Dear Matthew: We are dog-sitting for a friend's dog for the next 5 weeks. We are finding Madison, a white lab, has a really big problem. She barks a lot. What can we do to quiet her down?

We give her plenty of love. She has 6.5 acres to run in with our two dogs. She is well-fed and gets plenty of attention. But then she will be just laying around in the house and start barking. She also barks while outside, and this is nonstop. It is very strange. Can you help? -- Michelle in Cheyenne, Wyo.Dear Michelle: Actually, a barking dog isn't very strange -- some breeds and personalities of dogs are inclined to bark at the drop of a hat if they aren't properly trained.

So what we have here is a people problem. It seems your friend hasn't successfully taught your dog that barking isn't acceptable. Whatever the reason, you can start training the dog to quiet down a bit.

Try putting the dog in a training collar and leash, giving her a solid corrective jerk and a stern "No!" whenever she starts barking. The water gun trick might work, too. Just give the dog a good dousing if when she starts on one of her barking tirades. Once the dog stops, be sure to praise her profusely.

In the long run, however, the best solution to a barking problem is having a generally well-trained animal.

Dear Matthew: My cat can't seem to sleep at night. I'll be settling down in bed, and next thing you know the little critter will be hopping all over my bed. Is she an insomniac or something? A friend of mine suggested I talk to the vet about getting her some sleeping pills. Do you think this is a good idea? -- Anita in Spokane, Wash.

Dear Anita: Sleeping pills? I guess you didn't know that cats are generally nocturnal creatures. The reason your kitty isn't sleeping at night is because her instincts are telling her this is the time to hunt and play.

You'll be relieved to know that, as your cat gets older she will settle down a bit, however. Also, it might help if you spend a half-hour or so each evening playing with your pet in an effort to wear her out.

Dear Matthew: I have a purebred male spayed cocker spaniel named Chace, who is 8 months old.

He pees with excitement when anyone new enters the house. He now is waking us by barking up 5 a.m. to go out and do his business. He has been in a cage every night, but when we give him a little freedom in the kitchen he bites the wallpaper and gets into closets to chew shoes. He doesn't bite or nip, and he's not cross with my 2- or 7-year-old, however.

I need some advice with some training help. -- Kim in Providence, R.I.

Dear Kim: Welcome to the joys of puppyhood! It sounds like your dog has a variety of rather normal problems, which can be solved if you start working with him now, when he's still young and impressionable.

Chewing and destroying things when not carefully watched is what puppies do for fun. To solve this, be sure your little spaniel has plenty of chew toys -- especially since he is probably teething right now.

Shyness and fear are the reasons why your dog is peeing whenever he gets excited. This problem, called submissive wetting, can be dealt with by exposing your puppy to new and different situations in order to make him more comfortable and confident.

As for your dog waking you up to go out in the morning, be sure to limit the amount of food and water Chace gets in the evening. His last meal should be around 6, and he shouldn't get any water after 8. Take him out one last time at 10 and you shouldn't have to worry about him needing to relieve himself at 5 a.m. anymore.

Matthew Margolis is the host of "Woof! It's a Dog's Life," a dog-instruction series airing every Saturday on your local PBS station. Read all of Matthew Margolis' columns at the Creators Syndicate Web site www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Write him at 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. (C) Creators Syndicate Inc.