How does the Dangerous Dogs Act affect my dog?

Whether you own a large dog or a miniature breed, and however calm and friendly your dog is, the Dangerous Dogs Act still applies to you.

Under the Act, it's illegal for a dog to be 'out of control' or to bite or attack someone. The legislation also makes it an offence if a person is worried or afraid (the term is 'reasonable apprehension') that a dog may bite them. So it's important to ensure that your dog is kept under control at all times and in all places.

Whilst we don't think the Dangerous Dogs Act (particularly Section 1 which applies breed-specific legislation) is effective in reducing dog bites, we do believe that all dog owners should be responsible for their dogs behaviour around people, other dogs and other animals.

So here's what you need to know about the Act:

The Act includes incidents on private property

Since 1991 it has been illegal for dogs to be 'out of control in a public place'. In 2014 the law was amended to include incidents on private property - so inside your home and others' homes, including front and back gardens.

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:

  • Injures someone
  • Makes someone worried that it might injure them

What if my dog is protecting me from an intruder?

The law does provides a defence if your dog attacks an intruder in your own home.

However, rather confusingly, if your dog attacks an intruder in your garden this is an offence which could land you in court.

What happens if my dog is attacked by another dog? Is that an offence?

It is an offence if your dog attacks an assistance dog but attacks on other animals including pet dogs are not. However, a court could prosecute if a person believes they would have been injured if they tried to stop a dog attacking their animal. If your dog is attacked by another dog, the incident should still be reported to the police immediately.

What steps should I take to ensure I am complying with the law?

Take precautions
Small dog in a doorway, barking. Flickr / Brian Moriarty

You know your dog better than anyone else. If your dog reacts to the doorbell it is sensible to introduce a routine for managing them when it rings. For example, you could train your dog with reward based methods to go to their bed when they hear the doorbell.Postal workers, utility providers and other authorised visitors to your property should be able to carry out their work without encountering and feeling threatened by your dog.

You should also ensure that your garden is secure with locked gates. This is not only to reduce the likelihood of your dog escaping, but to prevent trespassers who could cause an incident in which you would be liable.

Visitors to your home

If you allow visitors to interact with your dog, make sure your dog is comfortable and can retreat to his own personal space where he won't be bothered if needed.

This is particularly important in the case of visiting children as children's body language can be confusing to dogs. For example, children tend to want to make very close facial contact with dogs which they may find threatening.


Ensure your dog responds to basic commands so that you can keep them under reasonable control when in public places and in your home. Take a look at our advice on finding a suitable dog trainer. Taking part in classes will not only help you keep your dog under control but will strengthen your relationship.

Seek advice

If you are concerned about your dog's behaviour, take a look at our guide to finding a behaviourist.

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