pet owners guide on how to bury a dog

Pet Owners Guide on How to Bury a Dog

Death is a part of life – this is something that we are all aware of. Unfortunately, it does not always make dealing with death easier. Saying goodbye to your long-time canine companion is a challenging event with often far-reaching consequences.

To help you cope with the death of your beloved pet, we will explain the legal and technical aspects of your dog’s funeral. We will also offer some advice on honoring your dog’s memory. That way, we hope to take a load off your mind, leaving you to better focus on dealing with your sadness.

The Legal Side of Pet Burials

dog cremation vs. dog burial compared
Images from Unsplash and Pixabay

Burying your dog in your backyard is legal in most states. However, we think it would be best to mention the states in which burying your dog on your property is forbidden. These states include Arizona, Arkansas, California, and some parts of Wisconsin and Wyoming. A couple of states do not regulate dog burials, such as New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. 

States that allow a backyard burial usually add a couple of additional rules that you need to follow. These include the depth of your dog’s grave, proximity to any water sources, the time and cause of your dog’s death. Not only are these rules mandatory, but they make sense as well. Burying your dog in a shallow grave will make it more likely to be disturbed by scavengers. Having your pet’s resting place torn apart by animals can be a harrowing sight. On top of that, scavengers can bring all kinds of diseases into your home.

Burying your dog as far away from any water sources makes perfect sense as well. The natural process of decomposition is known to pollute clean water. The same goes for infectious diseases – if your dog had one, cremation is the best choice. Otherwise, the infection might spread into the soil and make you and your family sick. Finally, bury your deceased pet as quickly as you can: you do not want its remains to start decomposing before the funeral.

Even though these laws are pretty standard, they can be subject to change. Therefore, if you are unsure of the current regulations on dog burials, it is best to check with your local laws and guidelines. You can also consult a veterinarian – since their work includes animals, they are sure to be up to date on burial rules.

Determine if Your Pet Has Passed

6 things to consider when cremating your dog
Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

If you have been waiting for your dog’s passing, then ensure that your pet is as comfortable as possible. If you believe that your beloved pet has passed, checking your dog’s breathing and pulse – if you cannot sense anything – is a relatively sure sign of death. To be positively sure, wait a couple of minutes before doing anything. If your pet has indeed passed away, rigor mortis will set in. Rigor mortis is an undeniable sign of death. If you are still unsure or do not feel comfortable waiting for proof of death – you can always call a veterinarian. Any vet will be able to proclaim the death of your pet quickly.

If you have other pets, there is one last thing you might want to do before the funeral. Let them say goodbye to their friend by showing them the remains. That will let them know why your dog is no longer with them.  

Burying Your Dog on Your Property

dog burial on a property
Image by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

Laying your beloved pet to rest in your backyard can be an excellent way to pay respects. Each day, you and your family will be able to look back on the good times spent with your loving companion. 

1. Choose the perfect spot

Before burying your dog, the first thing you should do is choose a suitable burial space. It is best to stay away from any water sources, as mentioned earlier. Regulations for this differ between states, the required distance being between 100 and 500 ft. The farther away from any water source, the better. 

Another thing you need to consider is the soil: stay far away from any ground that you would use to grow food. Flowers and trees are perfectly fine, but food requires completely uncontaminated soil. The best place for your dog’s grave is somewhere quiet and out of the spotlight. That way, you can enjoy quiet, relaxed moments of remembrance.

2. Prepare your dog’s remains

We would advise laying your dog’s remains to resemble its sleeping position. Not only will this enable you to place the remains in the grave easily, but it is also dignified. Your dog’s eyes may remain open: this is normal, do not try to force them closed.

You can choose to wrap your pet’s remains in cloth or place them inside a coffin. Both are good choices, provided that the material is breathable and biodegradable. If you choose a cloth wrapper, go for something organic, such as cotton or linen. Pet coffins are also a good choice, but only if they are made of wood, wicker, or anything similar. Avoid plastic at all costs: since it is not breathable or biodegradable, it will slow down the natural decomposition process, leading to all kinds of problems. 

3. Dig a grave

After you have chosen a spot and prepared your dog’s remains, it is time to dig a hole that will serve as your dog’s grave. Ensure to dig deep enough to protect the remains from being dug up by scavengers. In rare cases, heavy rain can cause movements in the topsoil, which is another reason to dig deep.

Rules in different states stipulate that your dog’s grave should be from two to five feet deep. We want to err on the side of caution, so it is best to go for a 5-foot deep grave. That way, you will be sure nothing disturbs your pet’s resting place. As for the width, that would depend on the size of your dog. In any case, you should be able to place the dog’s remains inside it easily.

4. Choose a headstone

The final step to saying goodbye to your pet is choosing a headstone to mark its burial site. It is best to have one custom-made: you can have your dog’s likeness carved into stone or use its favorite toy for inspiration. A fitting headstone is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the life of your beloved companion.

Other Funeral Arrangements for Your Dog 

simple decorative urn of a cremated dog
Image from Unsplash

If you live in a state where burying your dog is forbidden or do not like the idea, do not worry. There are several other ways to commemorate your dog’s passing, and here are some of the most common ones.


Cremation is a very common way to handle your dog’s funeral arrangements. It is also very safe for the environment; there is no need to worry about scavengers, contaminated soil, and toxic water supplies. Moreover, cremation is not as cold and heartless as it might sound. In the end, you get your dog’s ashes which will serve to remind you of your pet forever. You can even have your dog’s ashes pressed into a precious stone, making for a unique yet respectful funeral arrangement.

Pet Cemetery

If you would like a traditional burial for your pet but do not have a suitable site for it – consider a pet cemetery. A pet cemetery works the same way as an at-home burial, the only difference being that there are other pets buried around yours. Therefore, you can often choose between available burial sites, and of course – you get to select your pet’s gravestone. As with any cemetery, visits are welcome. You can sit at your dog’s grave as long and as often as you would like.

Keeping a Memento of Your Beloved Pet

dog's ashes in a pet urn
Image from Unsplash

Pawprints are a great way to keep the memory of your pet alive. You can do them in several ways: on paper, with washable ink, or in clay, for a 3D relief. There is even the possibility of casting your dog’s paws in bronze. Pawprints are a fantastic keepsake for dog owners who do not own a yard. On the other hand, you can keep a picture or have someone make a felt replica of your pet. These do not take up much space, so you can easily find a place for them in an apartment. That way, they will serve as an everyday reminder of your canine companion. 

Final Thoughts

Losing your pet is not an easy thing to handle. However, its passing does not mean that you cannot keep the memory alive. Burying your dog close to your home is one way to do it, and it will keep the two of you together even after your dog has passed away. Hopefully, this article taught you everything you need to know about how to bury your dog.

If you do not have the option of a traditional burial – do not despair. There are many other ways to commemorate your pet – paw prints, cremation, even a pet cemetery. Each of these options will offer much-needed closure, as well as something to remind you of the days spent together with your darling dog.

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