Moving to Chicago with a Dog: What You Need to Know

May 27, 2020

For dog owners moving to Chicago, especially from the suburbs or rural areas, living in a big city can present some unique challenges. From extreme seasonal weather to the fees associated with dog ownership, it’s important to be aware of everything that goes into being a Chicago dog owner. Check out our tips below to learn what you need to know before moving to Chicago to ensure you and your pet are prepared!

Choosing Your Neighborhood 

Chicago is known for its diverse cultural background and the pocket neighborhoods surrounding the downtown skyscrapers. With such a wide array of areas to choose from, it’s important as a dog owner to take into consideration which neighborhood would best suit you and your dog’s lifestyle. While a condo in the heart of the city might be great for smaller dogs, it might not be the best fit for larger dogs that need more space to exercise. Depending on your dog’s personality and activity level, the walking distance to nearby dog parks, or areas with an abundance of dog-friendly venues or breweries, can be an important aspect to consider when moving to Chicago.

Fees and licenses

All dogs over 4 months of age are required to obtain a city dog license through the Office of the City Clerk. Dogs must be registered with the City of Chicago (per Municipal Code 07-12-140) with a current rabies vaccination. Sterilized dog licenses are $5, and unsterilized dog licenses are $50. Senior citizens receive a discounted price of $2.50 for sterilized dogs and $5 for unsterilized dogs. Licenses can be purchased online or in person at one of the City Clerk offices.

Finding a Dog Walker

We’re going to make this one easy for you 🙂

Windy City Paws is one of Chicago’s most respected dog walking companies and the winner of several awards. Check out our service area locations to see if we can help!

Leash Laws

The leash laws in Chicago require dog owners to keep all non-service animals “under restraint” or lead when outside of their property, which includes many of the parks throughout the city. If you are lucky enough to find a home that has a yard, keep in mind the law also states: “It shall be unlawful for any owner to allow his or her animal to cross outside the property line of its owner to any extent, including reaching over or under a fence, or to keep or allow his or her animal to be outdoors on an unfenced portion of the owner’s property, unless the animal is leashed and under the control of its owner or another responsible person.” Off-leash play in the city is only allowed in the dog-friendly areas at designated Chicago Park District parks. Fines for failing to adhere to leash laws can be up to $10,000 depending on the situation.

Dog Parks

Chicago Dog Parks are often referred to as dog-friendly areas. These areas are great for your dog to exercise and socialize. Chicago even has two beaches set aside just for dogs. In order to use one of the city’s dog-friendly areas, you must purchase a specific permit and tag, separate from the general license. Permits are available for purchase at numerous participating veterinarians throughout the city for $5 per dog.

Prepare For Seasonal Weather

The weather in Chicago can be a bit overwhelming for those new to the region. Since spring and fall are often overlooked due to the scorching summers and brutal winters, newcomers to Chicago should prepare their dogs for all the different seasons of the city. Purchasing items to protect paws from overheated asphalt during the summer and winter-related gear for the cold and sidewalk salt is an absolute must for dog owners new to Chicago. Learning the ins and outs of your neighborhood and planning appropriate walks, depending on the weather, will make a big difference in ensuring your dog is happy and healthy.

Chicago Cleanup

Chicagoans can be intensely protective when it comes to maintaining well-kept neighborhoods, and this is especially true for dog owners. While there are some dog parks that provide cleanup bags, it is primarily the responsibility of the owner to clean up after their pets. Owners that fail to immediately clean up after their dog can be subject to a fine of up to $500, according to the City of Chicago Ordinance 7-12-420. Avoid fines by purchasing a small bag holder for your dog’s leash and keeping it stocked with bags.