In the UK, there are certain breeds of dogs that may be required to wear a muzzle in public places under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. This act was introduced to protect the public from dog attacks by prohibiting four specific breeds and placing restrictions on other dogs that may be dangerous.

When Must Dogs Be Muzzled?

Dogs that require muzzling must wear one in any public place under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. This includes:

  • Streets, parks, beaches, or other outdoor areas
  • Shops, markets, public buildings, or other indoor establishments
  • Public transportation like buses, trains, taxis
  • Veterinarian offices, grooming salons, or other pet service locations

Dogs that must be muzzled should also wear one during walks or exercise outdoors in case other people or animals are encountered. The muzzle may be removed when safely back within private property not accessible by the public.


There are certain situations where a normally muzzled dog may have special allowances to go without. This includes:

  • At dog shows or competitions under proper supervision
  • While being examined or treated at a veterinary clinic
  • While actively working, if the dog is a police, military, or service dog
  • Within a secure dog exercise field or park designated for muzzled breeds

In these exceptions, the owner still retains responsibility for properly controlling their dog. The muzzle must go back on once the activity ends. For the best dog muzzle options in the UK, consider exploring our top recommendations.

Banned Breeds That Must Be Muzzled

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans four breeds in the UK - Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, and Fila Brasileiros. Dogs that are suspected to be one of these breeds must be muzzled and kept on a lead in public, even if they are well-trained and non-aggressive. The act also makes it illegal to breed, sell, exchange, or gift these dogs.

Pit Bull Terriers

Pit Bulls have a reputation for being aggressive, tenacious dogs with a strong bite. This powerful terrier breed was historically used for bull baiting and dog fighting, contributing to perceptions of danger. As a result, Pit Bull breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier are subject to major restrictions under the Dangerous Dogs Act. They must be muzzled and leashed in public at all times.

Japanese Tosas

The Japanese Tosa is a large mastiff breed that can weigh up to 200 pounds. These dogs were originally bred in Japan for fighting purposes. While not inherently aggressive, their size and strength mean a Tosa can do serious damage if it does attack. For public safety, they must be muzzled when in public spaces.

Dogo Argentinos

Dogo Argentinos are pack-hunting dogs originally bred in Argentina for big-game hunting, like boar and puma. They have a very strong prey drive and biting power. Due to their potential for aggression towards other animals and people, Dogo Argentinos must be muzzled and controlled on a lead in public areas.

Fila Brasileiros

Also known as the Brazilian Mastiff, Fila Brasileiros are massive guard dogs that can weigh over 100 pounds. They were bred to track, restrain, and protect, with instinctive wariness of strangers. Due to their potential for aggression, especially towards unfamiliar people, Filas must be muzzled when in public spaces under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Other Dogs That May Need Muzzling

Aside from the banned breeds, there are other dogs in the UK that may require a muzzle in public situations for safety. This includes dogs that have shown aggressive or dangerous behavior before.

Dogs That Have Attacked Before

If a dog has demonstrated aggressive behavior and attacked a person or other animal before, authorities may require that it be muzzled for public safety. This helps prevent any further attacks by that specific dog, regardless of its breed. The muzzle requirement usually lasts for the remainder of the dog's life.

Guard Dogs

Some dogs are used as guard dogs or protection dogs. Breeds like Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers are common examples. While many are well-trained, their instinct is to be wary of strangers and defend their territory. Requiring guard dogs to wear a muzzle in public removes their ability to bite or attack.

Hunting Dogs

Sporting and hunting dog breeds may be required to wear a muzzle in public spaces to prevent them from chasing or attacking other animals. For example, Greyhounds have such a strong prey drive they may instinctively go after smaller dogs, cats or wildlife. A muzzle prevents this harm while allowing exercise.

Unruly or Aggressive Dogs

Any type of dog that acts unruly, over-excited, or aggressive may need a muzzle for management. Even if the breed is not considered dangerous, an individual dog's behavior and temperament dictates whether a muzzle is necessary for that particular dog when in public areas. This helps keep others safe.

Enforcing Muzzle Requirements

In the UK, it's the owner's legal responsibility to make sure any dog that needs a muzzle wears one in public. Police, public transport staff, and other officials have the right to order owners to muzzle their dogs or remove them from the premises. Refusing to comply can result in fines or having the dog taken away.

Fines and Penalties

There are financial penalties for breaching muzzle rules under the Dangerous Dogs Act:

  • Failing to muzzle a banned breed in public - Up to £5,000 fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment
  • Failing to muzzle a dangerous dog - Up to £2,500 fine
  • Failure to control a muzzled dog properly in public - Up to £2,500 fine

Fines increase for subsequent offenses. Police or courts may also order forfeiture of the dog or destruction if it poses a significant public threat.

Reporting Unmuzzled Dogs

Anyone can report an unmuzzled dog that they believe poses a danger to people or other animals. This includes banned breeds being walked without a muzzle or dogs acting aggressively. Make reports to the police non-emergency number with specifics like location, breed description, owner details, and observed behavior. This helps authorities investigate and enforce muzzling rules.

Responsible Muzzle Use

While some dogs must be muzzled in public for safety, muzzles should still be used in a humane manner. Consider these tips for responsible muzzle use:

  • Get dogs accustomed to wearing a muzzle gradually through training with positive reinforcement.
  • Ensure the muzzle properly fits your dog's face and does not obstruct breathing.
  • Your dog should still be able to pant, drink water and take treats while wearing the muzzle.
  • Monitor your dog while muzzled and remove the muzzle once safely away from the public for breaks.
  • Never leave a muzzled dog unattended or allow long periods of wear.
  • A muzzle is not a substitute for training. Address any underlying behavior issues with professional help.


In summary, the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act mandates that certain banned breeds must be muzzled in public at all times. Additionally, any individual dog that displays aggression or has attacked before may also be required to wear a muzzle for public safety. With responsible use and proper precautions, muzzles can help control dogs that potentially pose a threat and allow them to still exercise and socialize under an owner's supervision. Requiring muzzles is an important means of preventing harm to people, pets, and other animals when out in public areas.