Are Dogs Allowed in Cemeteries?

Should I Take My Dog to the Cemetery?

In short, it depends on the cemetery and its rules. It also depends on whether your dog is a service or military dog.

If your dog is just a pet, some cemeteries allow it as long as you keep it on a leash and don’t let it do its business directly on the graves.

Most cemeteries are permitting pet dogs less now for various reasons, such as the risk of funeral disruption.

There are still some exceptions, such as the Congressional Cemetery, which goes as far as to have a dog club.

Others, such as the Arlington National Cemetery, don’t permit pets at all. The Arlington National has resorted to that because they’ve had dogs disrupt their funerals before.

If you’re going to take your dog to the cemetery, always make sure to follow their rules very carefully. Mutual courtesy and respect is always the top rule.

However, if you’re in doubt, don’t do so until you speak to the groundskeeper, superintendent, or anyone else in charge.

The Congressional Cemetery’s Exception

The Congressional Cemetery’s dog club is known as the Cemetery Dogs. It’s for members of the K9 Corps only and on $10 one-day passes.

Their general rules include:

  • Display of the K9 Corps tag at all times
  • Playing fetch or any toys of any kind are not allowed
  • Owners need to keep watch and pick up after their dogs at all times
  • Maintaining control of all dogs and no more than three per owner at a time
  • No exceptions on spayed and neutered dogs
  • No dogs between 11am-3pm, on Saturdays and certain holidays
  • No dog walking during funeral services
  • Professional dog walkers must re-register every year and give any necessary updates on client information
  • Any dog that’s overly aggressive and a danger to humans and other dogs have their cemetery privileges revoked

Arguments For and Against Bringing Dogs to Cemeteries


  • Dogs are as much a part of the family as humans. Therefore, they should have just as much right to visit their deceased owners as anyone else.
  • Family dogs, or any dog the deceased was close to, can be a comforting presence to family members and friends during a funeral. Maybe funeral homes could even consider hiring therapy dogs.
  • As long as the dog is on a leash and naturally respectful, there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be allowed into a cemetery.


  • Many people fear that a dog may do its business directly into a grave or on a gravestone. They don’t like the idea of a dog doing that on their headstone. Some people get very nervous even when seeing a dog being walked around the parameter of the cemetery.
  • Some dogs not directly involved in the funerals have been known to disrupt the flow of funerals.
  • Some dogs have also been known to disturb people visiting the grave to talk to or pay respects to their deceased loved one.
  • There’s also no telling what a dog may do with other gravestone accessories.
  • Some people have allergies to dogs, and cemetery staff are also under a certain obligation to consider that.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to the question, are dogs allowed in cemeteries? That is, whether they should be.

Both sides make some strong points.

On the one hand, they can be a great comfort to people who are grieving the loss. They seem to appreciate the visits if they knew the deceased as well.

On the other hand, dogs tend not to understand that cemeteries aren’t just another free territory.

They don’t understand the importance of respecting graves or funerals. Most also don’t have a concept of paying respect to the deceased.

Can Dogs Smell Graves?

In short, the current theory is yes.

However, most of them seem to be more interested in the gravestone accessories unless the deceased is their previous owner.

Even so, dogs don’t seem to understand the concept that death is final.

Dogs have been known to act as bodyguards to their owner’s graves. They have even been known to get aggressive when someone tries to pull them away.

They have also been known to whine, pace, dig and drop their ears. Many people think that those are grieving signs.

However, most experts say that it’s more likely that the dog is distressed. Like a two-year-old child, it doesn’t understand that its owner is not coming back.

Dogs have also been known to run back to their owner’s grave even when taken away from it. This is another argument against letting dogs into cemeteries.

Final Thought: Be Respectful

Again, if you’re going to take your dog to the cemetery, respecting the cemetery’s rules about dogs should always be your top priority. Also, be very careful around the parameters.

Remember that dogs probably don’t understand that death is permanent. They definitely don’t seem to have any ideas about the need to respect the deceased.

Most of the time, they see cemeteries as free grounds to do whatever they please.

Having your deceased loved one’s dog present at the funeral may be comforting. It may let the dog know that the loved one is deceased.

However, if your dog knows where its deceased owner is buried, it may act as a bodyguard to the grave.

Again, there is no easy answer about allowing dogs in the cemetery. However, more cemeteries have rules against it. If yours does, then it should be respected at all times.