How to Introduce A New Dog to Your Resident Dog with Parallel Walks
Step 14 of 15 in the Dogly New Pet Channel
with Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals, Training Advocate

Parallel walks: why are they important & useful?

Dogs are social beings, living their happiest, healthiest lives when they develop secure relationships with each family member in your home - humans and dogs. For your new dog and resident dogs to be best friends, it usually takes time and and plenty of awareness of everyone's comfort zones.

That's why parallel walking is a such a useful tool for pet parents to ease a new dog into his or her joyful new life with other dog family members.

Why parallel walks work whether you're introducing a new puppy or an adult dog

Parallel walks create social time for dogs with space to have positive introductions as dogs meet, get to know each other and build positive relationships in their own time, at their own pace, on their own comfort-zone terms.

When to use parallel walks

What makes parallel walks a favorite go-to tool for professional dog trainers and behaviorists is their versatility in so many dog-dog situations. Once you master parallel walks to use in introducing a new dog to your current pups, you may be surprised how many times you'll put this technique to work for your dogs in other situations.

Give me an example... or a few

Here are times when you can find having parallel walks in your repertoire super useful, even a lifesaver for dogs, new and old:

  • Of course, what we're focusing on now - creating positive introductions for a resident dog and a dog you’re planing to adopt or just adopted (or a dog you're fostering who will, at least temporarily, be part of your family)
  • Helping your dog with behavioral issues like reactivity or fear with introductions to other dogs
  • Supporting dogs who live in the same home who’ve had an altercation of some kind (it happens!) and you want to make positive, safe reintroductions
  • Guiding your dog or puppy to learn social skills
  • Developing positive associations out and about with other dogs
  • And if you're involved with a shelter or rescue, parallel walks are a great way to integrate dogs at a shelter with other dogs for comfortable stays together and to reinforce positive behavior for exercise and play with each other.


The goal of parallel walks 

At the heart of it all, your central goal is to create positive introductions between dogs, going mindfully at the dogs' pace while remaining under the threshold for all dogs involved.

Pro tip: where to do a parallel walk

Important to setting up your dog (and you!) for success is choosing a neutral low-distraction location. If you're adopting and you've already done an introduction at the shelter or rescue, do another parallel walk in your neighborhood in a quiet area.

Pro tip: where NOT to do a parallel walk 

Because, again, you always want to set your dog up for success, you want to avoid any busy, distracting locations. Avoid doing your training walks at a dog park, a home, or a busy location where you might encounter more people, dogs, bicycles, skateboards, etc.

How to do your parallel walk

Let's take it step by step to getting your new dog and your other dog comfortable together with a parallel walk. If you have more than one current dog in your family, you'll want to take your dogs separately. (You will need a second person to help you handle one of the dogs.)

Step 1: Meet at a neutral location.

Have between 10 feet to 50 feet between the dogs.

Step 2: Ideally have the calmest dog in front at a distance where the other dog does not react.

If the other dog does react, increase the distance between the two dogs.

Step 3: Make sure both handlers (dog parents) have loose leashes.

You want a smiling U in the leash, and no tension in the leash, which increases the tension in the dog.

Step 4: If you’re in a big park, have both dogs on long leashes.

You want them to feel they have more freedom in their movements.

Step 5: Aim to allow the dog in the back to smell everywhere the other dog has been.

Praise, mark, and treat every time the dog in the back actively smells these locations. Your "following" dog is gathering information and processing it to get familiar and comfortable with your other dog.

Step 6: DO NOT walk fast - keep it slow and even try to slow down your regular walking pace.

That encourages your dog to slow down as well, helping your dog to calm down and stay calmer.

Step 7: Every time either one of the dogs looks at the other, mark and treat.

Step 8: If either of the dogs bark at the other, change direction, do a simple game like the find-it game and increase the distance between the two dogs.

Step 9: Remember, no pressure, this can be one walk and done for now!

Remember parallel walks can be multiple sessions! You can stop for the day and start fresh the next day if you feel your new dog has had enough stimulation.

Step 10: Once the dogs show no stress behaviors, switch the dogs so that the calmer dog can go in the back.

Now your calmer dog gets to sniff all the scents and pick up information to get familiar with the other dog.

Step 11: Always use the environment to help you create sniffing opportunities that will slow dogs down.

You could toss a treat and ask your dog to find it or do small scatter feeds to let your dog destress with sniffs to search for the treats. Grass makes a great snuffle mat!

Step 12: Anytime things are going really well have both handlers across from each other on a road with at least 5 yards distance.

Keep the dogs on their opposite sides - do not have the dogs next to each other.

Step 13: If your dogs do try to greet- only allow the dogs to sniff or greet for 3 seconds.

Step 14: If things go really well, decrease the distance between the two people and let the dogs walk side by side.

These walks can take 1 time, 1 week, or even 1 month for the dogs to become comfortable!


If/when the dogs show positive signs they do want to greet each other, what's next...

Remember to keep it to under 3 seconds. Your goal is that they smell each other on the walk, then walk together, and get to know each other slowly. Then you're ready to have them greet in an enclosed space OFF LEASH - greeting too much too fast, especially on a first meeting, can lead to reactivity/dog going over the threshold.

Watch-outs on your parallel walks (& always)

For dogs, body language is the earliest predictor of what they're feeling. Understanding their body language helps you anticipate how to manage their interactions.

Behaviors to AVOID on a parallel walk (fear and stress signals)

  • Stiff, tense bodies & body posture
  • Ears pinned back
  • Alert posture/leaning forward, stiff forelegs
  • High stiff tail
  • Whale eyes (showing the whites of the eyes)
  • High stiff wagging/vibrating tail (indicates over-arousal)
  • Raised fur / hair standing up / hackling
  • Cowering
  • Tail tucking
  • Tense facial features like a closed tense mouth and wrinkly forehead
  • One dog is fine but the other dog is trying to hide when being looked at by the other dog
  • Freezing (staying still for more than 3 seconds)
  • Slow walking like have weights on their paws
  • Increased panting
  • Lip curling
  • Air snapping
  • Barking/growling/lunging

If these behaviors happen, then you’re too close - MOVE FAR AWAY ASAP!

Increase distance from the other dog to where your dog does not show any stress signals. For some dogs, moving away to where they aren't showing stress signals and can do a reliable cue can be 3 feet, for other dogs this can be 30 feet away and for some dogs it's behind a barrier like a house or a car. These behaviors indicate your dog is over the threshold, reacting and not thinking, and that he or she is very stressed.


If during the parallel walk, your dog shows these behaviors, take time to do a scatter feed or to do a few fun games. Then have the helper dog be at a distance walking back and forth while you do these games/scatter feeds to end on a successful note, and that will be the end of the walk.


Next time, conduct the parallel walk at a much greater distance from the other dog.


Behaviors to PRAISE on a parallel walk (self-calming signals)

In addition to the watch-outs, you want to keep an eye out for these positive behaviors so you can immediately praise and reward them:

  • Curving (dogs walking around in a curve when saying hello to another dog)
  • Sniffing the ground
  • Looking away/moving away when uncomfortable
  • Yawning
  • Lip-licking
  • Lifting one paw (front foreleg)
  • Sitting down


If these behaviors happen, slightly increase the distance to where your dog feels more comfortable and has a looser body.

Why should you praise calming signals?

Because your dog is letting you know that he/she is subtly stressed/fearful/uncomfortable. When your dog communicates these signals move away to where they have a looser body, play some games to refocus like the find-it game, and continue the walk.

Behaviors you’re AIMING FOR on a parallel walk

  • Wide open mouth
  • Play bow
  • Loose, wiggly body
  • Loose, wiggly tail
  • Ears and eyes are soft


All this means your new dog is content. At this point, you can decrease the distance between you and the other dog.


From walk to integration into indoor family life

Once your dogs are comfortable on a walk, then you're ready to slowly begin integrating them into everyday indoor life with your family.


Steps to successful integration at home

After the parallel walks go really well and the two dogs are showing loose, wiggly bodies, you have two options for integration:

  1. Use a baby gate at home to separate the dogs as they begin to get comfortable inside with your supervision.
  2. Or, have both dogs on a long leash in an enclosed space with two handlers. Closely supervise the dogs and don’t have any toys, chew toys, or high value treats around.

How to do Option A with the baby gate: 

Have a baby gate separating the two dogs, let both of the dogs smell each other through the gate. If they start barking at each other through the gate, cover the gate with a sheet and try the introduction through parallel walks again. If both dogs are fine, slowly take away the baby gate.

How to do Option B with leashes:

If the dogs are on a leash have them do a few games to focus them on you while in the other dog’s presence and let them sniff. At this time, if you think the dogs are ok, drop the leashes but be nearby with delicious tasting treats if you need to call them away. Once you know they’re ok, take the leashes off.

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Next up in the New Pet Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to use parallel walks with your new dog, enjoy every moment with your expanded family! Continue on to the next guide to learn how to enjoy dog playdates safely.

And if you need more individualized help with your pup, you can reach out to me to work 1-on-1 with you here on Dogly for any training and behavioral needs or jump into Dogly's New Pet Channel to learn more to support your new family member!

Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ruby because she brings her rescue experiences to our dogs - to increase our bond, decrease behavior issues.

Ruby guides you

New Dogs - Manners - Enrichment - Reactivity - Barking - Walking

Ruby is certified

Low Stress Handling - Fear Free Veterinary Professional - Fear Free Shelters - Shelter Welfare - Enrichment - & Canine Behaviour