We Need Your Advice: Duke’s First Winter

Winter has arrived in Massachusetts! At least for the time being, it’s supposed to be 60 on Wednesday!

This weekend was absolutely frigid! Sunday we woke up to a Feels Like temperature of 7! I only look at the Feels Like temperature because I want to dress for how cold it feels, not how cold it actually is and because the feels like is almost always lower than the actual temperature in the winter and it makes me feel more justified in my cold misery. Monday morning the Feels Like temperature was 3! I made Duke wear two jackets, though that was overkill I’m sure. I’m originally from California and Duke is originally from Arkansas, so neither of us are native New Englanders. I figure this must mean that when I’m cold, he’s cold. The logic here is lacking I’m sure, but that’s what happens to me when it only feels like 3 degrees outside!

And since my logic fails me in the winter and this is my first winter with Duke, I’m asking for your advice on how to handle winter with a dog! I’ve seen some of you have decent amounts of snow already and have not made your dog wear every sweater he owns.

So, these are my big questions:

  • Does Duke need booties?
    It will snow, likely before the end of the year, and stay snowy through March-ish. At least that is my best guess! We live in an apartment complex and thus have no knowledge/control of what they use to salt. My guess is that it isn’t the pet friendly stuff, even though the complex is pet friendly.  I’m worried about his paws in the snow and salt. Is a balm for his paw pads enough? Or does he need boots? Sam thinks the whole boot concept is a little ridiculous, but I think he might need them. After all, I wouldn’t want to go outside barefoot!
  • What is your criteria for your dog needing a jacket to go outside?
    Below freezing? Duke already wears his ugly Christmas sweater around our apartment when it is chilly. (The maintenance men are hopefully fixing my heater today so maybe he won’t have to anymore!) This morning I put his Aussie Naturals jacket on top of his sweater for our walk. Probably ridiculous, but it felt like 3 degrees people!
  • How do you keep your dog’s paws healthy in the snow? 
    I’ve heard that the salt can be bad for their paws and that sometimes their paws will bleed in the snow. The last thing I want it bloody paw prints all over! I’ve read that I should trim the fur around his paw pads – is this something the groomer should do I or can I just trim it up? Do you have a favorite balm to put on their paws to help?
  • Does Duke need anything to keep him warm in the house at night?
    At the moment, our heater is being all weird causing it to turn off at random times. This morning when we woke up, the apartment was in the low 60s. We were all freezing, but Duke seemed especially cold. He had made his way under the covers to keep warm. He was curled up into a little ball and felt cold. Should he be sleeping in a sweater? Snuggled up in a big comforter? He normally sleeps on top of our blankets but on our bed. Otherwise, he’ll end up making his way under the covers which seems just a bit excessive. I feel as if we need boundaries somewhere!
    Update: The heater is fixed! After having workmen in here all day yesterday, it is now toasty warm! So this is less of a concern now, but I’m still curious to hear your thoughts! 

Any advice you all have would be so appreciated! Your advice makes such a difference in how we take care of Duke, it really feels like a community effort to me.


14 thoughts on “We Need Your Advice: Duke’s First Winter

  1. We use milking grease for easys paws& nails and he has a warm jacket for cold days. We mostly have no salt on the road, snow is more uncommon in our area ( 3 flakes and all people go crazy LOL)

  2. I have a warm jacket for really cold days but my furs keeps me warm most of the time. Indoors i have a blanket and I kick that off if I get too hot. Ancient Pip has all sorts to keep her warm as she really feels the cold. Being old she doesn’t go for long walks but she has a fur lined jacket and lots of furry blankets and covers for indoors.
    Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Ok, I live in Arizona so I don’t know much about needing booties in the snow – but I would probably get them if I did live in a snowy area. As far as a sweater – I’m actually considering getting one for Blueberry. Our winters are no where near as cold as you are – but her back legs tend to shiver in the morning and I would at least make her wear it on the start of our hikes and probably take it off of her once she warms up.

    Blueberry doesn’t like being under the covers – but I wouldn’t object if she did. She mostly curls up into a ball when she is cold and if she is really cold – she’ll snuggle as close as she can to me.

    I’d say – if Duke isn’t shivering – he’s probably just fine and doesn’t need any clothes.

    • Thanks for sharing! I’m originally from California – even though the winters aren’t as cold as other places, it never stopped me from being cold anyway! 🙂 The coat for Blueberry doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Duke does shiver when he gets cold, so that’s a good thing for me to look for.

  4. The only time the brown dawgs wear a jacket is their neoprene vest when they are out waterfowl hunting. But they are bred for cold weather and we keep our house at 63 degrees so they get a good coat on them. If Duke has no coat, then he may need a jacket.

    I would worry about the salt on his paws. If you don’t put booties on him then rinse his feet because you are right some of that stuff is toxic and you don’t want him to lick that stuff. I used to get our Golden’s feet trimmed because the snow would bunch up in little balls on the fur in between his toes making it hard to walk. Chessies don’t have that fur and they generally have tough pads.

    We have to worry about cuts on pads when the snow gets all hard and sharp. I think both Thunder and Storm have had them. They are usually minor injuries, but take forever to heal. If Duke runs hard in the snow, then you may want to look at booties or there is a product you can put on his pads to toughen them up.


    Works pretty well. There are also conditioners that some people use. We have used tuff-foot and it worked pretty well.

    Glad your heater is fixed!

    • Oh my, I would be freezing if it was 63 inside. I guess it is that California blood in me! Makes sense for the brown dawgs though, Duke has a minimal coat so a supplementary coat sounds like a good idea!

      That’s a good tip about rinsing his feet. I’d hate for him to ingest that mess of chemicals they use as “salt”! Booties don’t sound like a half bad idea, but I like the soundo f the TufFoot, I’ll look into it! Thanks for sharing! If Duke gets any cuts on his paws, I’ll be coming to you for healing advice!

  5. Our dogs have different coats than Duke; Sydney has a lab coat, but it’s still really think and she’s fine during winter and in the snow.

    I tried booties for our dogs, but they didn’t like them so I removed them. What I learned is that they can only be outside for limited periods of time in the snow and when I bring them in, we rinse off their feed in luke warm water. When they’re done for the day, we rub a paw solution (can’t recall the name, but there are plenty brands on the market) on their paws – it’s safe for them to lick (Rigo licks it until the third “leave it.”)

    • I am realizing that a large part of the sweater issue depends on the coat of the dog. Makes more sense as to why I see pictures of dogs out in the snow without jackets totally happy where Duke would be shivering.

      I do think after hearing all the advice here that we’ll rinse his paws when he comes in. I’m worried about spending money on boots that he’s going to hate and never use! Maybe we’ll see if we can get along with the rinsing and paw solution. As long as it is safe for them to lick, I’m happy! I’d rather them lick that off their paws than the chemical “salt” they’ll put all over our complex!

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I live in New York City and salt is a constant concern here. Shelby has only been through one Winter with us here and we barely had any snow last year. That said, my last dog (who died last year) definitely had salt issues. When it was on the sidewalks, she would sometimes be walking and then lift her paw and whimper a little. I usually had gloves on and I would give her paw a quick wipe and she would be fine. I am thinking about investing in booties this year and I’ve heard great things about PAWZ. Looking forward to hearing what you end up doing!

  7. We have a weimaraner who hunts in cold cold weather and snow, and her coat is short like Dukes. We never put a coat on our dog to hunt or for walks, because she always built up a winter coat of fur and because she generates so much internal heat there was no need for one. Think about how we can get warm going for walks even though its cold outside …. And a dogs internal temp is a few degrees higher than ours. But each dog is different and if he is shivering, then maybe a sweater is warranted.

    I also found that toughening up her pads was better than wearing booties and applied that product (recommended by 2browndawgs) to help the process – but again, we were needing to because the dog would be in the snow for hours. We always rinsed off her feet after walks in the neighborhood where they put down salt – just rinsed them before they came inside ….. I think the tough feet / skin acts as a barrier for all the salt etc. and that helping them build that up was better than protecting them – plus our dog couldn’t walk or run properly with them on, and an unbalanced gait would lead to injury. But the snow can cause ice cuts on their pads – so take it easy when you first have snow and give him time to build up the toughness on his pads.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful advice! It is good to hear from someone with a coat similar to Duke’s. Duke does shiver when it is cold out, he must not have that winter coat. Sounds like our sweater is a good idea. I didn’t know that their internal temperature was higher than ours – that will be good for me to remember when I want to make Duke wear two sweaters for a walk! Sounds like he should be fine with just one.

      I never thought about potential injuries from their funky gait that comes with boots. Hopefully between taking it easy in the beginning, rinsing his paws, and maybe a bit of a product to help things he should be good!

      Thanks so much, this is a huge help!

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