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Spring REST Service Exception Handling

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Spring REST Service Exception Handling

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"I love writing authentication and authorization code." ~ No Developer Ever. Try Okta Instead.

This tutorial talks about Spring Rest Service Exception Handling. In our previous article, we created our very first Spring Boot REST Web Service. In this tutorial, let’s concentrate on how to handle an exception in Spring applications. While there always is an option to handle them manually and set a particular ResponseStatus, however, Spring provides an abstraction over the entire exception handling and just asks you to put a few annotations — it takes care of everything else. In this article, we will demonstrate these concepts with code examples.

How to Manually Handle Exceptions

In the Spring Boot Rest Service tutorials, we had created a Dogs Service to understand the concepts. In this post, let's extend the same Dogs Service to handle exceptions.

The DogsController returns a ResponseEntity instance, which has a response body along with  HttpStatus.

  • If no exception is thrown, the following endpoint returns  List<Dog>  as response body and 200 as status.
  • For  DogsNotFoundException, it returns empty body and status 404.
  • For DogsServiceException, it returns 500 and empty body.
package com.amitph.spring.dogs.web;

import com.amitph.spring.dogs.model.DogDto;
import com.amitph.spring.dogs.repo.Dog;
import com.amitph.spring.dogs.service.DogsService;
import lombok.RequiredArgsConstructor;
import lombok.Setter;
import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Autowired;
import org.springframework.http.HttpStatus;
import org.springframework.http.ResponseEntity;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.GetMapping;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RequestMapping;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RestController;

import java.util.List;

public class DogsController {
    @Autowired private final DogsService service;

    public ResponseEntity<List<Dog>> getDogs() {
        List<Dog> dogs;

        try {
            dogs = service.getDogs();
        } catch (DogsServiceException ex) {
            return new ResponseEntity<>(null, null, HttpStatus.INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR);
        } catch (DogsNotFoundException ex) {
            return new ResponseEntity<>(null, null, HttpStatus.NOT_FOUND);
        return new ResponseEntity<>(dogs, HttpStatus.OK);

The problem with this approach is Duplication. The catch blocks are generic and will be needed in other endpoints as well (e.g. DELETE, POST, etc).

Controller Advice (@ControllerAdvice)

Spring provides a better way of handling exceptions, which is Controller Advice. This is a centralized place to handle all the application level exceptions.

Our Dogs Controller now looks clean and is free for any sort of handling exceptions.

Handle and Set Response Status

Below is our @ControllerAdvice class where we are handling all the exceptions.

package com.amitph.spring.dogs.web;

import lombok.extern.slf4j.Slf4j;
import org.springframework.http.HttpStatus;
import org.springframework.http.ResponseEntity;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ControllerAdvice;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ExceptionHandler;

import static org.springframework.http.HttpStatus.INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR;
import static org.springframework.http.HttpStatus.NOT_FOUND;

public class DogsServiceErrorAdvice {

    public ResponseEntity<String> handleRunTimeException(RuntimeException e) {
        return error(INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR, e);

    public ResponseEntity<String> handleNotFoundException(DogsNotFoundException e) {
        return error(NOT_FOUND, e);

    public ResponseEntity<String> handleDogsServiceException(DogsServiceException e){
        return error(INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR, e);

    private ResponseEntity<String> error(HttpStatus status, Exception e) {
        log.error("Exception : ", e);
        return ResponseEntity.status(status).body(e.getMessage());

See what is happening here:

  • handleRunTimeException: This method handles all the RuntimeException and returns the status of INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR.
  • handleNotFoundException: This method handles DogsNotFoundException and returns NOT_FOUND.
  • handleDogsServiceException: This method handles DogsServiceException and returns INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR.

The key is to catch the checked exceptions in the application and throw RuntimeExceptions. Let these exceptions be thrown out of the Controller class, and then, Spring applies the  ControllerAdvice to it.

try {
    // Lines of code
} catch (SQLException sqle) {
    throw new DogsServiceException(sqle.getMessage());

Use @ResponseStatus to Map the Exception to the ResponseStatus

Another short way to do achieve this is to use  @ResponseStatus. It looks simpler and more readable.

package com.amitph.spring.dogs.web;

import org.springframework.http.HttpStatus;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ControllerAdvice;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ExceptionHandler;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ResponseStatus;

public class DogsServiceErrorAdvice {

    public void handle(DogsNotFoundException e) {}

    @ExceptionHandler({DogsServiceException.class, SQLException.class, NullPointerException.class})
    public void handle() {}

    public void handle(DogsServiceValidationException e) {}

Have a look at the second handler. We can group multiple similar exceptions and map a common Response Code for them.

Use @ResponseStatus With a Custom Exception

Spring also does an abstraction for the  @ControllerAdviceand we can even skip writing one.
The trick is to define your own RunTimeException  and annotate it with a specific @ResponseStatus. When the particular exception is thrown out of a Controller, the Spring abstraction returns the specific Response Status.

Here is a custom RunTimeException class.

package com.amitph.spring.dogs.service;

import org.springframework.http.HttpStatus;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.ResponseStatus;

public class DogsNotFoundException extends RuntimeException {
    public DogsNotFoundException(String message) {

Let’s throw it from anywhere in the code. For example, I am throwing it from a Service method here:

public List<Dog> getDogs() {
    throw new DogsNotFoundException("No Dog Found Here..");

I made a call to the respective Controller endpoint, and I received 404 with the following body.

    "timestamp": "2018-11-28T05:06:28.460+0000",
    "status": 404,
    "error": "Not Found",
    "message": "No Dog Found Here..",
    "path": "/dogs"

What is interesting here is my exception message, which is correctly propagated in the response body.


So, in this Spring Rest Service Exception Handling tutorial, we have seen how to handle an exception with a Spring web application. Spring’s exception abstraction frees you from writing those bulky catch blocks and improve the readability of your code with the help of annotations.

"I love writing authentication and authorization code." ~ No Developer Ever. Try Okta Instead.

java ,spring ,spring boot ,tutorial ,exception handling ,exceptions ,runtimeexception

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