"He has a little bit more of a connection with her — I think he associates Lauren with saving him because he got to spend the first handful of days just around her," the country star tells PEOPLE

By Benjamin VanHoose and Julie Jordan
November 18, 2019 03:45 PM
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Chris Lane knows he isn’t top dog in puppy Cooper’s eyes — that honor goes to the country star’s wife, Lauren Bushnell.

The couple — who tied the knot last month — officially made the beagle-hound mix part of their family in August after serving as foster parents to the puppy that fell into their arms over the summer.

“He has a little bit more of a connection with her — I think he associates Lauren with saving him because he got to spend the first handful of days just around her,” Lane, 35, tells PEOPLE for this week’s Sexiest Man Alive issue.

The “I Don’t Know About You” singer adds: “He’s a mama’s boy, there’s no doubt about that.”

Watch the full episode of Sexiest Man Alive: Dudes and Dogs, streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

Chris Lane and Cooper
Heather Hazzan

Lane first met the dog when he returned home from tour to find Cooper roaming around the Nashville home he shares with his wife, a Bachelor alum.

“I was out on the road, and I got back on a Sunday afternoon. I walked in and I see a puppy running around our living room,” he recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘Okay, we don’t have a dog … whose dog is this?'”

A friend, Lane says, had stumbled upon two dogs abandoned at a local dog park, left behind with a note from their previous owners who could no longer take care of them.

The original plan was to watch over one of the dogs for the weekend, but Lane and Bushnell, 29, quickly “fell in love” with the pup and decided to keep him.

Lauren Bushnell, Cooper and Chris Lane
Randy Shaffer

Lane was hesitant about having a pet at first, though, because of how frequently his career keeps him away from home — he’s currently headlining his cross-country Big, Big Plans tour.

But now, the performer is often accompanied by Cooper on the road, and the dog has even made a few guest appearances onstage at the concerts.

“He actually loves jumping on the bus and going out and seeing new things,” Lane says of the dog’s enjoyment of the touring lifestyle.

Of course, Lane finds away to make sure Cooper isn’t constantly cooped up inside a tour bus 24/7.

“One of the things I ask my tour manager to do when we get to a new city is, ‘Can you find a dog park?'” Lane says. “That way we can get him off [the bus], let him go run around and play with other dogs, at least for an hour to get some energy out of him.”

When Bushnell confirmed that the couple had deemed Cooper a foster fail, the former reality star wrote that the decision wasn’t a surprise to those who knew her.

“It’s without shock to anyone who knows me well but, we have decided to make Cooper a permanent part of our family,” she captioned in an Instagram post in August. “So happy we get to love you Coop- now that we have adopted you I’ll start working on your dad and finding you a brother/sister, but for now it’s the three of us!”

For more on the Sexiest Man Alive — and all the hottest guys in Hollywood — click here and pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands now.