Dog-Friendly Guide to Chicago, IL

Credit: Rudy Balasko, Shutterstock
Population: 2.71 million (2019)
Off-leash dog parks: 31
Accommodation: 131
Restaurants, pubs, & cafes: 558
Most popular dog breed: Goldendoodle


“The Windy City” is one of the most dog friendly cities in the US and is estimated to have close to 620,000 dogs living there. That means that approximately 1 out of every 4 Chicago residents has a dog! Chicago offers over 130 hotels and rentals that are dog-friendly and almost 600 restaurants and bars allow dogs on their patios, so finding a bite to eat with your pup in tow won’t be an issue.

While Chicago is a major urban center, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to do with your dog. One thing you may not even realize Chicago has to offer is multiple dog-friendly beaches, and some of them are fenced and off-leash, so your dog can get the most out of the beach experience.

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Interesting Facts

  • Toto from The Wizard of Oz was played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry, even though Toto is male in the movie. Terry was a Chicago resident and she made appearances in 16 movies in her lifetime.
  • The Chicago White Sox hold an annual dog day where dogs are invited to attend a baseball game with their owners.
  • A survey of 5,000 dog owners in 10 major US cities ranked Chicago dog owners as the “most indulgent”, meaning they’re willing to spend the most on their dogs. Chicago dog owners ranked second as “most obsessed” with their dogs.
  • PawsChicago, a non-profit focusing on no-kill shelters and animal rescue, had over 84,000 volunteer hours, 4,100 adoptions, and a 98.17% save rate in 2020.
  • In Chicago, it’s illegal for pet stores to sell dogs and puppies unless they were obtained from a shelter, rescue, or a USDA registered breeder who does not have more than 5 breeding females. This keeps puppy mills from being able to sell animals in Chicago. These rules also apply to cats and rabbits.
  • Currently, you can own up to 100 dogs in Chicago. There are specific laws and ordinances related to the care of those dogs to protect them from neglect and abuse.

Leash Laws & Licensing

In Chicago, dogs must be kept leashed and under the control of the handler at all times except in spaces where it’s posted that they may be off leash. This applies to dog parks and certain private properties. This protects people and dogs from each other, and it protects dogs from the hazards of urban living, like vehicles and close encounters with strangers.

All dogs over the age of 4 months are required to have a rabies vaccine and to be registered with the city. The vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian and the registration can be done through the city’s animal control or with most veterinarians. Currently, only around 5-10% of the estimated number of dogs living in Chicago are registered with the city. However, there are fines associated with an unregistered dog, especially if found running loose or involved in a bite incident.

woman strolling dog in chicago park
Image Credit: PeggyReillyPhotos, Shutterstock

Living in Chicago with a Dog

Life in Chicago with a dog can be fun, especially with how dog-friendly the city is, but it isn’t without hazards. It’s important to keep dogs from eating things they find on the sidewalk and street to prevent accidental poisoning and ingestion of other dangerous items, like chicken bones. Since the city is so urban, it’s important to help your dog adjust to life in a big city, which includes learning how to appropriately respond to and greet other animals and strangers.

There are over 700 veterinarians located in Chicago, which means there is likely a vet clinic within a short walk or drive from where you live. There are hundreds of dog walkers and doggy daycares across Chicago, making it easy to find someone to help care for your dog whether you’re at work or away for a few days.

Dog-friendly housing is scattered across the city and it’s becoming more common for landlords to allow multiple dogs, big dogs, and “aggressive” breed dogs. If you are looking at housing with a HOA/POA, make sure to check those rules prior to renting or purchasing property. These organizations can have their own rules related to pet ownership.

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Average Cost of Ownership

Owning a dog in Chicago will likely cost you around $1,000-1,200 annually for basic care including preventive vet visits, food, and city registration. When it comes to dog ownership, though, there are other costs that may apply. Doggy daycare runs $100-200 weekly per dog, although some businesses may offer discounts for multiple dogs. A dog walker will likely cost you $25 or more per visit for one dog, and most dog walkers charge a per dog fee of $5-10 or more for each additional dog.

It’s important to keep your dog leashed and under control in all required areas since an unleashed dog at large can cost you a $300 fine. If you don’t pick up after your dog, you could be looking at a fine up to $500. There are also fines associated with vicious dogs, which are dogs with proven aggressive tendencies, such as dogs with a history of biting, as well as fines for improper tethering, not providing shelter and water, allowing pet waste buildup on your property, and more.

While veterinary care can add up quickly, especially with a sick pet, there are multiple low-cost vets in the Chicago area. There are also grants and discounts available for low-income residents. This can help with things like vaccines, spay/neuter, and emergency care.

chicago buildings

Shelters & Rescue Centers

Animal control in Chicago has pet adoption availability with application approval. They adopt out a few thousand animals per year, so this is a good resource for dog adoption. PawsChicago is another great resource that has multiple adoption locations available. They are a non-profit organization that focuses heavily on no-kill rescue and education. They require application and approval for adoption of pets, but their goal is to get pets into safe, happy homes. Since you can own multiple dogs in Chicago, many shelters and rescues will be willing to adopt a dog out to you, even if you own others. However, these organizations will likely require you to show proof that your other pets are well cared for, up to date on vaccines and routine veterinary care, and that you are providing a clean, safe home environment for them.

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Chicago is an exciting city with no shortage of things to do, and this availability of activities extends to your pup as well. The people of Chicago love dogs and finding businesses and housing that allow dogs should be no problem for you. This is populous city, though, so if you’re considering a move to Chicago, you should start acclimating your dog to loud noises and large numbers of people and dogs.

If you’re visiting in the summer, plan to bring booties to guard paws against hot concrete and plenty of water when you’re out and about. During the winter, your dog will appreciate a warm coat and booties that protect against ice and salt. With the proper proof of vaccines and socialization, your dog will have as much of a blast in Chicago as you will!

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Featured Image Credit: Rudy Balasko, Shutterstock