Dogcharmer: Nicky the mini-pin

Old dogs can still learn better behavior.

Nicky the mini-pin has trouble sticking around the yard. — Courtesy Tom Shelby


I have a 16-year-old mini-pin who has to be on a leash at all times. It’s frustrating, because I would like to let him play outside, but I can’t trust him. He takes off running to explore every time, without regard to his own safety. I’ve tried to stop this behavior over the years, with no success. Is it just in his nature

Any advice?
Josh Bennett

In addition, Josh is wondering if it’s common for dogs to whine the older they get. Nicky has started whining more frequently, and it obviously concerns Josh as to the cause.

Thank you!


Dear Josh, 

I often refer to what you’re talking about as the “stickin’ around” command, which needs to be coupled with the “recall.” First thing, people-food treats only when Nicky’s outdoors and off-leash. Off-leash means he’s wearing a harness, dragging a 25-foot-long light rope attached to the leash. Start calling Nicky to come when he’s in the house, and every time he arrives, he gets a tiny treat. If you have to, start him off smelling the treat in your hand as you back up while calling him to come. After a few days he’ll be quite “conditioned” to come when called. Then go outdoors, where it’s the only place he gets people food treats for coming. This 25 feet of a light line should give you adequate time to step on the leash and stay in control, should he decide to flip you the bird and take off. Especially since at age 16, he’s not the athlete of his youth.

Lady Joy, 

In my experience it’s not unusual for older dogs to undergo behavioral changes, whining being one of them. It’s often for one of two reasons. Their confidence sometimes erodes with age: They become insecure, and whine about it. Another common reason having to do with old age is pain. My mother-in-law lived into her 90s, and used to say, “Old age is not for sissies!” referring to the aches and pains. My almost 11-year-old poodle, Paula Jean, gets a pain pill every day for our two-mile hike in the woods. My vet said it will only improve her quality of life, and I’m convinced it has.

Give Nicky a kiss for me,
Dogcharmer Tom. 

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