Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs
Summary: Bed bug sniffing dogs can locate bed bugs as long as the dog handler knows what he is doing and conditions are right.
Bed bug sniffing dogs are selling like hotcakes. Everybody and their brother is buying a bed bug dog and advertising that they have the tools to find bed bugs. Truth be known, you can, in fact, buy a well trained bed bug dog and offer your services. No license is required and that means a lot of people are hiring so-called experts who, in reality, have little to no pest control experience.
Bed bug dogs cost, on average, about $10,000 to purchase. The dogs have been thoroughly trained to find live bed bugs. Dogs, as you may know, can be trained to sniff out just about any scent from explosives to human bodies. So, training a dog to react to the smell of bed bugs is all in a day's work. However, once that dog is shipped to its new owner, who, by the way, has also gone through training, as well, it is up to the new owner to continue the necessary ongoing training.
Here's where things start to go awry. Keeping a bed bug dog trained is a full time job. Just feeding the dog is a major task. The dog cannot be fed from a bowl like most other dogs. It can only be fed from the trainer's œreward pouch and only when the dog finds bed bugs. So, captured bed bugs in bottles must be placed around a room and the dog has to search out the hidden bugs. Every time the dog œalerts to a hidden bed bug, the trainer may give the dog a food reward. This goes on until the dog has been fed and this takes place a couple of times each day. You can imagine, there are trainers who take shortcuts and feed their dogs from bowls.
When a dog enters a room to search for bed bugs it is lead around by the trainer. Not all trainers are pest control experts. I've seen trainers skip over areas where bed bugs have been found previously. Unless someone tells the trainer, that infested spot will not be found by the bed bug dog.
Lastly, if a room is to be inspected by a dog, the room must be prepared. Dogs don't do well in cluttered rooms. They also don't do well in rooms with food. It's a dog, for heaven's sake, and dogs like food. So, if there is food stuck in the back of a drawer, the dog is going to lose focus. Suddenly, the dog is thinking about cookies rather than bed bugs.
I've seen bed bug dogs do great work and I've seen them do less than exemplary work. It all depends on the trainer and the surroundings. Before spending $300 per hour for a bed bug dog, you need to ask the owner of the dog about how the dog is trained and how much knowledge the trainer has about bed bugs.