Imagine you're the owner of a hotel, a guest checks in. Great, right? Maybe not… this guest is bringing bed bugs in their luggage from the last hotel they were at, and now you have them at your establishment. If left undetected, your next patron is going to be in for a rough night, you are going to get really bad reviews on the travel sites you depend on for business, a visit from public health authorities, fines, expensive charges for extermination, and the cost of replacing damage to linens from infestation and treatment. Bad news for your business.
Bed bugs are tiny, insidious, and difficult to discover until they become widespread, biting their unsuspecting human victims and infesting themselves throughout your home or business. But what if you could detect bed bugs immediately, before they spread, or better yet detect them in the luggage of guests checking in to your hotel? Well, there is hope; dogs can be trained to detect the scent of bed bugs with very reliable accuracy. This skill can be used to prevent infestations from spreading, good news for business owners affected by bed bugs and homeowners or apartment dwellers that suspect they may have been contaminated with these pesky critters.
It turns out pests have a smell, be they termites, ants or bed bugs, these organisms have their own unique odor, an odor which can be identified by a dog with a keen sense of smell. In order to detect bedbugs, you will need to teach your dog to search a specified area, which will involve scanning all items in a room to detect the scent of live bed bugs. You do not want your dog to alert to the scent of dead bugs or remnant shells and egg casings that may indicate an old infestation that has already been dealt with, though. This would be a false positive alert, and could result in unneeded treatment of an area that contains no live bugs. Once your dog is trained to distinguish and identify the scent of live bedbugs, he will need to provide you with a sign or signal to alert you to his discovery. Often a dog is trained to point with their noses, sit next to, or paw at the location infested as an alert. Dogs that are currently being used to detect bed bugs have a high detection rate when compared to other detection methods, well above 90%. As an added benefit, dogs can smell and identify bed bugs through several layers of fabric or materials, whereas humans would need to dismantle and disturb materials in order to visually detect bedbugs. Using a dog to smell for bed bugs is quicker, more accurate and less invasive, a triple threat!
Any breed of dog can be used for bed bug detection, however, some breeds, such as hounds, Border Collies, Labs, Aussies and Jack Russell Terriers, are particularly successful due to their scenting ability and motivation to work. Smaller dogs that can easily access residences and businesses and reach nooks and crannies, closets, and bureaus and be lifted to access difficult areas may be very useful in some circumstances. Dogs being used to detect bed bugs will need to be obedient and well socialized. Usually, dogs are started in training between 8 and 12 months, although in some cases older dogs can be used. Commands such as ‘seek’, ‘show me’, or ‘find the bugs’, may be used to initiate searching behavior. In order to be used commercially, certification for bedbug detection dogs is required. You should investigate the certification process before initiating training, so you have a good idea what is expected. Training facilities with mock hotel rooms are often set up by facilities training bed bug dogs, to provide realistic training simulations. It takes a significant time investment to train a bed bug dog, with 800 plus hours of training involved, so a large commitment on the part of trainers is required.