Mark Wahlberg Has 4 Dogs — Plus a Canine Costar in His New Movie — Even Though He's Allergic (Exclusive)

The actor plays an adventure racer who rescues a stray dog in 'Arthur the King'

<p>Paul Citone/Variety via Getty; Rhea Wahlberg/Instagram</p> Mark Wahlberg and his four dogs

Paul Citone/Variety via Getty; Rhea Wahlberg/Instagram

Mark Wahlberg and his four dogs

For his new movie Arthur the King, Mark Wahlberg happily ignored that old showbiz adage: Never work with children or animals.

His main costar in the heartwarming drama — based on the true story of adventure racer Mikael Lindnord, who bonded with a stray dog while trekking through Ecuador — is Ukai, an adorable Australian shepherd-Border collie-Bouvier mix.

“You got to accept the fact that the dog's going to show you up a little bit,” says Wahlberg, who has top billing but knows Ukai is the true star. “He was very good at what he does.”

At this stage of his life, Wahlberg, 52, is happy to cede the spotlight to a furry friend.

Related: Mark Wahlberg Bonds with a Stray Dog Under Extreme Circumstances in Arthur the King Trailer (Exclusive)

After more than three decades in entertainment — first as a hip-hop star and frontman of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, now as a respected Oscar-nominated actor — Wahlberg prefers to play a starring role at home: devoted family man.

<p>Carlos Rodriguez/Courtesy of Lionsgate</p> Mark Wahlberg and canine costar Ukai in 'Arthur the King'

Carlos Rodriguez/Courtesy of Lionsgate

Mark Wahlberg and canine costar Ukai in 'Arthur the King'

Wahlberg, who shares children Ella Rae, 21, Michael, 17, Brendan, 15, and Grace, 14, with wife of 15 years, model Rhea Durham, 45, tells PEOPLE he’s “absolutely” choosier about what projects take him away from his family, especially after last year’s actors’ strike, which lasted nearly four months.

Related: Mark Wahlberg Raises Awareness About Pet Adoption Alongside His Arthur the King Canine Costar: Watch

“The one blessing was it allowed me to be home with my family,” he says. “You get used to being at home.”

Two years ago, the Wahlberg crew moved to Nevada, and they share their home with the four family dogs, even though Wahlberg himself is allergic. During his interview with PEOPLE, he sneezes a few times since his Pomsky (Siberian Husky and Pomeranian mix) Jojo was around.

“I'm allergic to dogs and I have four of them,” says Wahlberg, who takes medication daily to help. “I’m covered in dog hair right now.”

His other pups include in Boston Terrier Lola, Pomeranian Champ, and another Pomsky, Penny.

<p>Mark Wahlberg Instagram</p> Mark Wahlberg and his family

Mark Wahlberg Instagram

Mark Wahlberg and his family

Who’s assigned to doggy duty in the Wahlberg household? “That depends,” he says, “but the one who is in most control and actually can handle them all the time and they listen to, is my daughter Grace.”

Related: Mark Wahlberg Says He ‘Fell in Love’ with His Arthur the King Canine Costar: 'I Tried to Bribe the Trainer' (Exclusive)

"She’s good with animals. She’s the authority figure in the house,” he continues.

Wahlberg knows his way with man’s best friend as well. While filming Arthur the King, he bonded with Ukai through “bribery,” he says. Ukai was Wahlberg’s neighbor in the Dominican Republic, where he filmed the movie.

“When his trainer would let him out of the house, I would whistle to him and he would run ahead of her,” says Wahlberg. “And by the time she got over to the house, he had already had a couple steaks and a couple of pieces of chicken and we became fast friends.”

Arthur the King is in theaters Friday.

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