The X Factor

Simon Cowell Feels Puppy Love for Paula Abdul

08/06/2011 at 02:30 PM EDT

Paula Abdul Unhappy Away from Me, Simon Says
Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell
Brewer-Whittle/Splash News Online

Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul

Is Paula Abdul a man's best friend?

She is if that man is Simon Cowell, who explains why they'll be resuming their former American Idol positions at the judges' table on his upcoming show, The X Factor.

"It's like owning a dog and the dog will only sit next to its master," Cowell, 51, tells PEOPLE. "It's comfortable. If she's away from me, she pines. She's unhappy. She has to sit next to me."

Their close bond has given Cowell a chance to see many sides of Abdul, 49, and, fortunately, he appreciates her personality.

"I like loopy," he says. "I can be a bit loopy at times, and I can hang out with her socially because she gets on with my friends. We have a similar sense of humor and I tell her there are no rules on this show, so don’t worry about how you want to behave."

Aside from the way they mesh as pals, Cowell also sought out Abdul for the show because of her professionalism.

"She has got an opportunity to prove she does really know what she's talking about," he says. "She's good at spotting stars."

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