Tony Dovolani (inset) and his dog, Louie.
Courtesy Tony Dovolani; Inset: Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic
05/01/2012 at 04:45 PM EDT
He was "destroyed"
when his partner Martina Navratilova got the boot the first week of Dancing with the Stars
, but Tony Dovolani rebounded quickly – thanks to a furry friend.
The dancing pro surprised his children
– Luana, 6, and twins Adrian and Ariana, 3 – with a new dog when he returned home.
"When I came back from this season, I showed up with a puppy and they went nuts," Dovolani tells PEOPLE. "They've always wanted a puppy."
Dovolani did his research before bringing Louie, a male Pekapoo – a cross between a Pekingese and a poodle – home to Stamford, Conn., where he's opening a dance studio with Dancing
pals Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy in May.
"When my daughter turned six, I started looking around," he says. "I had to be very smart about what kind of dog because we wanted something that would match our family."
His search ended when he met "calm" and "very smart" Louie, now 4 months old. "He basically won me over," he recalls. "When I walked in a room to meet him, he came over, sat in my lap, looked at me and just laid down and fell asleep. I said, 'Oh, you are perfect!'"
The dog may have started out as a gift for his kids, but Dovolani has gained a new friend, too. "He talks to you, it's amazing," he says. "He looks at you like he understands. He looks at you and gauges his mood based on yours."