Can You Bury a Dog In Your Backyard?

A dog's grave marked with several pots of flowers.

Losing your pet will be one of the worst days in your life.

However, dogs have shorter lives than we do, and if we want them in our lives, we have to accept this inevitable time.

Preparing for what you’ll do with the body is a helpful part of getting ready for your dog to pass.

Can you bury a dog in your backyard? In most areas, it is legal to bury your dog in your own backyard, although checking with both local and state laws is advised. In most instances, pets must be buried in a biodegradable container to a certain depth within a particular amount of time following death.

Although nothing but time will truly ease the pain of losing your faithful friend, you can take some small comfort in knowing that you gave your dog a proper, respectful burial.

Can You Bury Your Pet in Your Backyard?

In most of the United States, it is legal for you to bury your pet in your backyard.

However, some states and local ordinances have different regulations.

You will need to look into the specific regulations for your state, county, and city before you make your decision about how to dispose of your pet’s body.

Most states require that a few general regulations be followed:

  • Dispose of the body within 24 to 48 hours of death.
  • House your pet’s body in a biodegradable wood or cardboard box rather than using no container or something that is not biodegradable.
  • Bury at least 3 to 5 feet deep from the top of your pet. Deeper graves are required for larger pets.

Considerations When Burying Your Pet in Your Backyard

Once you have considered all of the federal, state, county, and local ordinances about burying your pet, you will have a few more considerations in your own decision making.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Once you decide where you will dig the grave, check your local plans to ensure there are no important cables, electrical lines, plumbing, or other things that you will interfere with.
  • Cover the grave with something heavy. Even if you dig a deep grave, it’s important to cover the top of it with rocks, concrete, or something else that will keep animals from digging in.
  • Choose a nice place. You want to pick a spot that you will want to visit, but not somewhere that is too central in your yard. Generally, a sheltered place under a tree is ideal.

Many people find comfort in placing a custom gravestone on the grave to commemorate their dog’s life, and you may as well.

It’s a lovely way to honor your pet and mark the grave’s location.

You can purchase a personalized stone marker here, complete with your dog’s name, birth and death dates, and a breed-specific silhouette.

Other Options for Disposing of Your Pet’s Body

There are other very good choices besides burying your pet in your backyard.

If you don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to a grave, local ordinances don’t allow burial, or for some other reason this doesn’t seem like the best option, here are some other choices to consider.

A Pet Graveyard

Many pet owners are surprised to learn that pet graveyards actually exist, but many states do in fact have this option. You can find a listing by state here.

You see, people have the same need to bury their pets somewhere special and be able to visit them when they want to that they do when any loved one dies.  

Depending on the size of the plot you need and the location of the graveyard, you’ll pay from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars to bury your pet in a pet graveyard.

If you want somewhere quiet and special to visit your pet away from your home, a pet graveyard is a great decision.

Cremation

Cremation is a great option for pet owners.

You can keep the ashes in a special urn with you as a memorial to your pet or you can scatter them somewhere that your pet loved.

You can even bury the ashes in your backyard as a much easier way to bury your pet’s remains than burying their entire body. 

Bury the ashes under a special patch of flowers or a tree planted especially in memorial to your pet and know that your pet’s remains are nourishing a beautiful new plant.

You can even choose to have your pet’s ashes buried with you when you pass away if you want to be confident that you’ll never have to be separated from them.

Things to Consider When a Pet Dies

As your pet is getting closer to passing away or if they have recently died, one of the first things you’ll need to consider is what to do with the body.

Perhaps your veterinarian is asking you what you want to do, or your beloved pet has passed away at home, and you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do now. 

Deciding what to do with the body is only one of the important things that you will need to go through as you deal with the loss of your beloved pet.

Aside from what you want to do with the body, there are several things that are important to keep in mind for yourself.

Take Time to Grieve

Too many people rush to replace the pet they’ve lost right away.

Suddenly not being able to hear your beloved pet’s paws in the hallway or their bark at the front door can be devastating.

However, rushing to get a new pet is often not a good solution. 

You will naturally expect your new pet to fill in the role of your old pet, which isn’t fair to the new dog and can be very disappointing for you.

It is important to take at least a couple of weeks to a few months to grieve before you consider moving on. 

If you’re not sure whether you’re ready to get a new dog or not, consider fostering a dog from your local shelter.

This is a great way to help you decide whether you’re ready for a new pet without making a commitment. Plus, you can help to save a life.

You Are Allowed to Feel Pain

Inevitably, people around you will tell you something to the effect of , “It was just a dog.” 

They mean well and don’t intend to cause you any pain by saying it, but it is one of the most hurtful things you’re likely to hear after your pet has died. 

Not only are you dealing with the grief of losing someone you loved, but you’re also being told that your grief should not be as significant as it is.

If your loved ones and friends don’t understand what you’re going through, it’s a good idea to join a support group or actively seek out people who’ve lost pets and understand what you’re going through.

It’s Okay to be Unprepared

Many people are caught completely by surprise by how much it affects them when their pet passes away.

You may have been expecting it for some time and known it was time for your dog to go, but that doesn’t seem to take any of the sting out of it when they are actually gone. 

Even if you’ve taken all the photos, given your dog all his favorite foods on his last day, and done everything possibly to prepare yourself, you’re likely to still feel like you’re completely unprepared.

That’s okay. Let yourself grieve and take the time that you need to recover from your loss.

When Is It Time to Get a New Puppy?

No one can tell you when it is time to move on.

Some people take years to recover from the loss of a pet before they feel ready to welcome a new dog into their lives.

Fostering a shelter dog or pet sitting is a great way to get a feel for whether or not you are ready to have a new puppy. 

One great indication that you are ready for a new dog is seeing things in other dogs that you like for themselves, rather than always comparing every dog to the dog who has passed away.

When you’re ready to welcome a new personality and life into your world, you’re ready for a new puppy or to adopt a dog.

Only you will know when the time is right to open up your heart to a new four-legged friend and companion.