Sniffer Dogs Join The Global War on Bed Bugs

Sniffer dogs are in strong demand across the world for their ability to detect a wide variety of smells, including drugs, fugitives, explosives, mould, and even human diseases. And in recent years, these clever canines are increasingly being used in the war against bed bugs.


Bed bug detection dogs are a proven alternative to traditional discovery methods.  Highly trained canines can sniff out even small numbers of bed bugs, and they can also detect evidence of earlier infestations, including carcasses, eggshells, shed skin and fecal spotting.


Dog’s noses contain over 300 million scent receptors, compared to only 30 million for humans. They can distinguish individual smells, even while dozens of other strong scents are in the vicinity. A detention dog can evaluate a typical bedroom within several minutes, compared to hours for a human inspector.


Sniffer dogs can quickly reveal the presence of bed bugs in locations that are difficult for humans to investigate, such as behind baseboards or under carpets. While experienced pest exterminators can only visually detect bed bugs with an accuracy of less than 30%, trained dogs can sniff out live bed bug pheromones with a much greater success rate. University of Florida entomology researchers report that seasoned canines can discern a single live bed bug or egg with 96% accuracy.


However one limitation of bed bug sniffer dogs is their inability to detect scents that are high above floor level. If the bed bugs are located above the dog’s head, then even if they’re in plain view the dog may not detect them. That’s why it’s important for a bed bug sniffing team to be backed up by qualified handlers who can detect any bugs that the dogs might miss.


Bed bug sniffer dogs generally begin training at 8-12 months old, and require from 800 to 1000 hours of specialized training to become eligible for certification. Training occurs at selective facilities with mock bedrooms staged to include typical bed bug hiding spots.


Dogs are taught to sit down and point their noses in the appropriate direction when they discover the presence of bugs, rather than pawing at furniture, which could cause unnecessary damage. If the canine identifies a target, the handler will visually confirm the infestation and reward the dog with a treat.


The optimum breeds for bed bug sniffer dogs include hunting varieties like Beagles and Bloodhounds, as well Jack Russell Terriers, Labradors and Border Collies. Small dogs are more desirable as they’re easier to handle, they’re less intimidating to residents, and they can be lifted to search high areas like tall closets and bookshelves.


In addition to bedrooms, these crafty canines can also be used to effectively search public buildings, movie theatres, schools, busses, trains, airplanes and other transport facilities. Canine scent detection is especially suited to large-scale investigation where visual scrutiny is impractical, such as regular assessment of hotel rooms, apartment blocks, dormitories, cinemas and office buildings.


The expense for a professional sniffer dog inspection can run to several hundred dollars per hour, but this can be highly cost effective compared to human inspectors, given the greater speed at which canines can pinpoint the precise location of hiding bed bugs.

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