11/18/2010 at 02:31 PM EST
star Sarah Hyland used to be a dog person trapped in a cat person's body. "I grew up in New York City, and my mom said it wasn't fair to have a dog in an apartment," she tells PEOPLEPets.com. "So we had cats, but I always wanted a dog."
Fast-forward several years, and the 19-year-old actress is the proud owner of Barkley Bixby, a 9-month-old maltipoo. "My boyfriend [High School Musical
's Matt Proko] and I were talking about getting a dog, and he told me we should hold off until we get a bigger place," she explains. "Then, he just surprised me one day. He told me he was picking up some friends at the airport, and instead he picked up Barkley."
Describing her pooch as "amazing," Hyland says that she's trained the dog herself, and loves letting him run around her spacious backyard. "It sucks when I have long hours and can't see him all day, but between my boyfriend and I, it works out," she says. "For now, we're happy with one dog, but I think Barkley needs a playmate soon so he has someone to keep him company."
Perhaps a career would keep him busy? While Hyland doesn't want him to get into acting – "I don't want him to be the world's dog, I just want him to be mine," she says, laughing – she thinks modeling could be in his future. "Every time we take a picture of him he looks right into the lens," she says. "He'd be a great dog model."
Though Barkley is pretty adorable, it's his moniker that's most interesting. "Barkley Bixby comes from Modern Family
," Hyland explains. Barkley is the name of a dog butler figurine belonging to Ed O'Neill's family on the show, while Bixby was the fictional last name given to Ty Burrell's character on last year's Valentine's Day episode. "Matt came up with Barkley, I came up with Bixby," she says.
So does a dog named for the hit show get to visit the set? Not quite yet. "I wouldn't want to leave him alone in my trailer," she says. "I don't want him to start barking or chewing stuff up. We'll wait until he's older."
For now, Hyland just has to hope her TV family, the Dunphys, add a dog to their brood instead. "I really wish that'd happen," she says. "I love dogs, and it'd be so much fun to have one on set!'Meet more celebrity pups on PEOPLEPets.com:Christopher Meloni Uses his Dog to Teach Kids About TolerancePortia de Rossi Credits Horse with Saving Her Life