Country Star Jake Owen's Dog Rides Shotgun on His Tour Bus

09/14/2011 AT 09:00 AM EDT

When country singer Jake Owen goes on tour, he's got a buddy that rides shotgun on his bus – his English bulldog, Merle!

"I like to take my dog on the road," he tells PEOPLE. "He stays up front; he likes it there."

The pooch, who turns 1 in October, is Owen's new copilot, replacing 3-year-old Vern, the star's other bulldog, who grew tired of the lifestyle on wheels.

"Vern was out for a few years, but we retired him from the road," Owen explains. "He became lonesome and ornery and mean. So it's about time for Merle to really go out there and take on the life of a desperado."

Click on the video above to hear more about Merle's favorite places to sleep on the bus.

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