Australia's Biggest Dog Subscription Service Is OK

Image: Lifehacker Australia

If you're looking up subscription box services targeted at dog owners, chances are Olly's Box is the first one you’ll find. Based in Brisbane, Olly's Box was founded in 2013, making it one of the oldest such services in Australia, as well as one of the largest. It is like the Woolworths of subscription dog box services – the big, well-known standard.

You can see that they are a practised hand in their business in their presentation. The slick website, the enticing pale blue box, it all gives the impression that whatever you receive will be of a certain standard of one-size-fits-many quality.

What’s Inside?

According to Olly’s Box, products included are generally focused on learning and interaction, and promoting a healthy, active lifestyle for both you and your dog. Assisted by very good boy Boatmeal, I tried their standard monthly subscription box, which contained eight items – three toys, three food items, and one hygiene item.

The items were packed in red shredded paper. While this did add a bit of excitement to the unboxing, it was an unnecessary flourish as none of the items were particularly delicate, and the paper just made a mess.

GiGwi Ball (Large) ($8.95)

The GiGwi Ball is a plastic squeaking ball suitable for playing catch and fetch. It’s a good, simple ball, and I was rather happy with this inclusion. It has a good bounce to it and, unlike a tennis ball, does not have any fluff which may catch in or erode your dog’s teeth. Its relatively smooth surface mean that it’s fairly easy to clean, and it floats, so you don’t have to worry playing with it around bodies of water

The ball’s squeaker requires a firm squeeze to sound. It’s more for squeaking to get your dog’s attention than for him to squeak himself, which you may like if you’re adverse to the idea of your hyperactive puppy running around and squeaking around the house. This toy is for use when playing with your dog, rather than self-directed play.

Alien Flex Squeaking Plush Toy 'Gro' ($15.95)

Image: Lifehacker Australia

Boatmeal was rather taken with this squeaking plush, particularly with its hair. He likes chewing labels off things, so was particularly fascinated with Gro’s mohawk.

This toy has a unique squeaker, lower-pitched than the standard, which makes it much less irritating to humans but still holds a dog’s attention. It sounds a bit like a duck, and I’d even go so far to say that it’s pleasant. It’s also fairly easy to trigger, so but not so sensitive that it’s a constant stream of noise at the slightest nudge.

As with all plush dog toys, you need to supervise your dog while chewing on it. Unfortunately, Boatmeal’s enthusiasm and focus on Gro’s hairstyle meant he managed to tear a hole in Gro within the first few minutes of play.

Alien Flex Nylon Chew Toy Key Wrench ($24.79)

I was rather baffled by this toy when I first unboxed it. It’s very heavy, has no give, and is an atypical shape for a dog toy. It appeared to be a handle with nothing to attach to it, and for a while I wondered if there was a second piece I’d have to buy to use it. Thankfully this was not the case, but that doesn’t make this toy any less confusing.

I had difficulty even getting Boatmeal interested in the Key Wrench. You can’t squeak it, you can’t throw it, and you can’t comfortably stuff things in it. Allegedly this is bacon flavoured, but we weren’t able to detect any such flavour in our tests. And yes, we did test.

Image: Lifehacker Australia

It appears unlikely to splinter, so your dog could probably chew on it unsupervised. It might be good for dogs that are extreme chewers, but before I encountered this toy I considered Boatmeal to be a vigorous chewer. You wouldn’t want to let him play with it on a scratchable floor (such as hardwood), as playing with something of this weight could damage it.

Blackdog Veggie Ear ($2.29)

This inclusion confused me as well. While there are people who prefer a vegetarian diet for their pet, they are in the minority, and it’s typically agreed that a healthy canine diet should primarily consist of meat. This seems more like a thing that would appeal to a someone imposing human standards of health upon a dog.

Boatmeal was largely disinterested in this treat, giving it a few tentative licks before wandering off to lie down elsewhere. I spent way too long trying to make it seem interesting to him. He did eventually eat it, but more because it was there and because I watched him intently until he did.

Blackdog is an Australian company which focuses on natural, minimally processed dog treats, and it’s always nice to see support for local businesses. However, Blackdog have a wide range of non-vegan treats, all of which would be more natural and less processed than this veggie ear.

SavourLife Australian Chicken Sample Bag ($28.99 for 2.5kg)

There isn’t much point to this small sample bag of kibble, unless you’re already looking to switch brands. Typically it’s better to keep your dog on a steady, stable diet rather than try a lot of different foods, as switching between foods can upset their stomach.

This small packet of food is therefore more likely to be given as a low-value treat. Boatmeal still enjoyed the kibble given in this context, but it would have been preferable to just be given actual treats.

It does feel like more of a marketing ploy than anything else. Some people may choose to switch over from their main brand when they see that SavourLife is an Australian company that makes healthy, natural dog food, and that 50 per cent of their profits go to helping save rescue dogs.

But its inclusion in this subscription box is strange. It doesn’t work as a feature, but the box feels deficient if it’s taken as a bonus.

The GiGwi Ball (Large) Image: Lifehacker Australia

SavourLife Australian Natural Goat Horn (Large) ($11.50)

A second offering from SavourLife, the Goat Horn was a great inclusion in this box. Goat horns are a healthy, long-lasting treat for dogs, but one that we had previously overlooked. We hadn’t thought to give one to Boatmeal, but after this experience we were converted.

The one horn lasted Boatmeal over four hours, and he was content to lie down chewing it for the entire time. It was fibrous, so did a fairly good job at cleaning his teeth as well.

It does emit an unfortunate smell once chewed up, but if you have a dog you’re likely accustomed to strange smells now and again.

Zeal Free Range Naturals Lamb Sticks 125g ($12.95)

These treats say “lamb meat” on the packet, but don’t specify what part of the lamb. It looks like dried organ meat, which is good, and it’s versatile enough that you can use it for a variety of purposes. We stuffed it (as much as we could) into the Alien Flex Key Wrench, but you could stuff it in other toys. It's brittle enough that you can break it up fairly easily, isn't too oily, and has a nice crunch.

Boatmeal enjoyed it well enough. This is another healthy snack, these treats from New Zealand being 100 per cent lamb meat.

Dog Owners Outdoor Gear 20 Pick Up Bags ($11.95 for 60)

This pack of biodegradable and scented poo bags is small enough that you could slip it into your pocket before heading out on a walk. I’m not typically a fan of scented poo bags, because they don’t really mask the poo smell – they just mix it with another smell to create an unholy smell abomination. I do like that these are biodegradable, though.

Available Boxes

  • Subscription - $55 per month
  • Barkday Box (birthday box) – $55 one off
  • Puppy Box - $55 one off

All Olly’s Boxes come with free delivery.

Charity Support

Olly’s Box support six charities: Best Friends Rescue, DFL Dog Rescue, Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, Staffy Rescue, SA Dog Rescue, and Maggie’s Rescue. Olly’s Box helps these organisations with donations and raffles.

Overall Impression

Olly’s Box is a serviceable subscription box. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the stated goals of learning and interaction reflected in the box I received. There weren’t any enrichment toys included, and the only toy included that would promote activity would be the ball which, while good, is a rather standard dog toy.

The stated focus on health was a little more apparent in the food items. All the dog food and treats included were from brands that have a focus on natural treats, and all came from Australia or New Zealand. However, while the brands selected were good, the specific treats selected make little sense. I'm sure Black Dog has healthier, more natural offerings than an artificially moulded vegetable ear.

I wonder if, in its position on the top, Olly’s Box is resting on its laurels a bit. It isn’t a bad box, but it isn’t outstanding either – not what I expected from the oldest, most prominent service in Australia.

Still, if you're interested in trying out a selection of products you wouldn't typically buy yourself, Olly's Box has you covered. It’s a sensible choice for your first dog box, particularly if you’re wary of such services and want to go with a well-established name. But with a name as big as Olly’s Box, I wanted it to be more than sensible. I wanted it to be exciting.

We are trying out subscription dog box services in Australia, assisted by Very Good Boy Boatmeal. Read all our reviews here.


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