Even though the weather is getting cooler, man's best friend still needs to get out of the house every once in a while. So where in the city can you take Fido to let loose? Well, Chicago officially has 18 dog-friendly areas, but they're not all created equal. Here we've doggedly deconstructed the pooch parks – separating the best from the rest. Plus, we've provided you the "rules and regs" for Rover's next romp.
Wilson Street & the Lake
This dog park has large, clean, lake front access with ample parking and few escape routes. Note: dogs can exit the water on a diagonal and hit the beach south of the fenced in dog area.
1825 N. Damen
This is a shaded, well maintained park with seating, dog drinking fountain, and kiddy (I mean doggy) pools in hot weather. It's even got funky, dog-centric art works to enjoy.
2645 N. Sheffield
The whole park has gone to the dogs, and the canines and their humans lucky enough to play here love it that way.
Foster & the Lake
Parking in the area is a bit "ruff" but the beach is fantastic and much cleaner and nicer than Belmont Harbor.
1425 N. Damen
This is a sizable, shaded park with seating and dog accessible drinking water.
3035 N. Hoyne
Tennis balls are in abundance here. In a great symbiotic relationship, the dog park is just south of the tennis courts, so any misses that go out of the courts get happily re appropriated into a fetching game.
Not So Great:
Belmont & Lake Shore Drive
Lake access is a bonus, but the beach is small, smelly and prone to overcrowding. Clean water is also an issue because, as the name implies, this dog park is a boat harbor and tends to be polluted and slick with rainbow spills.
Get out and have some off leash adventures of your own and make some memories.
We've had 20+ years of dog friendly adventures all over town, and even bought a brick on the playground at Wicker Park, dedicated to our 3 dog friends who loved to play there.
Checkmate: Alia Serendipity, was a fast runner and fetching fiend. One time at Wicker Dog Park she ran ahead of the pack and caught each ball, then methodically threw them in a small indentation under the tree instead of returning them. When she had about twenty tennis balls, she went and laid down over them. Nobody realized what she'd done until they went to continue the game for a large pack of pups and saw every last ball in the park had vanished.
Kong Karma: Another day we lost a rope dog toy that we'd accidentally swung up into a tree in Humboldt Park. Just a day later, we were the only ones playing in Wicker Park and a guy came up and handed me a different but equal Kong and said, "I think you lost this"!
The Ruff Stuff (legal requirements for all free range rovers)
You must have a current Chicago dog parks permit with you and a park tag and rabies tag attached to every dog's collar, or you may face a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment! Check out the Park District DFA (dog friendly area) frequently asked questions for the full scoop. Locations and specific rules are posted at the entrance to every DFA. Check on line HERE so you know before you go. Most of the rules are easy, common sense, and in place to protect the dogs and their people.
Here are the basics in downloadable form and recapped here:
- Dogs must be healthy, fully immunized (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, and bordetella) and dewormed.
- Stay with your dogs and kids under 12. Owners are legally responsible for any injuries or damage caused by their dogs.
- Be good guests. Leash when you come and go, pick up poop right away (possible $500 fine and the evil eye from other park patrons if you don't), and please close the gates.
- Only three dogs per person allowed. We've seen dog walkers arrive with 4 dogs' leashes in each hand. Not cool. Know your dog park rights and don't be afraid to call it in.
- Puppies under four months old and female dogs in heat are prohibited.
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