Let’s say you wanted to take your dog out on Union Street in San Francisco’s Marina district. First, you pick up Fluffy where you left her that morning -- at the Moulin Pooch “dog boutique and villa.” And while it would be nice to stick around for “Yappy Hour,” there are plenty of other places to find treats. So we’ll head down the street, to Le Marcel Dog Bakery.
“It’s a full-scale bakery for dogs,” says owner Aki Zubovic. “We have 60 different treats for dogs, all made on location by our pastry chef. Birthday cakes come in four different sizes, two flavors."
This is just one street, one tiny slice of the dog services the Bay Area has to offer. There’s a dog-u-mentary photographer and an animal communicator. There are dog reiki practitioners and dog massage therapists. And, this being San Francisco, there are of course entrepreneurs.
Just a few years ago, Anna Gil was a corporate attorney. And she needed somewhere to bring her basset hound, Truman, while she was at work. She saw an opportunity, and in 2009, she opened Dogpile Dogs daycare. Now, she watches between 80 and 100 dogs a day. And she knows all of them by name.
“I retired from Genentech to open this place, and my life savings essentially is into this place,” says Gil. “So I’m very grateful and thankful that it has worked out.”
Gil doesn’t advertise. But she’s attracted so much business that for a while she had to stop accepting new dogs, just to keep the numbers manageable. And she’s earned enough money to start expanding.
“We’re going to open a senior oasis for the dogs,” she says. “A sundeck, gentle sloping steps, wide so they can sleep on them.”
The boom in dog services has also caught the attention of tech startups. Rover and DogVacay, based in Seattle and L.A., are Airbnbs for your dog. Swifto, based in New York City, calls itself the Uber of dog walking. And then there's San Francisco-based Whistle: a little device you can attach to your dog’s collar that records how much she’s moving around each day, and an app that monitors her health trends over time.
“The number one concern for any owner is their dogs’ well-being and their happiness,” says Ben Jacobs, the company’s CEO. “It’s phrased in terms of health but also emotion.”
And our emotions influence how we use our wallets. Whistle launched this month with around 20 employees, and $6 million in startup capital.