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Burying Your Dog at Home

59 CommentsFriday, 19 September 2014  | 

Pet home burials are still popular despite an increase in pet cremations. Home burials are private, personal and less expensive than other alternatives.

pet burial

Although the popularity of pet cremations has increased in recent years, it isn’t for everyone. Some recent stories in the media of people abusing the trust put in them must have put many people off pet cremation. Apart from the horror stories, pet cremation has other pitfalls that you need to be aware of such as individual versus communal cremation. Communal cremation is common. Always assume the cremation of your pet will be communal unless told otherwise.

Do you really get your own pet’s ashes back? Was your pet even cremated or simply dumped somewhere while the fee was pocketed? The intricacies and pitfalls of pet cremation are many. It is not like human cremation. It doesn’t seem to be regulated… but that is a whole other article.

Let’s talk about performing a home burial for your dog. If you want to bury your dog at home, here are some things to be aware of.

Are you allowed to bury your pet at home?

pet burial in your garden at home

There are few laws or rules regarding home pet burial. As long as you own the property (not renting), it has a domestic use and your dog lived there (although quite frankly who is going to check that part), you can bury your pet at home*.

The only exception to UK home burial would be if your pet’s remains are considered to be hazardous waste. This seems open to interpretation. If your vet did use this as a reason for your pet not to be allowed home for a burial, ask them for a written explanation.

Also, if you own the property but are worried about what will happen if you move, a home burial may not be your best option.

* Please note that this information is correct for the UK. If you live elsewhere you may need to check the legalities for where you live.

Hold a wake

Holding a wake came from the very sensible need to know if a person was really deceased before burying them. The person would be laid out and literally left for a while to see if they would wake up. It sounds strange to us now, but if you are at home with a dying pet it is not necessarily immediately evident when they have passed away. A vet will listen to their heart with a stethoscope and will discreetly check for your pet’s vital signs. But as owners, how can we be sure?

I know it is another dreadful thing to have to think about but you do need to be sure of your pet’s passing before you bury or refrigerate the body. Even vets have been known to get it wrong. It is rare and not something to have nightmares about but here are some signs of death to check for:

  • Check for a pulse or heart beat - place two fingers (not your thumb) lightly on the dog’s chest between/behind the front legs or inside the back legs where the back leg joins the body.
  • Watch and listen for signs of breathing.
  • Check the colour of the gums, which are usually pink when the dog is alive.
  • Finally the start of rigor mortis, where the body becomes stiff, is a sure sign of death.

Don’t feel afraid of making sure of death. It is important. You may even want to call your vet and explain that you would like help determining the death of your pet. Don’t be afraid to do the checks above or to ask for help if you need it.

Their body

pet home burial

When your dog has passed away, get a plastic sheet or something else waterproof like a bin bag. This is because bodily fluids can come out of your pet’s body after death and possibly again when moved or handled. On top of that you can put a blanket or towel. Here you can lay your dog’s body on their side, slightly curled up in a sleeping position. This looks more pleasant, makes for easier handling later and positioning in the grave.

During this time, if you have any other pets, you may choose to show them the body of their doggie pal. I always feel this can help other dogs or pets in the household to understand that one of their pack has died, rather than wondering where they have gone. Let them see and smell the body and give them as much time as they need, which doesn’t tend to be more than a few sniffs.

As mentioned above, it is a good idea to wait 2-3 hours after death before burying your pet, to be sure of their demise. Once rigor mortis has set in you can go ahead with the burial.

Sometimes the burial can’t take place right away. Maybe you are waiting for a family member to come home or for a coffin to arrive. If this is the case, it might be an idea to ask your vet if you can use space in their mortuary refrigerator. If this is not possible or if the wait is only for a little while, a cool dark basement or similar place will suffice (depending on temperature, humidity etc…).

Your pet’s grave

garden pet memorial

Select the position of the grave carefully. It is nice to pick an area of your garden that is pretty or that your dog enjoyed in their lifetime but certain things need to be considered.

Choose a place that is unlikely to need to be excavated in the future (so flower beds are often best avoided unless you plan to put a tree or memorial stone on top) and don’t put a grave in a place that gets boggy or is at risk of flooding. Also, keep the grave site far away from water sources such as wells, ponds, streams etc… Also take care not to disrupt any underground pipes or cables.

To prepare your dog’s grave, measure around your dog to get an idea of the size of grave you need to dig, width and length wise. Depth wise, the grave should be at least 3-4 feet deep. This is for health reasons and also to safeguard against scavengers, other pets from digging up the burial area, or even rain from washing away topsoil and uncovering the grave. Don’t forget a 3 foot deep grave allows for about 2 foot of soil to go back on top.

The burial

Your dog should be buried in something that is biodegradable like a towel, blanket, wooden, wicker or cardboard coffin. Avoid making a casket out of anything plastic or anything else that is non-biodegradable.

Once the grave is filled you will have a mound of earth that can be piled on top. It will eventually settle in time.

Let the whole family be part of the burial. Writing poems, saying a few words, letting children add letters, drawings and dog toys to the grave can all help.

Finally, to mark your pet’s final resting place you can plant a lovely bush or shrub and/or add a keepsake or pet memorial stone.

Plan ahead

Try to think in advance about what you want to happen to your pet’s body after their death. Facing their death is upsetting enough without having to suddenly decide what you want to do with their body. I have known people who hadn’t thought about it in advance and made a quick decision at the time of death that they later regretted.

If you know you would like a home burial for your pet, plan ahead. This is especially important if you want to purchase a coffin. The last thing you want to have to do when you are grieving, in shock and up against time is start a search for the perfect coffin for your dog.

Cardboard pet coffins can really help as they are affordable and come flat packed, making them easy to store until needed. A plain cardboard coffin can often also be personalised, which is a lovely activity for the whole family.

I think home burial is a very personal way to deal with a pet’s passing. It is not expensive and you know exactly what has happened to your pet’s body during the entire process, rather than entrusting the handling to someone else.

Finally, many people feel that, once their pet has passed, the body is now simply an unused vehicle from their life on earth. Don’t feel you have to go to any great lengths to care for remains if you don’t want to. We all have different feelings about this. As long as everyone who loved the pet is in agreement with what should happen to the body, that is all that matters.

By Jenny Prevel

© D for Dog www.dfordog.co.uk
This article belongs strictly to D for Dog and we do not authorise the copying of all or any part of it.

“The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master."
Ben Hur Lampman - 1925

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Caroline Chapman
Tuesday, 23 September 2014  |  22:15

Nice sensible, practical article.


Jane
Monday, 6 October 2014  |  19:05

Thanks for addressing this emotive subject in such a sensible way.


Cynthia Madrigal
Sunday, 29 March 2015  |  22:12

Inforative


Mary Rollinson
Thursday, 28 May 2015  |  15:15

This article was a great help at this really stressful time. Thank you.


Anita
Monday, 1 June 2015  |  12:29

This is such a helpful article especially as I have never had to deal with this before - Thank you


Rachel
Wednesday, 19 October 2016  |  14:26

I am 13, and this is my first time to. It is heart breaking


Ana Leah Salazar
Sunday, 27 August 2017  |  18:50

Sweetheart, it is very heartbreaking. Think about your pet who is now in Heaven, no more pain.


Rebecca
Wednesday, 3 June 2015  |  12:35

Very helpful and practical article. Thank you.


Sunshine
Friday, 26 June 2015  |  21:12

Thanks.............


Carol A. Pickup
Monday, 13 July 2015  |  20:08

Thank you so much for this article. It is most helpful as I face this very difficult time.


Valerie
Wednesday, 15 July 2015  |  13:55

Thank you for confirming that it is still ok to bury your dog privately and with dignity..


Paru
Saturday, 8 August 2015  |  6:44

thank you so much.


Debsp
Saturday, 8 August 2015  |  18:58

Thank you for the confirmation we were OK to bury our wee guy at home....


Debra Freeman
Thursday, 27 August 2015  |  13:40

Thank you very much for this article. I needed this to get through this extremely difficult process. I had no idea, what to do before. Thanks again. Very much appreciated.


Roy Wathen
Tuesday, 29 September 2015  |  1:20

Thank you! I was beside myself, and calmed quite a bit, after this article. This was just what I needed to know!


Kerry
Sunday, 25 October 2015  |  17:37

Buried my puppy this morning and wanted some incite. It was a shock to find my 2 month old mastiff puppy on my couch, sleeping till I needed to take him out to go. Unresponsive and lifeless, after being playful hrs prior. Felt he's been sick since receiving him. Tried everything we could, Weekly checkups and changes in diets. It was a big blow to the family, he got lots of love but we buried him with one of his fav toys. Thanks for the inciteful article.


Doug
Tuesday, 27 October 2015  |  22:35

Thankyou for letting me know i did the correct thing. She was run over and it is nice to know she will be happy where she has gone. It is terrable lossing one of the family.


Donna
Saturday, 21 November 2015  |  14:58

when cremation of a dog is it alone or with other dog all cremated at once


D for Dog
Saturday, 21 November 2015  |  15:26

Hi Donna, it can vary from crematorium to crematorium. Most do mass pet cremations i.e. many animals all together but some do them individually or divide them off. So it is definitely a question to ask the crematorium you plan to use. Mass cremations (the most common type) is not something they will necessarily tell you they do unless you specifically ask.


Devon Bird
Sunday, 20 December 2015  |  18:31

Me and my family thank you so, as our dog died on Christmas eve


Michael Kennedy
Monday, 4 January 2016  |  1:09

Hard to keep a dry eye to read but need to no very good thanks.


Larry
Wednesday, 6 January 2016  |  15:37

I so thank you for your insight my dog died this morning he was only 2 years old I didn't know what to do until I googled this article I'm so thankful for you for making me feel a little at ease for bury my dog in the backyard thank you so much and God bless you


Murphy
Wednesday, 6 January 2016  |  16:49

Our Jack Russell passed away on 2nd Jan.2016, one day after her 20th birthday. She is at rest along with our other two mates who went 3& 5 years ago. Despite the age it is sad that she has gone,but is still with us in the garden ( if you understand what I'm getting at.). I was tempted to have her cremated but, after reading that it is not individual, I am glad that she was buried now. Thank you for the advice. It helps with the grieving


Jean
Saturday, 23 January 2016  |  18:34

Our little Jack Rusell Toby had help to go to sleep at his home 2 days ago (21st Jan)Arranged with vet for cremation and no ashes returned, as I was in such a state of crying etc etc etc I found it hard to talk without sobbing. I had wanted a garden burial as this is his home but ended up not doing it. After all these years together the thought and actual loss was too much for me and didn't quite think clearly. Just found out today that it's mass cremation and ashes put in a hole in the ground. That thought is too unbearable so I've contacted the vet to arrange singular cremation and the return of Toby to his rightful place, his home. I was informed that this is an extra 70-where has the compassion and love gone, it's all big money now and seemingly little regard for the hurting. I can't stop crying and still unable to move little 'furrybutts' bed or bowls and coming home to an empty house is gut wrenching. I feel sorry for you Murphy as I know how it hurts so deeply.


Jean
Sunday, 24 January 2016  |  23:52

I meant to say Toby was 21years....long life for a little dog and your one too. My heart is aching!


Jean
Monday, 25 January 2016  |  0:04

Was informed at 11am today by the vet that Toby was already 'done' on Friday evening after being told he definitely wouldn't be cremated until Monday 25th January or possibly later. I have been feeling sick all day because of all this conflicting information. I was also told it was mass cremation and I can have no ashes and that he's already totally gone. They did said as a 'good will gesture' the crematorium is giving me his cremation certificate with his personal number on it. How heartless is that 'a good will gesture' when your little furrybutt has died. I'm just so beside myself with it all. All I can say is it's a blessing that they don't 'do' people, what a nightmare!


Cameron Diamond
Friday, 22 January 2016  |  16:06

Reading all your messages helped a lot. I used to find it very odd when people cried about pets. After losing my first ever dog last night i now understand. My dog, Shaggy, was such a happy dog and we could not help but love him. Im still very beaten up by the fact that I dont know why he died since he was his usual cheerfull self the whole. Wish dogs knew how to call for help.


Yvonne
Monday, 25 January 2016  |  0:24

Our Labrador Coco died in my arms today while my children were playing and my husband out working. She was 11yrs old. She was unwell for a couple of months and getting weaker but I still didn't expect what happened today. We're all very traumatised by her death but I found comfort in knowing we can bury her in our garden. The thought of going into our kitchen every morning and she's not there is harrowing fir me as its only the two of us every day when everyone else is in work/school. Thank you again for this insightful article. Yvonne


Lorna Boyd
Monday, 8 February 2016  |  15:56

Thank you so much for this useful and helpful article. The laws may be different here in California, but your info and considerations are very helpful nonetheless.
L


Pammie Henderson
Tuesday, 9 February 2016  |  16:53

Your article helped me so much. It showed me that you understood how important pets are in our lives and I appreciate the information and I'm better equipped on how to lay my precious Shebba to rest. Thank you so much.


Rita
Monday, 18 April 2016  |  20:01

Thanks for your article. My dog Nakky just died, I never knew I will cry or miss her not until now.


John
Friday, 22 April 2016  |  7:50

Many thanks for the article and the lovely words by all of these kind people. Our beautifual Staffie has passed in our arms and is now laid to rest in her own part of the garden that she loved so much. Still undecided as to the long term memorial but love the idea of the rose named BEST FRIEND. Thanks everyone.


Diane Meyer
Wednesday, 4 May 2016  |  7:37

This article was so helpful and informative. Our 11 year old Great Pyrenees, Angel Rose, left us today for the Rainbow Bridge, and we are heartbroken, but happy that we could peacefully bury her on our lovely wooded acreage that she so lovingly protected for us. Angel Rose had been declining for the last 18 months due to hip dysplasia, but pain meds kept her with us until she developed a very aggressive cancer very recently. She died in our arms early this evening, and we buried her at sunset, with many tears. Before she left us, she trained our new Great Pyrenees, Mirabelle, to take over watching our Japanese Chin dogs in the Texas countryside. Thanks for helping us know what to do, as we usually cremate the Japanese Chin, but we felt like she would want to be buried in her favorite woods. It gives us peace that she is no longer in pain, and that she has been gently laid to rest. We will keep her in our heart always.


Carol M Ward
Sunday, 8 May 2016  |  21:45

thank you we buried our two nippers at home very tough to do but once over
felt a calmness. tomorrow we have the
awful decision again our rescue rottie
so sudden yet hope she finds the
peace and painfree life in spirit.


Ganda
Saturday, 21 May 2016  |  2:27

Thank you so much so helpful just had to deal with this


Jp3
Monday, 18 July 2016  |  23:00

Thank you so much for the article it help me after losing my dog after 16 years he was suffering and had to be put down and I wanted him to be close to us in our house


Maggie Hussuung
Tuesday, 16 August 2016  |  1:01

Our pup Jake was hit and killed in middle of a busy street. A neighbor came by to tell my husband our dog was dead. My husband had to walk down to pick him up and walk back home carrying him. Jake was the happiest, funniest, scrawniest dog you'd ever see. He looked like the Grinch with the way his hair grew. He was the light of our life.
We buried him among the flowers and trees in back. Unfortunately, we didn't dig deep enough and now have to remove him and rebury. We are devastated. Once was difficult enough but to go through it again is overwhelming. He was only 2.
Wish I had read your article sooner.
It will help others do the correct thing.


Martha
Wednesday, 17 August 2016  |  18:31

This has been very helpful to me. I have always kept my babies at my side after saying goodbye. They will always be with me, in my garden. I have another difficult goodbye to say to my 13 1/2 year old lab. I will miss her dearly, though I can't even think of it without crying. You feel "maybe she'll be better tomorrow". Though I know that is not the case. Friday will be my final farewell to my friend, my baby, my life, my little Nevaeh. I know that she will be happy in the heavens above for sure. She will be her true self, running, playing and jumping. My dad will take very good care of her. She will not be alone when she leaves us. I know that she will have loved ones waiting to meet this wonderful beautiful girl. I will truly miss my baby girl.


Tony
Tuesday, 30 August 2016  |  2:13

Thank you so much. My Cocker Spaniel just passed today. This was helpful. Definitely putting a drawing I did of 1 of her pups.


Linda
Monday, 19 September 2016  |  2:22

Thank you. You've put my mind at rest. We're saying goodbye to our beautiful Molly tomorrow and want to keep her at so home, so decided to bury her in the back garden.

Your article has reassured me that what we're doing is okay.

Thank you for that.


Deborah Whitton
Tuesday, 27 September 2016  |  16:13

Thankyou for this comforting advice-we used it to bury Holly in the back garden this morning-she was an old doggy and when I go over I will go straight to Rainbow bridge and get her back!


Nalina Nagessur
Thursday, 13 October 2016  |  15:38

i just put my beloved baby lion a tiny kitty to rest now I have so much guilt of where I buried her and wanna dig her up and bring her a lay her to rest in our back yard is this a good idea


Lesley
Saturday, 15 October 2016  |  19:21

We have just buried our beloved cat 4 years old, he is now resting in the garden with our other two cats, we wrapped them up in towels, we still have his brother who misses him terribly but he gives us a great deal of comfort


Bruce
Friday, 2 December 2016  |  15:57

Thank you for this article. My little girl passed early this morning. She's now in the garden she loved exploring, underneath an apple tree.


Shauna Griffin
Friday, 13 January 2017  |  2:10

Thank you for the insight.
One of my dogs is about to be 17 and we know the time is approaching. I have been trying to give some thought to it now when I can think clearly rather then when it happens and I an devastated.
I have another dog , specifically a beagle with an incredible nose on her . She loves the dog in question very much , so I am curious , if we bury him in our backyard , will she sense him and try to dig him up? I would rather avoid something like this happening so I thought I should ask. Thankyou again!


D for Dog
Friday, 13 January 2017  |  9:25

Hi Shauna, Well done for giving this some thought and getting prepared. I would definitely make sure your beagle gets to see her pal for the last time after he has passed. Dogs do understand death. Seeing the body will definitely help. Also let her attend the burial so she can see where her pal has been laid to rest. Let her investigate things as much as you can at this point. If she wants to jump in and have a sniff even, that's fine. As I say, dog's understand death and she won't do any harm to her pal's body. My dogs have always just wandered off at this point but if they want, I always let my dogs see and join in on the burial. I also bury deeper than the 3-4 feet recommendation. Most of my dogs have been terriers and they have never then tried to dig up or even investigate the finished burial site afterwards. I hope that helps.


Barneysmum
Thursday, 16 March 2017  |  19:15

saddest thing is the vet wants to keep treating my 16yr old yorkie costing me fortunes, then to put him to sleep and dispose of his body is another money spinner, our local rspca & pdsa (wirral) r closed due to lack of funding so i cant get an honest appraisal for him i.e. not the best money spinner, poor love, deaf, nearly blind, lost most of his teeth yet on good days he's as spritely as a dog half his age full of energy, it's all so sad


Kellie
Wednesday, 19 April 2017  |  23:15

This was a very helpful artical, all the information I was looking for. I want to thank you for posting it. This has been a dreadful day, and it was much needed info. We lost a big part of our family today, he was 17 years old. I didn't want to take him away from home to die. Thanks again


Jack W
Thursday, 4 May 2017  |  20:55

Thx for the useful site. Am getting ready in one hour to do the hardest thing we have had do in long time, put our precious 7 year old yellow lab to sleep.
After diagnosed with pancreatitis 2 years ago we almost lost her twice, this time its doing her in we cant see her in pain anymore. We love this dog more then life it self, she has made life much more enjoyable and its killing us to have put her down.
Everyone here knows how much you can love a dog thats why your here, godless you all for losing a wonderful friend that we all only get to experience in such a short time in our lives.


Elsie Rowe
Friday, 19 May 2017  |  21:24

Today we are putting our Bordeaux to sleep at our Vet...Have had her for 8yrs now. She is a Tripod 3 legged due to an accident. Was diagnosed with cancer in the breast. She has had 2 lots of beautiful litter in her lifetime. Just lately her cancer has grown..weight loss can be seen ..very heart wrenching to see her carry herself on 3 legs..Im bringing her home to be buried..Dug her place last week..as this shudve been done then..due to a crisis it was put on hold..She is a lovely dog and will be dearly missed..Thanks for the tips, as i was not sure what to do..We have one of her pups who is 8mths old..so will let her sniff her mum before burial. once again thank you


Patricia Venner
Sunday, 11 June 2017  |  14:14

Thank you for information, had to put my dear little 14 year old jack Russell Ben to sleep today, going to bury him in his wicket basket wrapped up in a wool blanket


Trish Stubbs
Monday, 12 June 2017  |  18:04

This was so helpful, we are planning for the death of our lovely pet Meg, we know its coming and want to make sure we do the right thing for her. the info about what to wrap her in and that we can bring her home was so helpful.


Numbers
Tuesday, 4 July 2017  |  7:50

Rest in Peace to all of your animals. Thank you for writing this article as it seems to have helped many people. My Scottish Terrier passed away after 12 years. She was the most loving creature. She left me with so many amazing memories. God bless.


Katie
Thursday, 13 July 2017  |  6:28

I just put my 15 year old Lhasa Apso to sleep today. he was the best companion anyone could have wished for. He knew his time had come and welcomed it in the end. He passed very peacefuly at my home. I slept with him for two hours on the floor. tonight will be the last time he sleeps by my bed and i will bury him in the morning in my garden in his favorite spot. he was special in many ways and know that we will meet again on the other side. My life has been left with a huge void in his absence. RIP Wee Roscoe ..wait at the rainbow bridge and I will come and get you my faithful friend..You will be missed every day xxxx


D for Dog
Thursday, 13 July 2017  |  8:54

Run free Roscoe xxx


John D Denton Uk
Sunday, 20 August 2017  |  14:25

many thanks for your info knowing im doing things right


John
Saturday, 14 October 2017  |  22:42

My dog died today and it's raining outside, should I dig the hole and bury him now or how long until we should dig the hole/will he last in the basement?


D for Dog
Sunday, 15 October 2017  |  11:24

I'm sorry for your loss John. With regards your question, there is no harm either way, so it is entirely up to you. I have buried a dog when it is raining, so if you don't mind a bit of rain then go ahead. Alternatively, laying him in a cool place like the basement for a day or maybe even two would be OK too. I wouldn't advise any longer than that and you may like to lay him on a waterproof mat or plastic sheet. If it is really pouring with rain and you feel it may rush or spoil the burial I would put him in the cool basement and wait until tomorrow. One day will not make much of a difference, in a cool environment protected from wild animals like foxes and rats.


Linwood
Monday, 20 November 2017  |  5:02

Thank you for this article, my first dog (Lucky) died Nov 18, 2017, 6 1/2 years old, as I type this I am crying so hard to take, as he was hit by a car.

D for Dog
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