Small Business

PlayBow: A Place for Dogs to Play While Their Humans Are Away at Work

If you hear a lot of yapping and yelping on the 1400 block of Ocean Avenue, it’s most likely coming from PlayBow, a dog day care owned and operated by Raymond Yu.

Yu grew up in San Francisco. He attended Lowell High School and later Golden Gate University, where he earned a law degree.

At the start of his career, Yu worked as an intellectual property lawyer in Palo Alto in an atmosphere he described as very corporate. Yearning for a change, he began to plan a new business that sparked joy.

As a law student, Yu adopted his first dog, Bella, a German Shephard-Akita mix. “Growing up, my parents didn’t let me have a dog,” Yu said.

Yu adopted Bella from the San Francisco Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and while Akitas are known for their loyalty, she also had severe separation anxiety. “It was hard to leave her alone,” Yu said, as she would become noisy and destructive, to furniture and to herself.

Yu began to make use of dog day care services where Bella got the chance to interact daily with other dogs and people. While Yu was happy he had found a solution, it was inconvenient that there were no dog day cares on the West Side of San Francisco, where he lived at the time.

Familiar with Ocean Avenue from his days as a Lowell student, Yu recognized the potential of the Ingleside as a place to start the first dog day care in the West Side. “There’s development here, there’s lots of dogs,” Yu said.

Initially, finding the right space was a challenge, as were zoning restrictions. Yu had to secure a special planning permit to open his business on the condition that he garner enough community support beforehand.

But now that PlayBow has been in operation for a year and a half, Yu said that he’s been able to breathe a little easier, with his business on a good track.

PlayBow has a general manager and four staff members who work directly with dogs, keeping them clean and guiding them through basic training exercises to keep them mentally stimulated. “It’s like preschool for dogs,” Yu said.

Some customers are unfamiliar with the meaning behind the business name. Helpfully, the definition is written on an interior wall of the brightly-painted storefront: a Play Bow is a friendly stance that dogs assume before humans or other dogs to indicate their willingness to engage in play.

When it comes to the environment at PlayBow, fun and playfulness are not just added bonuses, but good business. Dog weddings are one example of this.

“When two dogs are really close, we give them a wedding,” said Lindesay Greene, general manager at PlayBow. Two small dogs have been hitting it off lately — a wiry terrier named Vito and a flouncy Havanese named Rory—and they will have a wedding in April, with treats and special outfits to go home in.

PlayBow is located at 1410 Ocean Ave. and can be found online at

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