Here at Figo, we pride ourselves on being real with our pet parents. That means acknowledging the good, bad, and all the in-betweens of cat and dog ownership. It's no secret that pet parent life isn't always a walk in the park, and I've even documented the struggle of my own personal adoption journey of a dog with special needs.
Guess what else we're crazy about? Helping you do right by your pet by giving them the best life possible. So when we heard about a new indoor "dog park" that offers an enriching play spot to pups who may not thrive in traditional parks, we got excited. Figo sat down withBosly's Backyardowner and founder Kim Theobald for an exclusive look at the story behind this one-of-a-kind space.
Thanks for chatting with us, Kim! Before we kick things off, where can pet parents find Bosly’s Backyard?
Thanks so much again for featuring Bosly's Backyard! We are located in the Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago - 4011 N Ravenswood, Chicago IL 60613.
How long have you been in business?
I launched Bosly's Backyard in February of 2020. I started to run it as "Pup-Up" events to test the concept and get feedback. We had a few events in Feb & March of 2020 and then had to take a hiatus during the pandemic lockdown. I started the Pup-Ups back up again in August of 2020 in an event venue in Logan Square and ran them until I opened our permanent location in Ravenswood in May of 2021.
What inspired you to open Bosly’s Backyard?
Well, Bosly of course! I adopted Bosly when she was 4 months old in 2011 from The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, and we used to frequent our city's dog parks regularly when she was a puppy. When she was about 1.5 years old the dog park started to not be a good environment for her; it was too stressful and there was too much dog park drama. So here we are, living in an apartment in Chicago, with no yard, and can't go to the dog parks. Where do I take my 70lb very energetic dog to get the exercise and stimulus that she needs? I would always say to myself "I wish there was a place where Bosly and I could spend time together, that was safe, free of other dogs, and she could burn off all that energy."
While there are some dogs who are extroverts and do well in playgroups, there are lots of dogs who are more introverted and prefer their own space. It is not always natural for dogs that aren’t familiar with one another to play together nicely. Just like humans, not everyone gets along and that is OK! There's this misconception that socializing your dog means having your pup play off-leash with other dogs. While that is one aspect of socialization, socialization also means taking part in joint activities that are enriching and help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
Going to new places with different sounds, smells, textures, etc. is SO beneficial for your dog's cognitive skills and confidence building. And as much as humans enjoy socializing with other like-minded dog lovers while their pups play together, it’s far safer and more fun for your dog to spend that time engaging with YOU in a safe environment that is mentally enriching and emotionally stimulating.
My own dog can't attend dog parks either so I think the concept is just brilliant. Have you noticed an increase in demand due to COVID?
It's hard to say because I really have only been operating since COVID. Although, I would have to assume that since everyone is traveling less and cooped up at home more, that dog parents are looking for ways to do something fun together! Given that our play space provides private time for you and your dog, with only one of our staff members on-site, there's not much human-to-human interaction as well making it safer for COVID times.
Do you accept dogs of all temperaments, sizes, and breeds?
Yes! We DO NOT breed discriminate at Bosly's Backyard.
That's great! I’m sure you have a number of customers who own reactive dogs. What do you do to try and make things more comfortable or less anxiety-inducing for these special needs pups?
Our primary goal for our business is to provide a safe and stress-free experience for you and your dog so that you and your BFF can focus on one thing: FUN! Our staff is trained on dog behavior and body language. We provide a 15-minute gap in between appointments so that dogs do not run into each other. We have a backdoor entrance that goes right into the play space if your pup prefers to avoid any human run-ins.
Do you allow dogs with human reactivity issues?
YES, we are able to accommodate dogs who have stranger danger (human reactivity). We have protocols for entrance and where our staff can sit outside the play space so that your dog can run free without interference from other people. Just like the celebrities -- NO PUPARAZZI!
Does your space offer anything in addition to pet playtime – like dog birthday parties, etc?
Yes! For our extroverted sociable pups, we offer small group social play sessions based on size, as well as for puppies under 6 months of age. We do rent the space for birthday parties, gotcha day celebrations, fundraisers, adoption events, etc. We offer various training courses and have been running 6-week Nosework classes since November. These will be continuing for the foreseeable future. We have events around the holidays when we partner with photographers to capture beautiful photos of your pup. We have seasonable photo booths for you to take fun and goofy photos! We also have a small retail section for treats and toys for purchase.
Have you received a particularly good review from a pet parent that stood out to you?
Honestly, all the reviews and sentiments we receive from clients are so heartwarming. But I think the ones that stand out most are from dog parents that have a pup with stranger danger/human reactivity. It's really challenging for them to bring their dog anywhere off-leash to play and just be a dog, and they are so incredibly grateful after they experience Bosly's Backyard! You can read more of our reviews here on our website, Google or Facebook
With pet ownership on the rise, do you predict an increase in spaces like Bosly’s Backyard opening?
I think there is always going to be a need to do fun and different things with your dog. There's even a place not far from us in Chicago where you can bring your dog to go swimming!
In your opinion, are there any other trends you foresee emerging in the pet space?
I believe that dog parents are becoming more educated about how important enrichment is for your dog's mental health. It's incredibly valuable for new dog parents to work on their communication with their dog at a place like Bosly's Backyard, as well as training classes using positive reinforcement, so they can better understand their dog's needs and learn how to best communicate with them.
You mentioned that your pup Bosly is the inspiration behind Bosly's Backyard. We'd love to know more about her!
I adopted this little wiggle butt at 4 months old from The Anti Cruelty Society in July of 2011. She is a lab/hound/pit mix with lots of energy! She is incredibly smart and has trained me to constantly give her treats! She keeps me on my toes and gets me out of bed earlier than I would like, and oftentimes during the middle of the night when she would prefer to eat or go outside instead of sleep ;-). While I grew up with dogs, she has made me a Dog Mom. She has single-handedly been the most impactful living being in my life and it's because of her that my heart has grown so much for dogs.
It's because of her that I started to get more involved in volunteering and fundraising for various Chicago dog rescues. In 2015 I joined the Associate Board at One Tail at a Time dog rescue in Chicago, where I found an incredible community of dog lovers and met some of the best humans on the planet. I served on their Associate Board for 5 years and as their President for 2 years. It’s because of her I keep my eyes open for lost animals all the time and have returned home 10+ lost dogs and cats. It’s because of her I started Bosly's Backyard so that I can help bring joy, safety, and happiness to these amazing animals and their awesome paw-rents. It's because of her that I found my passion in life, and I couldn't be more grateful.
In a few words, what does being a pet parent mean to you?
Advocate, Guardian, Teammate, Champion, Companion.
Looking to snag a session with your dog? Bosly's offers both a-la-cart and package bookings starting at $45 - reserve your slot here. And don't forget, the Figo Pet Cloud app is the best way to stay on top of all things "dog-friendly" in your neighborhood. If you're not part of the Figo Fam, you can start by getting a quote today.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.