For tens of thousands of years, dogs have been used to help hunters, largely because of their excellent sense of smell. In fact, a dog’s ability to analyze smell can be 40 times better than a human’s. Nowadays, dogs are trained to sniff out bombs, illegal substances, missing people, and many other widely varying items, even the presence of cancer that has not yet been detected medically.
Around 2008, is when we saw a lot of dogs take on the important job of bed bug inspectors. Don’t expect your pooch at home to fulfill this role; it takes many hours of training and certification to be an official canine bed bug specialist inspector.
Meet the bed bug sniffing dogs of Highland! On the job in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the DC area, these canine sleuths find their bed bug prey no matter where they’re hiding in your home, office, or hotel.
Training for bed bug sniffing dogs
Most humans cannot smell bed bugs, but these tiny pests give off an aroma of coriander or must that dogs can differentiate from thousands of other smells that pass their noses. This skill is accentuated through specialized training. Highland canine inspectors have over 500 hours of bed bug training from the FSI Academy.
Once the dog arrives at Highland, the canine inspector and his human partner or handler work together as a team. This develops into a partnership that lasts for years. The dog and human work together and generally live together. The dogs are well taken care of. But these are not just best friends; they’re a synergistic bed bug attack team.
At the Highland training center, the human inspector hides vials containing live bed bugs in nooks and crannies of simulated home and hotel settings. The dog is encouraged by the handler with a special command to search. When the dog finds the appropriate vial, his or her human gives vocal reinforcement and a food treat.
Dogs continue with a reinforcement training process regularly on non-working days. They seem happy to “go to school” because they know they’ll get rewarded when they find the right vials. When they’re out on a job site, they have additional reinforcement of their skills when they find real bed bug infestations in mattresses, sofas, rugs and other furniture. Their human partners use the same voice and food reinforcement as they do in training.
What if the dog doesn’t find any bed bugs during an inpsection? First the human inspector encourages the dog to recheck any spots that might have been missed or areas where the homeowner has special concerns. Usually, nothing more is found since the dogs tend to get it right the first time. In this case, the canine inspector is taken out of the home and gets rewarded for doing a good job.
However, if bed bugs are present, the handler shows the homeowner where the dogs found them and points out any visible signs of bugs or their fecal matter. The homeowner usually wants to get rid of the infestation as soon as possible. The process moves to the next phase of agreeing on and scheduling bed bug extermination.
Certification for canine bed bug inspectors
While training is ongoing, certification for bed bug sniffing teams is also a serious process. It isn’t enough to simply make observations that the dog seems to be doing his or her job by finding bed bugs in training or work settings.
To qualify for certification, the dog and human partners generally spend months in training together. When they’re confident the team has mastered the process of finding bed bugs with a high level of success, they’re ready to be tested…and they do it as a team.
During the testing, the dogs must correctly find several hidden bed bugs in different locations in a certification site. This includes successfully avoiding a distracting scent. The dog is tested for sniffing live vs. dead bed bugs, important in helping the handler know whether the homeowner is dealing with a current problem that needs treatment or simply has leftover carcasses from an earlier infestation.
Several locations across the country offer certification for differentiated canine sniffing capabilities. At Highland we use the World Dog Detection Detection Organization or the Integrated Bed Bug Management Association for bed bug inspection certification. We send our canine/human inspection teams to the site once a year to be tested and certified. The team must achieve a passing grade to earn a certificate, which we proudly hang on our training room wall.
Those bed bug dogs? They’re smart and cute!
Nearly any dog can be trained to sniff for bed bugs; some of the best are mixed breed rescue dogs. However, after having gone through their extensive training and certification, these dogs are more valuable than the most elegant purebreds.
Small dogs often perform these tasks better than larger ones. Their smaller snouts help them sniff more deeply in cracks and crevices in furniture and they can get under sofas, beds, buffets and other raised pieces. Think of dogs with lots of beagle, dachshund, Chihuahua, terrier and boxer collie blood.
Meet the bed bug sniffing dogs of Highland! On the job in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the DC area, these canine sleuths find their bed bug prey no matter where they’re hiding in your home, office, or hotel. Contact Highland for discreet bed bug inspection and eco-friendly heat treatment for bed bug extermination.