Nate Berkus’s Designs Are Going to the Dogs

Nate Berkus

Courtesy Nate Berkus

updated 08/15/2013 AT 3:10 PM ET

originally published 08/16/2013 AT 11:00 AM ET

Interior designer Nate Berkus can’t say enough about his best friend, Tucker. He’s loyal, affectionate, happy-go-lucky – and he likes to chase squirrels.

“Tucker is a mutt,” Berkus tells PEOPLE of his dog, who is part cocker spaniel. “We go out to dog parks all the time, and I let him run around to chase squirrels. I don’t let him actually catch them, of course, but I’m not sure what he would do if he caught one. It’s all about the chase for Tucker.”

Watching his best furry bud at play is what prompted Berkus, 41, to join the creative team for the 2013 Beneful Dream Dog Park contest, which asks contestants to submit ideas for a $500,000 Dream Dog Park. Berkus will help choose the winner, and design a park in the city of the winning contestant.

“We’re looking for big and grand ideas,” says Berkus. “There needs to be opportunity for the dogs to run around, and also place for people to come together. This is more than a place for dogs to play; it’s a place for communities to share.”

Though the task is a departure from his usual area of expertise, Berkus plans on drawing from past experience, and the fact that he “grew up around dogs.”

“I’m always looking for new opportunities,” says the star, who will host NBC’s American Dream Builders in the fall. “Maybe I’ll start expanding into pet designs.”

And just to be clear: That potential expansion extends to the feline kind, as well.

“I just never had them,” he says of cats, “but anyone who has animal companions that they love, I say more power to them!”