Guard Dogs

A guard dog is considered to be a dangerous dog under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 in Victoria.

The dog is a dangerous dog for life, even if it stops being used for the purpose of guarding non-residential premises.

The owner of the business guarded by the dog is legally considered to be the owner of the dog.

Guard dogs have specific requirements due to their status as dangerous dogs, however, there are still minimum standards of care that all dogs must be provided with.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 sets out the offences for failing to properly care and provide for a dog. This legislation includes requirements such as provision of proper and sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary treatment.


All dogs in Victoria must be registered with the local council in which they are located including guard dogs on non-residential premises. If the owner lives in a different municipality to the location of the guard dog, then the dog must be registered with the Council where the dog is located.

Full fees apply to registration of a Guard dog.


The owner of a dangerous dog (guard dog) must notify the Council within 24 hours if:

  • The dog is missing
  • The ownership of the dog changes
  • The owner's address changes
  • The place where the dog is kept or the premises being guarded by the dog changes.

This keeps Council informed of the location of dangerous dogs at all times. The Council will inspect the premises to ensure requirements are being adhered to.

The Domestic Animal Regulations 2005 provide for and ensure a state-wide standard relating to the management of dangerous dogs. 

Microchip identification

The owner of the dog must ensure that the dog is implanted with an approved microchip in accordance with the regulations.

Details of the microchip number must be given to Council when requested and the dog will likely be scanned by Council to ensure the microchip is working.


While a microchip is a permanent form of identification, it is not visible. Dangerous dogs must also wear a prescribed collar at all times. The collar is specially designed to be visible from a distance and reflective at night. 

dog collar

This means that at all times a dangerous dog can be recognised from a distance, warning a person of the potential danger of the dog.

Collars for dangerous dogs must:

  • consist of red stripes alternately spaced with yellow stripes with a width of 25mm and set diagonal to the rim of the collar at an angle of 45 degrees
  • at least one of the two colours must reflect light in the dark
  • be made of durable materials
  • be able to be securely fastened
  • have a minimum width detailed below.


  • 25mm for a dog weighing less than 20kgs
  • 40mm for a dog weighing between 20kgs and 40kgs
  • 50mm for a dog weighing more than 40kg

For information regarding purchasing a dangerous dog collar, please contact us.


A dangerous dog must be muzzled and on a lead while the dog is outside the owner's premises or when not guarding outside the enclosure.


It is important for safety purposes to warn people that a dangerous dog is kept on the premises.

The owner of a dangerous dog must display prescribed warning signs at all entrances to the premises where the dog is kept warning people that a dangerous dog is kept there.

These signs also help to deter unwanted intruders from entering the guarded premises. 


This warning sign must:

  • be square with sides of at least 40cm and be made of durable metal
  • have at least one colour that is reflective
  • comply with the Domestic Animals Regulations 2005.

Warning signs must be kept in good condition. If signs begin to fade or wear, the sign should be immediately replaced.

For information regarding purchasing these signs, please contact us.

Enclosure requirements

When a dangerous dog is not guarding, the dog must be housed in an enclosure so it cannot escape and to stop it from injuring visitors. The enclosure must:

  • be constructed so that a person cannot have access to it without the assistance of someone who is of or over 18 years of age from the premises
  • be fully enclosed
  • have a weatherproof sleeping area
  • have a minimum floor area of ten square metres per dangerous dog
  • have a minimum height of 1.8 metres
  • have a minimum width of 1.8 metres
  • contain walls, a floor, a drain, a roof and a gate which comply with the following details.

The walls of the enclosure must be fixed to the floor or constructed to be no more than 50mm from the floor.

The walls, roof and gate of the enclosure must be constructed of:

  • brick, timber, iron or similar solid materials
  • chain mesh manufactured from 315mm wire to form a uniform 50mm mesh or weldmesh manufactured from 4mm wire with a maximum mesh spacing of 50mm.

A combination of the above may be acceptable. The mesh size and construction detail is specified so that the enclosure will be escape proof and so that people, particularly small children, cannot fit body parts such as hands into the enclosure with the dog.

The floor of the enclosure must be constructed of sealed concrete and be graded to a drain for the removal of effluent.

The gate on the enclosure must contain a lock and it is a requirement that the enclosure is securely locked when the dog is in the pen.

Perimeter fencing

When a dangerous dog is guarding a non-residential premises it is permitted outside the enclosure. However, the perimeter fencing surrounding the premises must have a minimum height of 1.8 metres, and be constructed of brick, concrete, timber, iron or similar solid materials or the type of chain mesh described above for the enclosure.

The fence must be constructed and maintained in a way that prevents the dog from being able to dig or otherwise escape under, over or through the fencing, and all gates must be securely locked while the dog is guarding the premises.

Minimum standards of care for guard dogs

Guard dogs are unique compared to most types of working dogs as they often spend much of the daylight hours confined to their sleeping area and the nights free to roam a property.

In addition, they often have little interaction with humans, and for single guard dogs, they may not socialise with other dogs. 

The following provides some basic information about the minimum standards of care that must be provided to dogs guarding non-residential premises.

  • Owners must provide their dog with proper and sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary treatment
  • Dogs must be treated humanely
  • Dog fighting or luring (with live animals) is illegal.


Dogs must be provided with food that contains sufficient nutritional value to meet their daily requirements and maintains their body condition at an 'ideal level'.

Adult dogs must be fed a minimum of once daily.

Pregnant and lactating bitches and puppies six to 12 months of age must be fed a minimum of twice a day and puppies six weeks to six months of age must be fed a minimum of three times per day.

All food must be provided in a suitable receptacle and uneaten food should be removed on a daily basis and replaced with fresh food.

For multiply housed dogs, each dog must have it's own food bowl.


Dogs must have access to clean drinking water at all times.

Water containers must be checked daily and maintained in a clean condition.

Water containers provided should not be easily tipped over and should be large enough or refilled often enough to provide access to water twenty four (24) hours a day.

Water containers should be of a design that is easily cleaned and does not cause injury to the dog.


Bedding should be replaced and washed regularly and faeces should be collected and removed on a daily basis.

All food and water receptacles should be cleaned at least weekly.

Disinfection along with parasite and rodent control of sleeping and living areas should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure the dog maintains good welfare.

Health and disease

The dog's health and welfare must be checked daily, this should include examining the dog's physical condition, any signs of ill health and that the dog is eating, drinking, toileting and behaving normally.

Veterinary advice must be promptly sought for dog's showing signs of injury, ill health or distress.

Dogs must be treated regularly for internal and external parasites and vaccinated against common diseases. Frequency of treatment will depend on the product used and life stage of the dog.

Dogs should be groomed regularly especially breeds with a long or thick coat. Flea allergies, mange and other skin disorders need veterinary treatment.


Dogs must be provided with a weatherproof sleeping area and shelter from sun, wind and rain.

Kennels must be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around and lie comfortably.

Enclosures or restricted areas must meet the minimum housing size requirements.

Enclosures need to allow dogs to move around freely, to urinate and defecate away from the sleeping and eating areas and be cleaned daily so that enclosures are free of faeces.

The bed must be raised off the floor and not made of concrete or metal. The bed and sleeping area must be sheltered from the weather and dry at all times. Metal kennels must be kept in a shaded area.

All housing areas for dogs must be maintained in a safe, clean and hygienic condition at all times.

Multiple housing

Where more than one dog is housed in an enclosure, dogs must be socially-compatible to avoid fights. While female or desexed dogs can usually be safely housed together, care should be taken if housing entire males with other entire males (due to conflict issues) or with entire females (to avoid unplanned pregnancies).

For multiple-housed dogs, each dog must have its own sleeping area.

Extreme Weather


Extreme heat causes significant stress for dogs.

The provision of a plentiful supply of clean, cool water and shade is essential. Ice cubes in the dog's water can assist to keep the water cool.

Sufficient water containers for all dogs to drink at once should be provided. Water containers should be firmly fixed so they can not overturn.

Dogs need to be provided with shelter during extended periods of extreme temperatures.

All kennels should have an area in the shade for the whole day.

Dogs that are tethered or confined to a run must be located in a position where they will have access to shade and water during the heat of the day.

Identifying heat stress

There are many signs of heat stress that you can look for in your dog, some of the signs include:

  • panting
  • dry nose (caused by dehydration)
  • weakness
  • muscle tremors
  • collapse.

Treating heat stress

If your dog is showing signs of heat stress, the following actions can be taken to cool them down:

  • Move them to the shade immediately, preferably somewhere with a breeze. If dogs are too stressed to move, pick them up and move them or provide shade where they are.
  • Offer plenty of cool clean water, but encourage them to drink small amounts often, spray them with cool water, especially on the legs and feet, or place them in buckets or troughs of cool water. Clam shells work well on hot days.
  • Contact your local veterinarian for assistance.
  • Do not leave dogs tied up in the sun in extremely hot weather, or standing on concrete or asphalt.
  • Light-coloured dogs can get burnt, so protect them with sunscreen when your animal will be outside in the sun for an extended period of time. Put sunscreen or zinc on exposed areas of pink skin. Dogs with long coats should be clipped to increase comfort in hot weather.


Dogs need to be provided with shelter from wind and rain during extended periods of extreme weather. All kennels should be waterproof and raised off the ground to prevent flooding. Kennel openings should be facing away from the direction of the wind. Raised beds should not be made of metal or concrete. Soft warm bedding should be provided in cold weather.


Dogs with short hair or susceptible to cold, such as Dobermans, Rottweilers and young and old dogs, may be provided with a dog coat in cold weather. If the dog is required to work in the rain, a waterproof dog coat would be advisable.

However, the provision of a coat should be carefully assessed depending on the environment. It may be safer for the dog, particularly in an area with machinery that the coat could catch on, to ensure they have appropriate warm shelter.

Retiring your guard dog

There will come a time when your guard dog can no longer work. It may be that they have grown old, cannot manage the cold weather, their health is not up to guarding, they may be pregnant or you may sell or move your business and no longer need a guard dog.

Regardless of the reason for retirement, it is important that you plan carefully. Some key things that you need to remember about retiring guard dogs.

  • Guard dogs remain as "Dangerous Dogs" for their entire life. The deeming cannot be undone. This means that:
  1.  if the dog is to be moved to your residential premises, it will need to be kept under the restrictions required for all dangerous dogs.
  2. It may not be possible to rehome guard dogs as they may not make suitable pets. New owners would need to keep the dog under the Dangerous Dog restrictions.
  • Guard dogs are generally not particularly social with humans. It is important to remember this when determining where the dog should live after retirement. Taking them into a family home, where there are frequent visitors or young children may be very stressful for the dog.
  • Euthanasia should be considered, as a last resort, if a suitable retirement situation can not be found.


Euthanasia of a guard dog must be done by a veterinarian - except under exceptional circumstances where the dog is injured and waiting for a veterinarian would prolong the dog's suffering. Any method used to destroy a guard dog must induce immediate unconsciousness followed by death without the animal regaining consciousness.

Penalties for failing to comply with guard dog laws

Owners of guard dogs can be jailed for up to 10 years if their dog kills a person, or for up to five years if their dog endangers someone's life, under the Crimes Act 1958.

Domestic Animals Act 1994

Penalties can be imposed on owners for failing to comply with the keeping requirements for a dangerous dog (guard dog) in relation to:

  • notification of where the dog is housed
  • enclosure requirements, and
  • requirements for wearing a collar and being kept on a lead and muzzled when off their property.

Where the owner of a dog is under the age of 18 years, the parent or guardian of that owner will be deemed the legal owner of the dog and subject to any penalties/ prosecutions.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986

Penalties can be imposed for general cruelty provisions under Section 9

  1. A Person who-

(a) wounds, mutilates, tortures, overrides, overdrives, overworks, abuses, beats, worries, torments or terrifies an animal; or

(b) loads, crowds or confines an animal where the loading crowding or confinement of the animals causes, or is likely to cause unreasonable pain or suffering to the animals; or

(c) does or omits to do an act with the result that unreasonable pain or suffering is caused, or is likely to be cause, to an animal; or

(f) is the owner or the person in charge of an animal which is confined or otherwise unable to provide for itself and fails to provide the animals with proper and sufficient food, drink or shelter; or

(h) abandons an animal of a species usually kept in a state of confinement or for a domestic purpose; or

(i) is the owner of the person in charge of  sick or injured animals and unreasonably fails to provide veterinary or other appropriate attention or treatment for the animal; or

(l) carries out a prohibited procedure on an animal-commits an act of cruelty upon that animal and is liable to a penalty of not more than, in the case of a natural person, 246 penalty units or imprisonments for 12 months or, in the case of a body corporate, 600 penalty units.

Penalties can also be imposed for aggravated cruelty under Section 10:

  1. A person who commits an act of cruelty upon any animal which results in the death or serious disablement of the animal, commits an act of aggravated cruelty upon that animals and is guilty of an offence and is liable to a penalty of not more than, in the case of a natural person, 492 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years or, in the case of a body corporate 1200 penalty units.

There are a range of other Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act offences that may apply to owners and users of guard dogs.

It is your responsibility to know your legal responsibilities and to comply with them. For further information please contact the City Laws department on 9205 2200.