Dear Matthew: A friend recently told me that cats with blue eyes have a greater chance of being deaf in one or both ears. This seemed strange to me, since all Siamese cats have blue eyes, yet I've never run into a deaf Siamese in all my years.

Is there any truth to what I heard? Since I've been thinking about getting a Siamese in the near future, this is something I should find out. Thanks.- Jerry in Richmond, Va.

Dear Jerry: What your friend has told you is half true; but it's also half wrong. Blue-eyed cats are more likely to have deafness, but only if they have white coats - particularly white coats with longer hair. This is a genetic characteristic that is passed down from parent to kitten.

Long-haired white cats with two blue eyes are three- to five-times more likely to be deaf than the average feline. But there's no increased incidence of deafness in Siamese cats, so you can go cat-shopping without having to worry about that.

Of course, it does pay off to carefully inspect any pet before you purchase it and, if you're in doubt, take it to a veterinarian for a check-up. It's always better to spend too much time choosing a pet, rather than too little. Good luck, and tell your friend to stop trying to scare you with feline tales!

Dear Matthew: I'm a huge fan of yours and your training methods. I've trained many pets using your techniques. But now, I've got a real challenge for you!

I have a 14-month-old shepherd mix (probably border collie and Australian shepherd). His name is Morgan, and he's extremely intelligent.

We've already been through a basic obedience class for 6-month-olds. He learned all the basic skills very quickly, is not destructive (has plenty of chew toys) and is very well-disciplined.

He does have one "character flaw" - he has "panic attacks" when we see other dogs on walks. He screams, tries to get to the other dog, forgets all his walking skills and is basically uncontrollable. When owners bring their big friendly dogs over, he's quiet for a moment, then tries to be aggressive.

There's not a vicious bone in him, but from somewhere this fear/aggression shows up. He loves to play with other big dogs at the park off lead - no problem. But during walks - even while riding in the car - other dogs really get him upset!

Please help!!!! I'm sure there is probably no "quick fix," but what can I do to begin correcting this behavior? I consider myself an experienced dog handler and have helped many pets overcome a number of phobias, but this one has me stumped!

All typical methods have (to date) not been successful. I've tried correcting the bad behavior with a stern "no," jerk and release; made him sit and calm down; introduced him to the other dog; calmly ignored the "panic attack" and continued walking . . . you name it, I've tried it.

There must be a solution, and I HOPE you have it! Any suggestions for me and Morgan?

- Janel in San Gabriel, Calif.

Dear Janel: Like you said, I'm afraid there's no "quick fix." Although your dog may interact well when he's off his lead, for some reason he feels threatened when you're limiting his ability to run away by keeping him on a leash.

What can you do about it? The more socialization your dog has with other pets, the greater the chances he'll overcome his phobias. Try to take Morgan out to visit with other dogs in situations where he won't feel overwhelmed - where there's just one other animal and not much noise and commotion around. If you have a friend who owns a well-trained, smaller dog, try having Morgan work with the other dog, one-on-one.

When Morgan has one of his attacks, give him the sit command - just like you've been doing. If Morgan is repeatedly put in situations such as these, he may gradually adjust and his panic attacks will become fewer and farther between.

You're on the right track, just be persistent.