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Navigating the XL Bully Ban in the UK: A Guide for Responsible Owners

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Tan  XL bully with white markings wearing a harness and playing with his owner

On 31st October 2023, the UK Government implemented a significant ban on XL Bully dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, a response to increasing numbers of attacks on members of the public. This article aims to provide XL Bully owners in the UK with a compassionate and informative guide on how to navigate the new regulations, secure exemptions, and ensure the safety and well-being of their beloved pets.

Although I'm based in Spain, I work remotely with several clients in the UK and can understand how overwhelming the entire situation must seem, which is why I hope this blog can help clarify the situation.

The XL Bully Ban in the UK, effective 31st December 2023, brings forth restrictions on various activities related to XL Bully dogs. These include breeding, selling, advertising, exchanging, gifting, rehoming, abandoning, or allowing them to stray in England and Wales. Having them in public without a muzzle or off-leash will also be considered a criminal offence. Owners have until 31st January 2024, to register their dogs. After this date, owning an unregistered XL Bully becomes illegal.

How do I know if my dog is categorised as an XL Bully?

To determine if your dog falls under the XL Bully classification, you'll need to consult the official guidance provided by the UK Government. The characteristics include a large, muscular body, a blocky head, and specific height requirements for males and females. I understand that this is a difficult time for bully owners, but it is up to individuals to self-identify whether your dog may be an XL Bully and to prepare for compliance.

"The ban only applies to XL Bully dogs. There are other established breeds such as those recognised by the UK Kennel Club that may meet some of the characteristics of the XL Bully breed type. These are not within scope of the ban.
A suspected XL Bully breed type does not need to fit the physical description perfectly. If your dog meets the minimum height measurements and a substantial number of the characteristics in the official definition, it could be considered an XL Bully breed type.
If you think your dog meets the minimum height measurements and has a substantial amount of the physical characteristics set out in the official definition, your dog may be in scope of the ban. This includes if it was not sold as an XL Bully."

General impression

Large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. Powerfully built individual.


  • Adult male from 20in (51 cm) at the withers

  • Adult female from 19in (48cm) at the withers


  • Heavy, large and broad

  • The length from the tip of the nose to a well-defined stop (indentation between muzzle and the head) is equal to around a 1/3 of the length from the stop to the back of the head

  • Muzzle blocky or slightly squared to fall away below the eyes

  • Topline of muzzle straight

  • Prominent cheek muscles with strong, well-defined jaws and lips semi-close

  • Often having prominent wrinkles on face

  • Nose is large with well opened nostrils


Level or scissor bite.


  • Heavy, muscular, slightly arched, tapering from the shoulders to the base of the skull

  • Medium in length


  • Shoulder blades are long, well-muscled and well laid back

  • Upper arm length is about equal to the length of the shoulder blades and joined at a 35 to 45 angle to the ground

  • Front legs straight, strong and very muscular with dog standing high on the pasterns (area between feet and ankles)

  • Elbows set close to the body

  • Distance from the withers to elbows about the same as the distance from the elbow to the bottom of the feet


  • Heavily-muscled

  • Large, blocky body giving impression of great power for size

  • Broad, deep chest with well sprung ribs

  • Chest may be wider than deep

  • Topline level and straight

  • Loin short and firm

  • Generally appears square shaped from point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks compared with the withers (tallest point on the dogs body excluding head and shoulders) to the ground


  • Strong, muscular and broad

  • Thighs well developed with thick musculature

  • From behind, both pasterns are typically straight and parallel to each other

  • Muscular development, angulation and width in balance with forequarters


  • Rounded, medium in size and in proportion to body

  • Compact and well arched


  • Medium length and low set

  • Tapers to a point to end at about the level of the hocks

  • Generally assumes a straight or pump handle shape when dog relaxed


Glossy, smooth, close, single

These are the images that the UK Government website uses as an example of an XL Bully:

"These pictures are indicative of what an XL Bully dog looks like. A dog does not have to look exactly like this to conform with the standard.
Note: some of these dogs have cropped ears. The cropping of a dog’s ears is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006."

Understanding "Out of Control" in UK Law:

In the context of the XL Bully Ban and broader dog ownership regulations in the UK, it's crucial to grasp the concept of a dog being considered "out of control." According to UK law, a dog is deemed out of control not only in cases of biting but also if someone feels threatened by the dog's behaviour. This means that even if a dog doesn't physically harm someone, the perception of a threat is sufficient grounds for reporting. Responsible owners should be vigilant about their dog's behaviour in public spaces, ensuring they are well-mannered and not causing distress to others. Awareness of this aspect of the law is integral to maintaining a harmonious environment for both dog owners and the general public.

If you need any help with your dog's behaviour, I would urge you to get in touch with a qualified, insured dog trainer. Please bear in mind that there may be restrictions on XL Bullies attending group classes, as some insurance companies are no longer covering trainers for working with the breed.

Stages of Compliance:

**Stage 1 (31st October 2023 - 31st January 2024):**

- Apply for an exemption certificate.

- Begin gentle muzzle and lead training.

- Cease breeding XL Bully dogs.

- Neuter and microchip if not already done.

**Stage 2 (31st December 2023):**

- Selling, abandoning, giving away, or breeding XL Bully dogs becomes illegal.

- Dogs must be microchipped.

- Dogs must be on a lead and muzzled in public.

**Stage 3 (1st February 2024):**

- Ownership of unregistered XL Bully dogs becomes illegal.

- Compliance requires neutering, microchipping, muzzling, and keeping the dog on a lead in public.

- Third-party insurance is mandatory.

- Owners must be over 16 years old.

**Applying for a Certificate of Exemption:**

Owners seeking exemption must:

- Approach the process with care.

- Neuter and microchip your dog.

- Keep the dog on a lead and muzzled in public.

- Maintain the dog in a secure place.

- Acquire third-party insurance.

- Be over 16 years old.

- You can pay the fee and apply for the certificate at this link.

- You'll need your dog's microchip details and insurance details to hand.

Owners have until 31st January 2024, to apply for a Certificate of Exemption with a £92.40 application fee. The fee is per dog.

The UK government has provided an email address to offer support with the process: Companion Animal Welfare Team

**Consequences of Non-Compliance:**

These changes may be overwhelming, so please take the time to ensure that you have complied with every step of the process. Failure to adhere to the regulations may result in criminal charges, an unlimited fine, and possible seizure of the dog. Neutering is compulsory by 30th June 2024, for dogs over 1 year old on 31st January 2024, and by 31st December 2024, for dogs under 1 year old.

While the XL Bully ban presents challenges for caring owners, adherence to the guidelines is crucial to protect both your pets and the public. Starting the training process now and proactively engaging with the new regulations ensures a smooth transition while safeguarding the well-being of existing XL Bully dogs in the UK.


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