You may never have heard of a bed bug dog before but I bet you’re familiar with other kinds of detection dogs.
Man’s best friend is hard at work every day, helping us stay safe and healthy. Their ultra-sensitive sniffers are able to turn up all sorts of things we have trouble detecting: hidden narcotics and weapons, potential bombs, mold, diseases, lost cadavers and more. And now we can add one more thing to that list: bed bugs.
A bed bug detection dog is a dog that has been specially trained to recognize the scent of live bed bugs and bed bug eggs. They’re able to tell the difference between live and dead bugs, the difference between bed bugs and other pests, and the difference between bed bugs and bed bug debris: cast skins and feces.
This finely tuned detection ability gives bed bug dogs a level of accuracy that surpasses conventional detection methods. Bed bug dogs are able to detect bed bugs faster, cheaper and more reliably than other methods. It is this ability that is making them such a popular tool in the fight to get rid of bed bugs.
Bed Bug Dog Accuracy vs. Conventional Detection
Studies show that bed bug dogs are about 97% to 98% accurate. In comparison, a trained pest control tech may only be about 30% accurate.
Bed bug detection dogs are about three times more accurate then trained technicians using conventional detection methods. This is no knock against pest control technicians. Conventional inspection and detection methods for bed bugs are simply difficult and time consuming by nature.
Bed bug dogs can falsely identify bed bugs (known as a false positive). Although their noses are very sensitive, there are a few factors that can cause them to give an incorrect indication. That is one reason further examination is so important. But false positives are rare in a well trained dog in the hands of an experience handler. A lot of the dog’s accuracy depends 1. how well trained the dog is and 2. how well the dog is handled.
Bed bug dog certification doesn’t work like getting a license where you study and practice, pass the one-time test, get your license and drive off into the sunset. Bed bug dogs require 600 – 800 hours of training to develop the ability to detect bed bugs. After they are certified, they must train regularly and are are normally re-tested quarterly and re-certified annually. All of this helps ensure that the dogs stay accurate. A dog’s handler must also train with the dog so that she can correctly tell when the dog is indicating that they have found a bed bug.
A human inspection can take hours. A bed bug dog takes minutes.
Bed bugs are experts at finding places to hide. They are visible but their small size makes them easy to miss. Their eggs are even smaller and not easily visible to the naked eye. Bed bugs and their eggs often wind up in places that are difficult to inspect visually. This includes wall voids, seams in walls and floors, inside box springs and furniture. A human inspection can take hours and might not turn up anything. A bed bug dog on the other hand can sweep a room in minutes.
There are a few different kinds of bed bug monitors that can also be used to detect bed bugs. Some simply fit under the legs of the bed and trap any bugs that try to climb up. Others emit a combination of heat and carbon-dioxide to attract bed bugs into a trap. Using monitors to trap bed bugs can be a slow process, possibly taking days. Using a bed bug dog is instant.
A person known as a handler sweeps a room using their dog. During a sweep, the handler will guide the dog through the room letting the dog sniff. Bed bug dogs are trained to indicate when they have discovered a bed bug scent. Once they have uncovered a possible bed bug, a visual inspection is made to confirm the finding.
Earlier Detection, Less Money
Many pest control operators do not use insecticides unless they can visually locate bed bugs. The result is that small infestations of well hidden bed bugs can go undetected, and the bed bug population builds in the background. When they finally are detected, the now much bigger infestation can make successful extermination much more difficult, time consuming and expensive.
Bed bug dogs can tell which rooms have bed bugs and which don’t. This helps an exterminator target their efforts to just the areas that need treatment. This also saves you time and money.
Better Follow Up Inspection
After an extermination, it can be difficult for a bed bug exterminator to ensure there are no live bugs during a follow-up inspection. This follow-up inspection is a necessary step and indicates whether the extermination effort has been successful or not. It is possible that the exterminator finds signs of bed bugs and the remains of dead bed bugs but no live bed bugs. There may not be enough evidence for additional treatment.
If live bed bugs and eggs escape the extermination and the follow-up inspection, you still have a problem on your hand. Chances are the bed bug population will rebuild. A bed bug dog can tell if there is even a single living bed bug left after extermination. This precision helps eliminate much of the doubt that would exist from just a visual inspection.
Bed Bug Dogs are Here to Stay
We already use detection dogs successfully in so many different ways. This is just another way in which we can harness dogs’ excellent sense of smell.