Dog owners and their pets enjoy being outdoors together in the summer -- doing everything from playing fetch in the backyard to romping through the park.
But if you're looking for something different, why not take in a movie together? Or cruise with other canines along Lake Michigan? Or even catch a ballgame?
We've got a handful of dog-friendly ideas for the "Dog Days" of summer sure to please pets and their summer-loving human companions.
1. Make it a movie night.
Watching a good movie or listening to a concert can be even more fun when you have someone to share it with -- even if that someone special happens to have four legs and a tail. A number of suburban venues are offering outdoor evening film screenings and concerts, where guests are welcome to bring a blanket, some snacks -- and their dogs -- to enjoy a night under the stars together.
• Vernon Hills: Although the classic Disney animated film "Alice in Wonderland" features almost every animal besides canines, the Vernon Hills Park District is opening its Deerpath Park to families and their leashed dogs for a screening of the 1951 film. Concessions are available for purchase; guests can also bring their own snacks.
The film begins at dusk Friday, July 26, in Deerpath Park, east of Deerpath Road, between Phillips and Route 45, in Vernon Hills. Free admission. For information, call (847) 996-6800 or visit vhparkdistrict.org.
• Buffalo Grove: Todd Boysen, an assistant at the Buffalo Grove Park District, said he has seen people bring their canine comrades to park district concerts. And he expects a similar turnout for "Movies Under the Stars," a free outdoor program at Willow Stream Park, 651 Old Checker Road, Buffalo Grove.
The park district is featuring "Wreck-It Ralph," the 2012 Disney animated movie, at dusk Friday, July 26. DreamWorks' 2012 film "Rise of the Guardians" will play at dusk Friday, Aug. 2. Bring snacks and dog treats. Dogs must be leashed during the event. For information, call (847) 850-2100 or go to bgparkdistrict.org.
• Mount Prospect: Capannari Ice Cream, at 10 S. Pine St. in Mount Prospect, welcomes dog owners and their pooches to its "Mooovie Under the Stars" program, with a screening of the 2012 family film "Madagascar 3" at dusk Wednesday, Aug. 7, on the grounds of the Mount Prospect Village Hall, 50 S. Emerson St. Guests can bring their own treats.
Dogs are also welcome at Capannari's Concert in the Park series, in the park behind the ice cream shop, said owner Katie Dolan Dix. The band Not Too Far From the Tree performs at the next concert event, beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 28.
Dolan Dix said Capannari offers a special Doggie Dip ice cream cone for canines -- it's a scoop of vanilla yogurt in a cone. Call (847) 392-2277 or visit capannaris.com.
2. Take 'em out to a ballgame.
Head out to the ballpark with your dog for the Kane County Cougars' Bark in the Park events, sponsored by Pet Supplies Plus, on Tuesday, July 30, and Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Dogs can take to the ballfield before the game begins for a doggy parade -- either in costume or au naturale. During the game, prizes will be awarded for an owner/dog look-alike contest, the largest and smallest dog contest and more. Other highlights include a free bandanna for the first 250 dogs attending and an appearance by The Fly Boys dog agility group at the Aug. 21 event.
Water stations and doggy bathroom areas will be available.
"This is one of our most popular annual events," said Shawn Touney, director of public relations for the Kane County Cougars. "We have fans asking about it months before it starts -- there is a lot of excitement from both people and their dogs."
Gates open for pregame events at 5:30 p.m. both days at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, 34W002 Cherry Lane, Geneva. Baseball games begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets (lawn) cost $8 for humans; dogs admitted free. (630) 232-8811 or visit kccougars.com.
3. Cruise with canines.
Dogs and their families can spend quality time together as they cruise the waters of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River on the 90-minute Mercury Skyline Cruiseline's Chicago Canine Cruise. All leashed and well-behaved canine passengers are welcome aboard to socialize with other dogs and humans.
"It's a great way to spend time with your dog," said Mercury co-owner Holly Agra. "The best part is just going out on the lake and seeing the dogs with the fresh air flapping their ears."
Many dogs come dressed for the occasion, Agra said.
"I see some dogs dressed to look like nautical sailors -- some might wear summer Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses," she said.
Plenty of bowls of water are available for dogs on the cruise, along with a newspaper-lined doggy restroom.
Chicago Canine Cruises begin at 10 a.m. Sundays through Sept. 29. Cruises depart from the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive in Chicago. Tickets cost $29 for adults; $11 for kids younger than 12; $8 for dogs; and free for kids younger than 3. For information, call (312) 332-1353 or visit mercurycruises.com.
4. Enjoy the sand and the surf.
Nothing says summertime like a day at the beach. A number of suburban beaches offer special areas for humans and dogs to enjoy the water and sunshine together. Here are some options:
• Gillson Park Dog Beach: Located at the south end of Gillson Park, at Sheridan Road and Michigan Avenue in Wilmette, the Gillson Park Dog Beach is an off-leash area of the beach, specifically for dogs and their owners.
Hours through Labor Day are 6 to 10 a.m. and 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Permits are required for all dogs using the beach. For a permit application, visit wilmettepark.org.
• Evanston Dog Beach: Before owners and their canine pals can enjoy the Evanston Dog Beach, owners must apply for a beach pass, file the medical history of their dogs with the city of Evanston and license their dogs with Evanston or their own hometown.
Dog owners must also purchase a season permit: $60 for residents and $120 for nonresidents. Wait until Aug. 1, and passes will be half price.
The beach is located at 1631 Sheridan Road, Evanston. Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily April through November. For information, call (847) 448-4311 or visit cityofevanston.org. The beach pass application is available on the website.
• Sunrise Park and Beach, Lake Bluff: A beach pass is required. Lake Bluff Park District residents can get this pass for free, but nonresidents must pay to use the beach. Prices vary and are available on the park district website at lakebluffparks.org.
Owners must also sign the dog beach waiver and release.
Located at 455 Sunrise Ave. in Lake Bluff, the Sunrise Park and Beach is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Wednesday, Sept. 4. For information, call (847) 234-4150.
5. Check out Dog Days at Cantigny.
One day each year, dogs are welcome on the grounds of Cantigny Park in Wheaton for the annual Dog Days at Cantigny event. Visitors can watch demonstrations from specially trained dog groups, including the Windy City K-9 Disc Club.
Dogs can also cool off in small pools in the splash park area and socialize in the play area.
"The dogs really have a great time being with their owners and meeting other dogs," said Laura Evans, director of visitor services at Cantigny.
All dogs must be leashed and have current vaccination tags to take part, Evans added.
Dog Days runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. Admission is free; parking is $5. For information, visit cantigny.org.