4 min read


Can Dogs Sense Bed Bugs?



4 min read


Can Dogs Sense Bed Bugs?


Ever wonder if your furry friend can contribute to the household by sniffing out bed bugs? Well, the good news is that they can! Dogs have a powerful sense of smell that can detect even just one bed bug. Digging deeper than that, dogs can sense whether they have found live bed bugs with eggs or dead bed bug carcasses. 

With some special training, your pup can sniff those bed bugs out like professional pest control companies! Like most things in this wonderful life, there are limitations to your fur child's ability to detect bed bugs, though.

Scroll down to learn more about how dogs are able to sense bed bugs AND how to train your doggo to get started on doing just that! 


Signs Your Dog Has Found Bed Bugs

Our puppers' use their noses to "look" for a scent, allowing it to lead them to the subject - in this case, bed bugs. Their sense of smell is much more astute than ours. The best example of this is when we bake a cake, we can only smell the cake, whereas they can smell each individual ingredient that went into baking it. 

Because of this, dogs help us in detecting a myriad of things: drugs, illnesses, guns, and more! Bed bugs have become such a menacing problem, especially in big cities, so experts have turned to dogs for some extra help with bed bug detection. 

Dogs (generally) don't just innately sniff out bed bugs; we need to train them to recognize the scent. Because of this, we can teach them how to indicate whether or not they have found bed bugs. The most common way is to just have them sit when they've found a live infestation. Next, they will lift their paw up and lightly scratch at the site and bark. This sign is completely up to you or whoever will be training your little pup-detective. 

Body Language

Signs your dog may give once they have detected bed bugs include:

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Sniffing
  • Ears Up

Other Signs

Some other cues your dog may throw your way once the nasty critters have been found are:

  • Sitting Near Where The Bed Bugs Are
  • Getting Your Attention
  • Scratching At The Bed Bug Hiding Spot

History of Dogs and Bed Bugs


We have a long history of relying on our doggos for many things, including their amazing sense of smell. In the 1940s, bomb-sniffing dogs became the pioneer pups of smell detection for humans. Since they were so successful, trainers branched out to teach dogs how to smell a range of things, like drugs, certain medical conditions, and bed bugs. 

Since the 1980s, bed bugs have become much more prevalent in the developed world, whereas before that, you could really only find them in the developing world. Because of this, developed countries looked for solutions to this new problem. 

In the early 2000s, pups and their sniffers became more popular. And, now that anyone can just look up anything online, the training techniques have become more transparent and available to the general public. If you have the discipline and patience and want to train your pup to sniff bed bugs - you can! 

The Science Behind Dogs Sensing Bed Bugs


Doggos that are trained to sniff out bed bugs have an on record 97 percent accuracy rate, compared to human detection accuracy at 30 percent. Human detection relies solely on vision, and bed bugs at most development stages are as small as a poppy seed. This is why dogs with their nose detection skills have a much greater advantage over us. So it's no wonder we need these pups' help to sniff out sneaky bed bugs! 

Ever wonder how your little guy has such an amazing sense of smell? Well, while we humans have approximately 5 million cells that help us smell, our pups have over 220 million! 

On top of that, the part of our doggos' brains that control their sense of smell is significantly larger than ours. This doesn't just help with their detection abilities; it also aids in their refinement of their sniffer. So, not only can they smell many more smells than we can, but they can also distinguish between them in a more deliberate and distinct way. How cool! 

Training Your Dog to Detect Bed Bugs


The training process for this should be done by a specialized dog handler. Every trainer has a little bit of a different method, but the general training looks like the following: 

First, the trainer will evaluate your doggo's behavior. Any level of aggression could get in the way of their doggy-detective skills. Once they have identified that your pooch is not aggressive, they will move on to starting the training on bed bug scent detection. 

The most important part of this step is exposing your pup to the different stages of bed bug growth. That way, they can tell the difference when they are actually detecting them. This is crucial because we don't want our dog to sense the presence of dead bed bugs that no longer pose a threat, but to instead alert to us that they are alive with eggs. This can lead to a lot of wasted money and effort in extermination measures. 

Next, the dog handler will train your pup on the actual search portion. They will likely hide dead and alive bugs in areas where they are commonly found, such as in and under a mattress. Then, they will hide them in other areas along the floorboards and in electrical sockets.

Trained dogs should be able to detect bed bugs anywhere - even through a wall. Exposing the dogs to not only different areas of a house, but to different types of buildings, is also very important in the training process. We want them to be able to detect the bugs in any type of environment, and in any spot in that environment. 

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Written by Kelsey Bullis

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/14/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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