Can Dogs Smell Bugs?

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Introduction

Dogs can sniff out bombs, drugs, electronics, guns, and even ammunition. With their amazing sense of smell, you may have wondered if dogs can sniff out some more obscure objects as well. Interestingly enough, they can, and dogs can be trained to sniff out bugs as well! In particular, beg bugs are often detected by dogs. Other invasive bug species, such as vine mealybugs and termites, are often detected by special bug-sniffer-dogs as well to stop the bug issue from spreading more than it already has. 

Below, we will take a peek at how dogs are trained to smell bugs, why this practice became popular, and if your own dog can learn this cool trick as well! 

Signs of a Dog Smelling Bugs

The signs of a dog sniffing out bugs correctly are very similar to the way a drug or bomb-sniffing dog reacts when they find a bomb or a stash of heroin. The dog is given a scent of the bug it is trying to detect, which may change from case to case. After they get the scent of the bug, they are released in the location where they are supposed to search and they begin their sniffing and detecting. The dog may also be leashed as well, depending on how safe the location is for them. 

The dog will begin to sniff around the location until they sense the smell they have been given and were trained to detect. Once they have found the possible location(s) of the bugs, they will use their special signs to signal where their handler should look further for the bugs or the bug eggs. 

Most dogs are trained to touch the area with their nose or just sit/stand in front of the location. Some dogs may also be trained to bark by the location, although this is less common. A dog may also dig or use their paw to show the location of the bugs or the eggs. 

Body Language

These are some signs you may notice if your dog can smell bugs: 

  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Guarding
  • Stalking
  • Paw raised

Other Signs

Here are some other signs your dog can smell bugs:
  • Pawing, digging, or scratching at certain location
  • Touching their nose to location
  • Standing in front of something

History of Using Dogs For Pest Control

Dogs have been used for their keen sense of smell to help humans in different situations for quite a few years. The first sniffer-dogs made their debut in the 1970s when they were used to sniff out mines during a war. 

From there, sniffer-dogs were trained to sense items like drugs and bombs and worked very closely with law enforcement and the government. Sniffer dogs' jobs did not stop there, however. Dogs were then trained to sniff out pests and agricultural products to help prevent unwanted items from making it across the border and into the United States. 

Today, sniffer-dogs have branched out even more and many of them are used to detect invasive bugs, like bed bugs, in homes, apartments, and office buildings so the pest issue can be treated easily and efficiently. It is often challenging for humans to pinpoint the exact location of a pest infestation, so the strong sense of smell a dog has can help out greatly.

Although a bug-sniffing dog is not always correct and improvements in the training process are needed, dogs are generally quite accurate when finding the location or source of the invasive bugs they are looking for. 

Science Behind Dogs Smelling Bugs

Dogs use their nose and incredible sense of smell to detect bugs in specific locations. Dogs have about 220 million cells in and around the nose to help them smell. To compare, humans only have 5 million cells. Furthermore, your dog has a special location in their brain that helps them to detect and analyze certain smells in a much more precise and complex way. 

In order for a dog to smell well, their adorable, wet noses allow the scent particles in the air to land on their nose so they can smell these scents even better. If a dog's nose is dry, cracked, and crusty, they will not smell as well as they can if their nose is kept moist. 

Training Dogs to Smell Bugs

If you want to train your own dog to sniff bugs that may be an issue in your home at some point during their life, you definitely can, although it will take a lot of time, patience, and dedication. 

To start the process at home, you need to first train your dog to effectively detect and find other scents they are familiar with so they understand the process of sniffing a scent and then actually finding it. You can do this by hiding their meals in different locations inside or outside of the house. Give them the scent of their food and then let them sniff out the location of their food to see if they can find it. Your dog's nose should be able to detect where their food is. You must also use a command, like "find," to signal to your dog you want them to find their food. 

Once they do well with this task, you can move on to teaching them other scent detection and odor skills. You can take pill bottles and fill them with different items, including the item (bug) you are training them to detect and smell. You will hold the different bottles to your dog's nose and give them the command to smell the bugs. If they signal to the correct container, they must be rewarded heavily. You will want them to repeat this process many times during the day and over the course of a few weeks. 

You can then begin to hide the pill bottles with the specimens inside, around the house, or outside. Have them go around and try to find where the correct samples are located. At this point, you can also use a clicker instead of treats to signal a job well done. 

How to React if Your Dog Smells Bugs:

  • Reward them for finding the pests!
  • Encourage the behavior by continuing the scent training.
  • Enroll your pooch in professional training if they seem to have a real gift.