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The Ultimate Summer Guide To Not Being a Jerk at the Dog Beach

By Kyla Gardner | May 26, 2015 5:33am | Updated on June 19, 2015 10:42am

UPTOWN — If your dog's a jerk, you're a jerk.

That's the way it goes at the dog beach.

"It's never really a dog's fault if something happens, it's the owner's," said Rosie Clayton, of River North, who was at Montrose Dog Beach last week with her 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier Oliver.

In Chicago, there are three dog-friendly beach areas: Montrose dog beach, 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive; Foster Avenue Dog Beach, 5200 N. Lake Shore Drive; and Belmont Harbor Dog Beach, 3200 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Kyla Gardner says most dog owners are great, but others are crazy:

If you don't want to be a jerk-by-proxy at the dog beach this summer — read up on our Summer Dog Beach Etiquette Guide:

A dog runs through Lake Michigan at Montrose Dog Beach Monday [DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner]

Pay Attention

Paying attention is the No. 1 rule of dog beach etiquette.

"Keep a close eye on them," said Oliver Sorisho, 20, of Park Ridge, who had his 4-month-old pitbull Bella with him at Montrose.

The dog beach is a great place for both humans and dogs to socialize, as long as human interaction isn't your only focus, Clayton, 35, said.

Don't ever leave your dog unattended, even if you're just stepping away for a moment, advises MonDog, a volunteer-run organization that represents dog beach owners of Montrose.

Pee Happens

Stuff on the ground is fair game, MonDog says.

Accept it.

"Dogs will pee on ANYTHING on the ground. Shoes, back packs, chairs, bags of poo, coolers, you name it. Once one pees on it, they all want to pee on it. Or one will drag it off as a toy. So put stuff on the ground at your own risk. It's a better idea to hang it on the fence."

Rosie Clayton, 35, of River North, holds Oliver, her 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier [DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner]

Oblige Separation Requests

If an owner doesn't want your dog playing with his or her dog, you should oblige, according to MonDog.

If your dog's the one being picked on, should you speak up?

When Josia Martinez, of Irving Park, runs into problems, he usually just calls his 5-year-old Siberian husky Luna away to a different area of the huge beach.

"It's not my place to say something," he said. "Just relocate."

Five-year-old Siberian husky Luna relaxes in a hole at Montrose Dog Beach Monday. [DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner]

No Food

There's no food allowed on the dog beach, but during last week's visit, it was in high supply.

Martinez said the worst etiquette infraction he's seen at the dog beach is people feeding others' pets.

"People feeding other dogs, that’s a big problem," Martinez said. "You don't know what someone else's dog is allergic to."

Sharing is Caring

Dogs can become food-aggressive if they see another dog with a treat. It's the same with toys.

Martinez advised only bringing tennis balls.

"If it can't be shared, lost, or destroyed, leave it at home," MonDog advises.

But that said, if your dog is a kleptomaniac, "be considerate of others, and make efforts to return toys to their owners."

Other Banned Items

MonDog says not to bring kites, whistles, prong collars, or more than three dogs. No muzzled dogs, either.

Oliver Sorisho, 20, of Park Ridge, with his 4-month-old pitbull Bella at Montrose Dog Beach [DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner]

Know Your Dog's Limits

Training is important, and Sorisho's 4-month-old pitbull puppy Bella was learning the ropes at Montrose Monday.

Sorisho kept close by, and often pulled her off of other dogs if she started to play too rough.

"I feel like my dog is the meanest one here," he said. "She always picks on the little ones."

Sorisho estimated 95 percent of owners at the dog beach follow the rules, and he's enjoyed getting new puppy advice when talking to other owners.

If a dog is aggressive, though, it needs to be leashed and removed from the beach immediately, MonDog says.

Size Matters — But Not Always

Though MonDog advises owners should only allow dogs of the same size to play together, some owners of small dogs disagreed.

"She's strong," said one owner of a Chihuahua.

"Small dogs can hold their own," said Clayton, the owner of Yorkshire terrier Oliver.

A dog enjoys Montrose Dog Beach Monday [DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner]

Scoop Promptly

Dog waste should be removed post-haste.

"The worst of it is people not picking up poop," Martinez said.

Dog waste could contain E. coli, salmonella bacteria, and giardia parasites, and if left on the beach it could make its way into the water, contaminating the lake.

"Water pooping," MonDog said, "is strictly forbidden."

Know the Rules

Of course, outside of etiquette, there are official City of Chicago requirements for dog-friendly areas. Your dog needs to have had all his or her vaccinations, and needs proof of those in the form of tags.

Being caught without those — or a city permit for your dog — could earn you a fine of up to $500.

Got a dog beach horror story? Share in the comments the worst etiquette infraction you've seen, and take our poll:

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