December 07, 2010 12:45 PM

When Mario Lopez first gave a voice to The Dog Who Saved Christmas, he wasn’t a pet owner, but he already had an instinct for what a Labrador retriever might sound like if he could talk.

“I’ve always been a huge dog lover,” Lopez tells PEOPLEPets.com. “I’ve seen basically everything a dog is able to do, so I was well-prepared for my role.”

Lopez is back to reprise his role as Zeus in The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation, where he’ll get into some trouble when he falls in love with a poodle named Bella, voiced by Paris Hilton. This time around, Lopez had some more experience to bring to his performance – in between the two movies, he launched an extensive campaign to find a dog for himself, and eventually brought home a French bulldog.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better dog than Julio Cesar Chavez Lopez,” he says. “Julio thinks he runs the house. He’s very protective – and also very gassy.”

Julio, who has been participating in dog shows –and has even won Best in Breed – had to contend with a big life change in September, when Lopez and his girlfriend, Courtney Mazza, welcomed their first child, a daughter named Gia.

“Julio has been suffering from post-partum depression,” Lopez says. “He always vies for my attention –I consider him my first-born. At first he was difficult, but he’s better now and loving on Gia.”

For Christmas this year, Lopez’s “first-born” will be getting “lots of special treats, different bones and toys.” The pooch will also be getting dressed up for the holidays, most likely in an elf costume. He won’t be watching The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation, however.

According to Lopez, Julio “falls asleep watching television all the time.”

Find The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation on DVD in stores on Dec. 7.

Read more about celebrities and their pets on PEOPLEPets.com:
Eric Church’s Min Pin Has a ‘Mighty Heart’
Yankees Star Nick Swisher Digs Small Dogs

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