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Bed Bug Dogs: Necessity or Gimmick?

April 6, 2019

Bed bug dogs are the latest trend in pest control. But do these dogs really sniff out bed bugs hiding in a home, or are these claims an exaggeration?

Keep reading to find out!

A Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dogs actually do have an amazing sense of smell. Compared with humans, their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better! Their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors—while ours have just 6 million. And the part of their brains that is devoted to analyzing smell is (proportionally speaking) 40 times bigger than ours.

One scientist, quoted in PBS, described their sense of smell as “catching a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels”!

A dog’s sense of smell is so good that we have trained them to help with a number of difficult tasks. These include search and rescue, tracking, finding remains, catching drug smugglers, and detecting explosives.

So does this mean that dogs really can sniff out bed bugs in a room? Yes! However, this method isn’t foolproof.

How Bed Bug Dogs Work

Dogs are trained to locate bed bugs by introducing the dog to the smell of live bugs, then rewarding the dog for finding the bugs. These dogs are trained much like you would train your own dogs—with practice, patience, and treats for good behavior.

Bed bug dogs are supposed to work by entering a home and walking through it (along with the pest control technician). If there are any bed bugs in the home, they are supposed to alert the technician (by jumping, barking, or some other behavior).

In theory, this method sounds foolproof. With such good noses, why wouldn’t you trust man’s best friend to find bed bugs in your home?

The Problem with Bed Bug Dogs

Companies that utilize bed bug dogs will sometimes make grandiose claims or imply that you can trust their dog 100%.

Unfortunately, the reality is this detection method isn’t perfect, for three reasons.

First, dogs aren’t machines: they’re creatures with minds of their own—and sometimes  mischievous personalities! Bed bug dogs who are rewarded with treats or food may put out a false alert because they’re hungry or because they just want a treat!

Second, training for bed bug dogs can vary, and it’s possible that you’ll get a bed bug dog that hasn’t had enough practice. For example, good training will have the dog differentiate between live bed bugs and bed bug casings or fecal matter. This is because live bed bugs are indicative of a current problem, while bed bug casings could be from an old infestation.

Third, and finally, the inexperience of the technicians themselves can be problematic. Some companies’ technicians can rely too heavily on alerts from the dogs. In fact, in one ABC News exposé, the technician admitted that he never checked the home for bugs himself and relied completely on the dog—recommending treatment even when no live bed bugs could be found.

ABC News also reported that, in one study, bed bug dogs were found to be wrong—alerting to bugs that didn’t exist—15% of the time. Not finding bed bugs is bad, of course, but so is “finding” bed bugs that aren’t there: you don’t want to pay for a treatment you don’t need!

Should You Hire a Bed Bug Dog?

Bed bug dogs can be a useful asset, but they’re certainly not necessary for bed bug detection—and they’re definitely not a replacement for a trained pest professional. It’s the pest professional who will treat your home, after all.

We recommend contacting an experienced, trustworthy pest control company in your area. This company should be well-reviewed and have knowledgeable, extensively trained technicians. When the technician arrives, he or she should do a thorough visual inspection of your home. Based on the evidence, he or she can give you the all-clear or can recommend treatment options.

If the company that you are interested in uses bed bug dogs, make sure that the technician does an inspection him or herself and finds evidence of bed bugs. You can also consider getting a second opinion if you’re not sure that the dog really found bed bugs.

Call Us Today

Concerned your home has bed bugs?

Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We've been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Authored By: Eric Scherzinger

Quality ProNational Pest Management AssociationOPMABetter Business Bureau Angies List Super Service Award

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