HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF BEDBUG DOGS?
Dogs have keen sense of smell to detect a variety of substances from drugs to mold. Specific species of canines have three hundred million receptors in their noses. (Humans have only thirty million receptors.) This ability helps them track scents through rain, mud, and snow and they can distinguish the difference.
Several facilities have been training dogs to sniff out live bedbugs, dead cells, and eggs in bedbug-infested places. Bedbug dog training has become a lucrative business for pest exterminators and dog trainers alike.
While some people in the pest control industry are skeptical about the use of bedbug dogs for detection, these trained canines boast a 97% accuracy. Comparing it to the 30% accuracy of humans on visual detection, the difference is significant.
Bedbugs go through five stages of development, and in most of these phases, they are no larger than the size of a sesame seed. The eggs and nymphs are hard to see on light-colored bed sheets and carpets. The adults are no longer than a quarter of an inch and are excellent at hiding. That is why more companies are relying on dog’s keen sense of smell to find these blood-sucking creatures.
WHO ARE THESE DOGS AND HOW ARE THEY SELECTED?
There are several training facilities across the United States which raise and train bedbug dogs. Majority of the dogs used came from local shelters. This makes procurement costs low for the facilities while helping out less fortunate animals.
Training facilities choose dogs based on their breed and level of energy. The best candidates are energetic and contain biological traits that improve their sense of smell.
Hunting breeds, such as Blood Hounds and Beagles, are popular to use because they seek out prey and fetch the carcasses for their handlers. Other breeds used include Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, Labradors, and Aussies.
Some prefer the smaller breeds because they are less intimidating to residents who have aversions to dogs. Also, handlers can lift small dogs to search high shelves and drawers in suspected residences.
TRAINING TO SNIFF OUT BEDBUGS
Facilities train dogs to detect a single scent to avoid the chance that the dog identify a location of mold when it should be searching for bedbugs.
Specialization of labor is just as important for dogs as it is for humans in other industries. Trainers expose the dog to bedbugs in their different stages in order for the animal to learn the varying scents of these insects. It is important to teach the dog scent discrimination to distinguish between live bugs and dead cells, such as their egg casings and shed skins. While on the job, a handler does not want the dog identifying past infestations that are no longer a threat to the owner or resident. A false positive could lead to unnecessary expenses of fumigation and other treatments.
BEDBUG DETECTION CERTIFICATION
The National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association, or NESDCA, certify dogs and their handlers. Founded by pest control owners and operators, NESDCA provides the highest quality scent detection methods for canine training teams. NESDCA also performs valuable research in the departments of entomology and canine training.
The handler and K9 must pass the certification requirements together as a team to become fully certified. If one handler passes the dog on to a different handler, the certification process repeats for the new team. A single dog cannot be legally certified without a handler, and vice versa.
Dogs must also be single-focused scent detectors to qualify for certification with NESDCA. Once a team successfully passes the testing and evaluation, their certification will be valid for a full year. The team is only certified for the specific scent for which they tested.