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Tips for a Perfect Day at the Dog Beach

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On a hot summer day, it doesn’t get much better than a trip to the dog beach. And fortunately, Chicagoland has some fabulous lakefront areas dedicated to our furry friends. There are, however, important steps to take beyond just bringing a towel and sunscreen to make sure you and your pup have a safe, fun-filled day on the sand. Here’s what you need to know.

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WHERE TO GO

All beaches require that your dog has had a full examination in the past year and is up-to-date on vaccinations. Fees/membership requirements vary per city.

City

Montrose Dog Beach (610 W. Lawrence Avenue) Recently ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 dog beaches, Montrose is an expansive area perfect for dogs who want to run, splash, and play. While it’s big, it does get super crowded, so if you want a little more room consider going on off-peak hours—early in the morning and at the tail end of the day. Bonus: There’s plenty of parking nearby. Visit MonDog.org for more information.

Belmont Harbor Dog Beach (3500 N. Lake Shore Drive) Considerably smaller than Montrose, but still a lovely place for a romp in the sand and water. There’s a bit less room to spread out though, so most pet parents stand. It is situated extremely close to the boats, so some days it appears to have gasoline and other chemicals floating nearby. Be sure to check conditions before letting Fido dive in.

Suburbs

Note: Fees are per season.

Evanston Dog Beach (Clark St. Beach & the Church St. boat ramp, Evanston)
$60/residents, $120/non-residents

Gillson Park Dog Beach (Washington & Michigan Aves, Wilmette)
$33/residents, $184/non-residents

Centennial Dog Beach (South of Elder, Sheridan Rd, Winnetka)
$40/residents, $180/non-residents

Moraine Park Dog Beach (2501 Sheridan Rd, Highland Park)
$50/residents, $150/non-residents

Sunrise Park and Beach (455 Sunrise Ave, Lake Bluff)
Dogs must be accompanied by a human with a beach pass:
free/resident beach pass (up to 3), $7.50/resident dog permit;
$77/non-resident beach pass, $150/non-resident dog permit

IS YOUR DOG READY FOR THE BEACH?

Before you pack the beach bag, make sure you’ve checked off the following boxes:

captureChicago DFA Permit and Tag

All dogs who go to Chicago’s public parks require a Dog-Friendly Area (DFA) permit and tag. The total cost is $5, and both are available through your Chicagoland veterinary office. Permits and tags are good for one season (January 1-December 31 of a single year), so make sure to renew each year.

captureSocialization

Dog beaches are filled with dogs of all breeds and sizes, not to mention plenty of people. If your dog hasn’t proven to be comfortable in highly social situations, now is not the time to put her to the test. Your dog should also be well-adept at coming when you call.

WHAT TO BRING AND WHAT TO LEAVE AT HOME

Bring

A large towel. It should be big enough for you and your pooch to rest off of the hot sand. If you’re not using it to sit, you will want one for drying your dog off and wiping off sandy paws.

Fresh water and a bowl to serve it in. Lake Michigan may be fine to swim in, but don’t let your dog drink from it—just think of how many dogs are doing their business in it every day.

An umbrella. Make sure there’s a shady spot for your pet to relax.

Doggie sunscreen. Your pet has fur to protect him from the sun, but a little extra protection never hurts, especially on exposed skin like his nose, ears, and paw pads. Pet-friendly sunscreens are non-oily, non-irritating, and formulated specifically for your dog’s sensitive skin.

Don’t bring

Favorite toys. Sharing isn’t a skill most dogs have mastered, so if you have something you don’t want to get potentially slobbered on or destroyed by another pup, it’s best to leave it home.

Leather collars and leashes. Sun, sand, and water are all damaging to leather, so stick to nylon. If you have a special “beach” collar that can get wet, be sure you have two sets of tags for ID.

BASIC ETIQUETTE

Like all public spaces, there a few rules that everyone—dog and human alike—should follow.

Watch your dog at all times. This isn’t the type of beach to go to if you want to sit back with a book. As your pet’s guardian, you have a responsibility to keep her from getting into trouble or bothering other dogs and people.

Don’t bother the birds. Beaches are favorite spots for feathered creatures too, but if they’re scared, they’ll stop coming by. Take care not to let your dog chase or intimidate the birds that come down for a rest.

Pick up. Bring extra poop bags and always clean up after your pet. Everything you bring with you should be brought out with you, too. Garbage, including destroyed toys, should be disposed of—not left for someone else to deal with.

Close the gate behind you. The entrances to most dog beaches feature gates, (Chicago’s have two, offering an area between them to get your dog leashed or un-leashed and ready to go). For the safety of your dog and everyone else’s, make sure to always close and latch all gates after you use them.

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