By Jacky Runice

That pup appreciates every mundane conversation and doesn’t care about bank accounts or status symbols. He just wants to play, and in Chicago’s warm months, that means a righteous swim somewhere dogs are welcome. Make that best buddy happy at the city’s best doggy dip options.

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Montrose Harbor Dog Beach
Montrose and Simonds Drive
Chicago, IL 60640

Price: free

Montrose Harbor Dog Beach, located at the north end of Montrose Beach in Uptown, is open year round, during all regular Chicago Park District hours. The 3.83-acre area is the only off-leash beach for dogs in the city, where pooches soak in the lake and lay out on the rocks in the toasty summer sun. Be aware of the Chicago Park District rules and regulations for dog-friendly areas, which include cleaning up after Fifi, who must be healthy, immunized, vaccinated and not cantankerous. Also note serious stipulations, such as leashing to and from the beach, and the display of a current Chicago Park District DFA permit and tag. The $5 tag, issued by a participating veterinarian, proves your canine is up to date on his or her vaccinations.

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Foster Avenue Dog Beach
5200 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60615
(312) 742-5121

Price: free

Just north of Montrose Harbor Dog Beach, an officially sanctioned DFA checks in at a little less than an acre at the northern end of Foster beach. It’s much smaller than Montrose, but that makes it easier to keep an eye on your pooch. The entrance is double gated and the fenced area reaches the water, so your buddy can have free run of the place with no worries. Get there in the morning because afternoons tend to include a little canine congestion in the small beach area. Soggy Paws, named Best DIY Dog Wash by Chicago Magazine in 2010, is nearby for a post-beach hose down.

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Belmont Harbor Dog Beach
3200 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60686
(312) 747-2474

Price: free

Halfway between Belmont and Addison on the north side of the harbor, this dog-friendly beach may be a bit harder to find, so keep an ear open for those happy yelps. At a mere .15 acres, the beach can get a little crowded, and because it is a harbor, the water isn’t pristine as swimming pools and free-flowing creeks. Small and large breeds intermingle on this rough and tumble dog beach. Keep a towel in the car to protect seats after this little romp as it doesn’t include a doggy clean-up area.

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Evanston Dog Beach
Church Street and Lake Michigan
Evanston, IL, US60201
(847) 866-2900

Price: $60 per dog for residents/$120 per dog for nonresidents

Northwestern University’s Wildcats aren’t the only beasts in Evanston when the town’s off-leash dog beach opens from April to November. Although the lakefront along this stretch of land is beautiful, the beach is simple bare bones. Owners bring their own doggy bags and respect this space. Pooches here enjoy a little sand between their paws and cool Lake Michigan water. To get a pass, show proof of all required immunizations and tests, and each pet’s license. Make a whole day of it, and head to Pooch Park, a nearby 2.7-acre, off-leash, fenced outdoor recreation center.

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Winnetka Dog Beach  
Sheridan Road and Fuller Lane
Winnekta, IL, US 60093

Price: $32 for residents/$12 per additional dog/$165 nonresidents ($65 pass and $100 mandatory parking pass)/$40 per additional dog

People can’t swim here, but the word in canine circles is that dogs adore Winnetka Dog Beach, an off-leash area at Centennial Park in the North Shore ‘burb. You don’t have to be a resident to bring your bud to the beach, but you must have a valid pass that’s fairly pricey for out-of-towners. Still, this members-only dog beach boasts tons of fun for any pup. There’s a hose for a post-play dog wash, so bring towels, too. Be sure your dog is wearing a leash in Centennial Park until you get to the fenced in beach area to keep him or her safe and avoid potential fines for not following park rules.

Related: Chicago’s Best Dog Parks

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at