Wooten:  Well I do think it comes down to quality of life and preserving joint function for as long as possible.  And so just like you would put a young child or a teenager on a good quality mattress to try and keep their joints in good health, the same could be said for a dog, and a lot of medicine these days is focused on preventive care, trying to prevent disease, and I think the support of sleeping  services can help in that form of medicine because what we're trying to do is keep disease from happening.  And I'm not saying that a dog bed will keep disease from happening, but I'm just saying that you're providing a supportive service for any dog to sleep on, and I know…I'm almost 40… I would really appreciate a supportive sleeping service even though I don't have arthritis yet.  And I know it's the same thing for us.  So yeah, I believe that a supportive sleeping service for the entire life of a dog, just like high-quality nutrition, and just like back pains and…prevention, it's all kind of the same thing, it's trying to prevent problems for as long as possible.

Samantha: And I know Eric I just did that part with you and of course the first thing that stood out to me, which I'm sure a lot of your customers would agree with, is that 10 year warranty, and that was something that I had thought of that even if you buy the bed when your dog is a puppy you're likely that especially for the larger breeds that don't have as long of a lifespan, this bed could potentially last through a majority of your dog's life, which is unheard of with any other bed on the market, and you just couldn't even fathom thinking about buying a bed and not ever having to replace it again through the life of your pet.  Out of curiosity, how long is the longest you know that a Big Barker bed has lasted before it started to go flat?

Eric:  Oh well we haven't been making the beds for like 30 or 40 years, so that would be cool if we had some stories like that, but what I can tell you though is we expect it to last way longer than 10 years, the only reason we use 10 is cause we've…but we thought the number 10 was just more specific and more relatable.  But yeah, we totally expect we can have a Mastiff laying on this thing for 15/20 years and it's going to be fine.

Samantha:  Now that's amazing.  And you had touched previously a little bit about how your products are probably made in the US, which is a wonderful thing and I know there's a lot of consumers out there that are looking specifically for products made in the United States.  So I just want to commend you for that because that doesn't happen very much anymore, so that is another great benefit to your company as well.  And I also know that you guys do a lot of great charity work, can you tell me a little bit about the charities, some of the charity work that you do?

Eric: Sure. Do you mind if I touch on that made-in-the-USA thing?

Samantha:  Oh yeah, absolutely.

Eric:  So it's great to support businesses in the United States, I do it personally, but there's a reason for your dog to …when you're buying a bed, or anything for your dog really, it really is important to pay attention to what's in the bed and do your research because there are some crazy stuff that goes on in China, and we all know about the pet food and pet treat scandals that just due to negligence or just not caring at all…

Samantha:  Yeah those have been coming to life a lot lately.

Eric:  Yeah, and it's really really sad.  And the Chinese foam industry is really no better.  We're going to be putting out a piece about a study that was done a few years ago where they analyzed beds from major brands and they studied for …what's actually inside these beds and they found alarming rates of lead, arsenic, all kind of crazy stuff and problems.  So even if I wasn't the founder of Big Barker, I would not be trusting any bed made in China because your dog's laying on this and who knows what they're breathing in on a regular basis.

The other thing too is the Chinese foam industry is not known for its volume, so when people buy these memory foam beds that flatten out, one it's because they're made in China, I mean they're using the cheapest materials…. to make a big profit.  Just from a logical consumer standpoint, made in the US can be really really important when it comes to product quality, longevity, just safety of the product.

Samantha:  Absolutely. That's great advice and it's certainly one thing I think that a lot of pet parents don't realize, like you had said with dog food and treats we're starting to realize it a lot more about the safety of products, but everything from the chew toys to the beds our dogs sleep on, you really need to pay attention to how they are made because there are so many toxic chemicals used in the making of the products.

Eric:  Yeah that's such a shame.

Samantha:  It is.  It's too bad. And just again could you explain a little bit about some of the charity work that you guys do, cause it's really wonderful.

Eric:  Sure. Yeah, so our main work that we've been supporting recently has been the working-dog portion of the community, so specifically the police.  So our goal is to provide beds to as many of the canine units around the country as possible, but not just police dogs, we have some relationships with service dog organizations that train and provide beds to veterans, that are coming home and need service dogs to take to care of either mobility issues or PTSD issues, that's sort of where we focus on right now, and also some things that we don't publicized at all.  We make it a habit to wherever we see a story in the news of a police dog that's injured in the line of duty, we reach out as soon as we can, offer to send them a bed to help in their recovery.  That's what we're focusing on.

Samantha:  Ah that's fantastic!

Eric:  Thanks.

Samantha:  I think another thing, just from a consumer standpoint you know it's nice to see companies that will give back to whichever industry that they are a part of.  To see them give back to that is also something that I typically look for and I know a lot of other consumers look for as well. And so that's a wonderful thing to see.

Eric:  Yeah we're really trying to expand our relationships in the working-dog community.  We have a relationship with the University of Pennsylvania Working Dog Center which is an awesome place whenever I come I check out, they do some amazing things with training dogs that do some really incredible things.  We were there a few months ago and they showed us one of the cancer detecting dogs, I heard that was a thing but I didn't really know that it actually works, and we watched this dog pick out the cancer cells… nine times in a row, hundred percent accuracy, and we provided beds for all the dogs in the working dog center.  So I think it was about 25 to 30 dogs there on a regular basis.  We're just happy to help those dogs as much as we can cause we figure that if our beds are going to support these dogs who are out there working really really hard, they really could use a good bed, that really gives us a lot of personal fulfillment and something to smile about every day.

Samantha:  Absolutely, what a nice way to put it too that I give the guys something to smile about every day.  So that's all the questions that I have for you guys unless there's something specific that you guys would like to talk about, anything from the benefits of dog beds to anything about Big Barker that you'd like to mention?

Dr. Wooten:  Well I have a personal story.  So I do have several patients that are utilizing the Big Barker beds.  I have one patient in particular that's Kango and he's 12-year old Lab with severe end-stage arthritis, the poor guy could just barely get around on one of his back legs and we tried everything.  We tried all kinds of pain medication, joint supplements, we even had a custom-made orthodontic brace for him and just nothing was helping and he just could not be comfortable, and his owner was like “Is there anything else you can do?” I said “Well I know about this dog bed company, it's called Big Barker and they're specific about making dog beds for big dogs.”  And Kango's really big, he's a hundred and 20 pounds. So she bought one and I can't tell you what this dog bed has done for this dog…she says now he's sleeping through the night and he's able to get around better during the day cause he's not up all night and he's sleeping peacefully where before he just would turn around and around and around just to get comfortable.  So I have some clinical experience with what a difference these beds make for dogs that are suffering with chronic joint pain, and I just can't speak highly enough about this product just because of what I've seen and what it's done for some of my patients.

Samantha:  Well that's fantastic.  Thank you for sharing that.

Dr. Wooten:  Absolutely.

Samantha:  Eric was there anything else about Big Barker specifically that you would like our listeners to know about?

Eric:  Well I think we covered the most important parts, and if anybody is interested in learning more, two great places to go besides our website are on Amazon there's just thousands and thousands of reviews; and on Facebook there's probably several thousand pictures from customers posted there as well.  And there's all kinds of heart-warming stories of recovery, and dogs are getting pep in their step which are really really nice to read.

Samantha: Yeah, of course I do…one thing, speaking about your website… because I do a lot of product reviews and so I see a lot of websites all the time, and you guys are just really well done with a lot of great quality information.  So I will link that in our show notes as well and people can jump on there too because there's a lot of great information about the Big Barker beds, but also about the technology behind the making of the beds and why the beds are so beneficial to dogs with hip and joint problems.  So that's judos to you on that, that great website because it really shares a lot of information.

Eric:  Thank you.

Samantha:  Wonderful.  Well thank you guys again so much for taking the time out of your day today to talk with us.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed that interview and you got as much information out of it as I did.  I know I certainly learned a lot from speaking with Dr Wooten and Eric Shannon, the founder of Big Barkers Dog Beds.  If you guys have any questions or anything like that you can check out our Website which is TheoryofPets.com, there is a section there for comments, and of course questions.  Some of those I will go ahead and air on a future podcast so don't feel shy about recording them if you'd like, but of course there's also a place where you can just type your questions if you're more comfortable with that.  And either way you do that I'll be sure to answer every question even if they don't air your question I'll certainly be sure to answer that for you or find somebody that can answer that for you and get that answer.

You will also see on our website the show notes, and those show notes are from this show and they are going to include some of those links that I was talking about with Dr Wooten and Eric Shannon, the link for the studies on dogs beds, their Facebook page, of course the Big Barker website.  I put a link up there to the Pennsylvania Working Dog Center which Eric was talking about a little bit.  So there's some great links there if you have some further information.  And then of course there's past show notes as well, so if you're looking for more great information on the pet industry, we have some great past shows about everything from responsible dog breeding to what we should be looking for in the foods that we're feeding our dogs.

You can find all of that stuff there.  And again make sure that you ask any questions or leave any comments or anything like that.  If you guys can take a quick minute to jump on iTunes and just give me a review, again my goal with this is really to just educate pet parents and bring out some experts in the pet industry, in every corner of the pet industry from toys to grooming to dog food to dog beds and everything in between, I want to answer your questions about how to better care for your pet and give you guys the information that you want, and the best way for me to do that of course is if you guys jump on iTunes and leave me some reviews then this podcast will grow quicker and I will have more access to a lot of those experts. So if you guys could do me a huge favor and do that for me I would really appreciate it.

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.