Why is my parakeet madly in love with a toy?

Q: I have a blue parakeet named Augustus who is madly in love with a little plastic toy. He spends all day making love to it and regurgitating seeds all over it. As fast as I clean up the seeds that he has spread over the toy, he starts again. He used to fly out of the cage and play with us, but these days he just makes love to the toy. Should I remove it from the cage or leave it there?

A: Augustus is obviously a male parakeet who is full of testosterone and has transferred all the affection that he would show to a mate to this toy. That is OK in most situations, but it seems that he has gotten obsessive about the fact that the toy does not return his affections as a real mate would. That is why he is so goofy about this. The unrequited love is causing him anxiety, as it does in most of situations, no matter the species.

The best thing to do is to just get another parakeet as a real mate for him. Two parakeets are as easy to care for as one and are twice the fun. If you cannot do this, then I suggest that you remove the toy from the cage and put it back in with him for half an hour twice a day.

Q: What is your opinion on how old a puppy needs to be before it no longer needs a training crate? Our pit bull is 12 months old now, and we tried to allow him to sleep through the night outside of his crate, but we still find “gifts” on the floor in the morning. If we keep him in the crate, then he can hold it in all night with no problem. Before we had this dog, we raised a yellow Lab, and we were able to do without the crate when the dog was 6 months old.

A: Every dog is different. I have raised puppies for a half century now, and each one is unique and matures at a different pace than the one before. Just like human children, they all have issues in their development. Some are ahead of others in one respect and behind others in different areas of training and maturity.

One point that I learn about training any species of animal is this: If the pet is more proficient in an area than it was a month ago, as long as you continue to do what you are doing now, the pet will be even better a month from now.

Q: My son is allergic to cats and dogs and wants a pet. We were thinking of a hedgehog because they do not have fur. My son has researched them on the internet, and they seem cute and easy to care for. We wanted your opinion on this matter.

A: The answer can only be obtained by asking a doctor who specializes in allergies. I find that about 99 percent of all pet-related allergy information out there that is not presented by a medical professional must be taken as urban legend. Hedgehogs are indeed delightful pets, but they actually do have fur — a very fine layer on their face and underside. Plus the protective spines that cover their heads and backs are just very stiff modified fur. Hedgehogs do lick themselves all over and are covered with dander and allergens just like any other mammal. So the best way for you to determine what species of pet your son can have would be to take him to an allergist and explore the options that are presented based on testing results.

Marc Morrone, a Long Island, N.Y., "petskeeper" for the Martha Stewart franchise, writes a column for Newsday.