Dear Matthew: I just got a new puppy one week ago. He is a 9-week-old Chihuahua. He is learning to mess on paper, so I know he is really smart.

The only problem is when we say "NO," he keeps doing whatever it is he is doing. So I pick him up, say "NO," then put him down somewhere else, but he will still go back doing the same thing.My husband wants to tap him on the nose with a paper, but I won't let him. Is there a way to make my puppy understand the word "NO"? I have tried different tones of voice and volumes, but I cant get him to listen to me.

Also, he doesn't come when I call him, but I assume that's because he doesn't know his name yet and also because we are still new to him.

Would you please help me with this? I want my puppy to be happy and well-trained, but I just don't know how to get him to understand.

-Shirley in Downey, Calif.

Dear Shirley: Do you know how to say the word "No" in Swahili? And would you recognize it if someone said it to you? Probably not, which should give you a pretty good idea of what your dog is going through.

Until you train your dog to respond to the "No" command, you shouldn't be surprised if he doesn't recognize it! The same goes for getting him to respond to his name.

Try putting your Chihuahua on a leash and training collar and, when he does something wrong, give the leash a tug and issue the "No" command. You don't have to pull very hard, since your pet is so diminutive.

Because Chihuahuas are so small, some owners think they don't need to train them - which is not the case. Every dog benefits from having an owner willing to put in the time and effort to teach basic obedience.

It's sounds like you're doing well in housebreaking your dog - keep up the good work, and be sure to tell your husband he should never hit your pet, even gently with a newspaper! It will make the dog fearful and potentially aggressive, undoing all your training.

Dear Matthew: I have a cat who is almost 7 years old. Lately, he has been very sensitive about having the area on his back near his tail touched. When I do touch him there, he begins licking uncontrollably or biting his front paws.

What could be causing this behavior? I might mention that he is a strictly indoor cat, yet he seems to have gotten some fleas this summer (I don't know how). Could this condition be serious?

- Beth in Springfield, Ill.

Dear Beth: It sounds like your cat could have a skin irritation that requires medical attention. You didn't mention if he was suffering from hair loss as well, but that would be another symptom of the condition - which can be common during the hot, dry summer months.

Also, although your cat may be indoor-only, that doesn't mean that fleas can't find a way into your house. I recommend you buy a bug-bomb style flea killer and treat your house, vacuuming thoroughly after you're done. And take your cat to the vet to have that skin irritation checked out.

Dear Matthew: I would like to have my dogs go to the bathroom in a specific area in the back yard. Both dogs were paper-trained as puppies and did a terrific job. However, when I tried placing newspapers in the back yard in the area that I would prefer they go the bathroom, they only destroyed the newspaper. Could you offer a suggestion?

-Tammy in Buena Park, Calif.

Dear Tammy: It sure would be convenient if you could train dogs to use just one little corner of the yard as their bathroom, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, I'm afraid there's not much you can do to train your dogs in this manner, unless you confine them to only the part of your yard you want them to use.

You could give it a shot, in the same manner you housebroke your dogs - but I doubt you have the time to constantly supervise and correct your dogs when they go where they aren't supposed to - and you'd probably just end up confusing them and possibly undoing the housebreaking training you've already accomplished.

Just be glad that your dogs are housebroken and not messing up your house! And keep a shovel handy, so you or someone you love can clean up after your pooches.