The weather hasn’t been exactly ideal for beachgoing lately, but on a recent Monday morning, the sunken strip of sand along West Lawrence Avenue was packed. Chances are, though, that these visitors weren’t working on their tans.
While it’s open year-round, peak season is winding down at Montrose Dog Beach as well as at the city’s other dog-friendly lakefront areas at nearby Foster Beach and Belmont Harbor. “I love the freedom it gives the dogs,” said Abbey Levine, 37, who lives in Lakeview and brings her 6-year-old yellow lab, Cooper, to Montrose Dog Beach two or three times a week. “My dog gets lots of room to run around.”
RedEye talked to Levine and other dog-beach regulars, as well as officials, about what to know before you and Fido dip your paws into the last waves of summer.


>> Play it safe: The Chicago Park District requires any animal visiting a dog-friendly beach to have a current DFA (dog-friendly area) tag from a vet, which shows the dog is healthy, current on its immunizations and free of any communicable diseases. Any dog in heat or with a history of aggression technically is prohibited, but beachgoers pointed out that even animals who haven’t previously been violent may get riled up, especially by small dogs that can resemble prey. Be prepared to intervene if you see any pooch cowering or being chased by multiple dogs.


>> Avoid rookie mistakes: It may sound nice in theory, but a beach filled with unleashed dogs probably is not the best place to spread out your picnic blanket. Leashes also can be problematic, Levine says—retractable leashes especially have been known to tangle up and clothesline excited animals.

>> It’s not happy hour: Larry Rose, 46, who brings dogs to the beach daily with his dogcare business Another Ruff Day, said he likes meeting new people there, but advised against turning your visit into a purely social one. Janis Taylor, who oversees the city’s dog-friendly areas for the Park District, recommends checking in with your dog at least every 10 minutes. “It says to the dog, ‘I’m here, I’m watching you,’ and that way it also calms the dog down,” Taylor said. “When the dog is overexcited, that’s when you have problems.”

>> Don’t be That Guy: Clean up after your dog. Because, c’mon. Plus, not doing so can result in a fine of up to $500 from the city.


>> Know your dog beach style: Paul Marinaro, 40, said he and his 8-year-old border collie-shepherd mix, Titus, prefer the mellow vibe at Foster Dog Beach to the more crowded sands of Montrose. On this particular morning, the two were the only ones there. “Here, you’ll get, at the most, 20 people,” said Marinaro, a jazz musician who lives in Edgewater.


>> Bring towels: Remember, your furry friend likely will bring part of the beach home. Sandy fur, muddy pawprints and that oh-so-wonderful wet dog smell come with the territory, so be prepared. For Levine, knowing how much Cooper loves his lakeside playtime makes the trip well worth it. “It’s doggy heaven,” she said.


gpurdom@tribune.com  |  @gwenpurdom