Dear Matthew: We are the proud parents of two 10-week-old Jack Russell terriers. We did a lot of research on this particular breed and are housebreaking them now in our apartment while their new home is being built (with woods, yard and a fence!).

One question is which commands are most important to teach them (that is, sit, stay, release and so on). We'd also like any tips you might have to minimize their aggressive tendencies and get the most enjoyment out of these beautiful dogs.- Tracy and Tina in Charlotte, N.C.

Dear Tracy and Tina: Congratulations on your new arrivals! I bet your two dogs are going to have a blast in their new home.

To answer your first question, the starting command you should teach your dog is the "sit" order. This command will come in handy when you need to get control of your feisty Jack Russells. If they start barking or otherwise acting rambunctious, telling them to sit is the best way to reassert your authority.

The technique for the sit order is fairly simple. First, you'll need training collars and leashes for your dogs. These collars are made of small metal links, and they loop around your dogs' necks. That way, when you apply a tug on the leash, the collar will tighten and spread the pressure evenly around the dog's entire neck.

Once you have the collar and leash on your dog (and I recommend training the two dogs separately so you can minimize the chances of distraction and chaos), stand next to your dog and give the "sit" command while pulling up on the leash.

If the tug on the leash itself doesn't bring your dog into the sitting position, try pushing downward on its hindquarters while giving the command again. You might also try pushing on the back of the knees of the dog's rear legs to give it additional encouragement.

When the dog does end up sitting down, you should lavish it with praise. Then, wait a few moments, and try giving the command again. With a little persistence, even the most stubborn terrier will pay heed.

As for other tips on how to limit your Jack Russells' abundant energy, I recommend that you make sure both dogs get plenty of exercise. I also think that both of you should enroll in a dog-training course with your pets. The advice I've given you so far is just a start - a full obedience program will be quite helpful, particularly with the breed you've chosen. Good luck!

Dear Matthew: I recently adopted a 3-year-old cat from the shelter and have a question I need answered.

When I brought Charlie home, he wasn't in very good shape. He was on the scrawny side and looked like he had a bad case of fleas. Nevertheless, I fell in love with his big brown eyes, and I'm determined to nurture him back to health and happiness.

One thing I've found puzzling, however, is that Charlie's whiskers appear to be unusually short and uneven, as though they were either singed or clipped off. This doesn't seem to be affecting him at all, so I'm not overly concerned, but I've had Charlie for over a month now, and his whiskers don't seem to be growing back at all. Is this normal? And is there anything I can do about this?

Thanks for your advice.

- Lucy in Seattle, Wash.

Dear Lucy: It could very well be that your Charlie had a run-in with trouble and somehow lost some of his whiskers. The bad news is that they'll probably never grow back. The good news is no one quite knows what purpose a cat's whiskers serve, so he probably won't miss them too much.

Among the theories surrounding the subject are that the whiskers are used for added perception, balance or even to let the cat know if the hole he's crawling into is too small for his body.

Whatever the case, it sounds like Charlie has a loving home - and I'll bet he'd pick that over whiskers any day of the week.