Can Dogs Detect Termites?

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Introduction

The human race likes dogs not just for companionship, but for their stunning senses. It’s an everyday occurrence seeing dogs at the airport, guiding a blind person across the road or working alongside house inspectors in the pursuit of termites. 

The damage these tiny critters can cause is worth millions of dollars in repairs. They are sneaky wood-munchers who could bring a home right to the ground. Termite dogs are the ghost-busters of the modern age, as they rid a home of an unseen entity. The beauty of woofers on the job is they can sniff out the bugs then send in exterminators to clean up the house. Are you ready to check out termite dogs in action?

Signs a Dog Can Hear Termites

Dogs are outstanding in everything they do and we are the lucky ones who discovered how cool they are. Their senses are finely tuned and can hone in on the most peculiar things. Who would have thought a pooch could smell a DVD or stacks of cash? They continue to amaze us with their impressive abilities and companionable natures. If you are a dog lover, this story of termite trouble could make you look in awe at your Beagle or Spaniel.

When folks are looking to fix up old houses, one of the key factors to take into consideration is termite damage. This can be the difference between buying a house to renovate or moving onto the next prospect. These tenacious termites are chewing up homes across the world, with homeowners oblivious to their destructive roommates.

A former trainer of dogs for the police force found out the hard way how termites can terrorize a home. Even though his new house had been signed off as termite free, he found a nest that warranted further investigation. Turns out the original inspector who issued the “termite free,” certificate, could not be held accountable as the area of concern was inaccessible.

This led to an idea and new company named TADD or (Termite and Ant Detection Dogs). Beagles were the dog of choice, trained to smell and sniff out termites in buildings, boats, and homes.

Beagles are classic scent hounds with top tracking abilities while being small enough to get under houses and into tight spaces. Robert Outman, an expert animal behaviorist and creator of this inventive business, says the Beagles love their work and get really pumped when they find a termite infestation.

You’re likely to see a "Termite Beagle," running from room to room and underneath the house. Their heads turn from side to side with tail held high, as they listen for the rustling, rattling sound. All senses are on termite alert as they pace around an area, sniffing for the scent. Once they find a termite or ant nest, their tails are wagging with delight as Beagles have sniffing in their blood. A reward is anything from a rolled up white towel (K9’s reward for a job well done), favorite toy, or edible treat. Beagles love to please so they are perfect for this kind of work.

Body Language

Signs a dog can hear the sound of termites include:
  • Alert
  • Listening
  • Wag tail
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Head turning
  • Tail up

Other Signs

More signs a dog is sensing termites are:
  • Staring at the wall or floor
  • Running under homes
  • Giving a trained alert behavior

History of Beagles as Termite Detector Dogs

Beagles have a cool history as dedicated detector dogs and owners of a masterful sense of smell.  Those long, floppy ears not only look cute, but they can trap a scent and pass it on up to their nose.

Ancient Beagles were first seen in Greece over a thousand years ago and were primarily used for their hunting skills. By the 8th century, these hare-sniffing hounds were known as the "St Hare Hound" and then selectively bred to create the Talbot Hound.

This gives you an idea how hands-on humans were in the genetic revolution of dogs, as stepping forward a few centuries, we find William the Conqueror taking a shine to the Beagle's ancestors and transporting them back to merry-old England. King William then donned his scientist's cap and got busy with DNA, breeding the Talbot Hound with a Greyhound to initiate more speed.

The Southern Hound was born and existed up until the 19th century when it became extinct. Pocket Beagles, a favorite of British royals met the same fate. Their name was inspired by their size, as they could fit into the pockets of hunters and then be let loose to chase prey through the bush, where bigger mutts were unable to go. To add to the confusion around this time, all hunting dogs were referred to as Beagles.

Mankind’s desire to create the perfect dog for hunting rabbit and hare saw the Southern Hound and the North Country Beagle emerge as the perfect fit until their paths were to cross as foxhunting became the sport of the aristocracy.

These dogs were then bred with a Foxhound to achieve the ultimate hunting mutt. Mankind was still not satisfied with two extinctions and a myriad of inter-breeding began to then fashion the Honeywood’s Beagle, which eventually also became extinct in the 1960’s.

More breeding followed, and luckily, in the late 1800’s Beagle fans were determined there would be no more extinctions - possibly why the Beagle club was formed in 1890. There was more breeding as the world fell in love with this floppy-eared, friendly dog and eventually, an official Beagle breed was stamped with a certificate of authenticity.

From wild wolves came Beagle, our popular, detector dogs with super-star sniffing powers. Their journey from ancient times to modern day has been a genetic whirlwind. Their sniffing prowess is possibly their greatest asset, but let's not forget their ability to hear termites through walls!

Science of Dogs Detecting Termites

Beagles are renowned for their sniffing savvy and have more scent receptors than other breeds of dog. According to Pet Helpful, Beagles have around 225 million receptors while the larger German Shepherd has the same. Both woofers are beaten out by the infamous Bloodhound, that walks through the kennel door with a proud 300 million. Still, the Beagle is up there with the world’s best sniffers.

They are also in the elite when it comes to hearing. Most mutts can hear between 40 and 60,000 Hertz and move their ears to pick up the direction of an incoming sound. Woofers have a mammoth hearing range - ideal for listening to the unique banging sound a termite makes. Nothing gets by the Beagle, as they hone in on termites feasting on the drywall in your home.

Training a Dog to Detect Termites

Training a Beagle to hear and sense termites starts at eight weeks of age. By the time they are 8-10 months, they are beginning their jobs as “Termite Dogs.”

The Los Angeles Times tells the sniffing story of Daryll, whose been detecting these creepy crawler’s for over 4 years and hasn’t faltered once. Daryll was trained by TADD services and has inspected around 3,500 properties. When this Californian Beagle gets to the age of eight, he will be retired to his handler.

There are a number of training programs available, so you can set up your own termite-detecting dog business. They teach a prospective client how to choose the right dog and how to detect a certain odor.  K9- University runs classes to teach pest controllers how to bring a dog into their business.

In general, a termite detector dog is trained with classical conditioning using boxes or cans. This mode of thought was invented by Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, who discovered dogs would salivate before they were given food and realized this could be used to influence a behavior. When Pavlov rang a bell, his study dogs would salivate. Now the smell of termites replaces the bell and food rewards are given when the dog gets it right.

How to React When Your Dog Finds a Termite Nest:

  • Praise them or give them a treat.
  • Thank them for saving your home from termites.
  • Read paw-some articles about termite detector dogs!
  • Investigate further training.

Tell Us About Your Dog Detecting Termites!