Got Bed Bugs? Canines to the Rescue

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Almost 100 percent of pest management companies in the United States have dealt with a residential bed bug infestation, according to a survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky in 2013. Although appearing mainly in homes, apartments and condominiums, the researchers discovered that 75 percent of the pest control companies saw bed bugs in hotels and motels and 47 percent found them in college dorms. But rest assured, a highly successful ally in the fight against bed bugs has appeared in the form of bed bug sniffing dogs.

Sleeping with the Enemy

Bed bugs are small (1 mm to 7 mm) wingless insects that live off of the blood of animals and people. They generally feed while people are asleep in their beds. Bed bugs are found on most continents but have spread quickly throughout the United States, according to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They can be found everywhere, in the family bedroom to the most sophisticated hotel guest room. Unlike other insect pests, the cleanliness of the environment does not determine the presence of bed bugs.

These pests show up where people sleep and normally don’t travel further than 8 feet away. Bed bugs hide in walls, bed frames, under tables and anywhere where there is clutter. The bugs do not carry disease but are a nuisance because they cause itching when they bite; some people may have an allergic reaction to the bite.

A Canine Hero

The University of Florida’s Department of Entomology performed a study on the ability of dogs to detect bed bugs through smell. The success rate of the dogs observed was nearly 98 percent with 0 percent false-positives. Results form the study appeared in PubMed, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information for the National Institutes of Health.

Since the study, dog training centers have opened across the United States to find the right canines to detect these pests. Dogs have to have just the right personality to be a good bed bug dog, according to Mike Smith, who spoke to Michigan Live. Smith is the owner of Bed Bug Investigations in Southwest Michigan and has trained several dogs that have found bed bugs in libraries, hotels, homeless shelters and even hospitals.

Smith’s first bed bug dog, Daytona, has been certified by the International Association of Canine Pest Inspectors and the North American Detector Dog Association. The organizations certify everything from bomb-sniffing to bug-sniffing dogs. The right dog must have a strong instinct to hunt. Only about 1 out of 100 dogs qualify for certification.

Jennifer Morgan, owner of Bug Out K9 Academy in Fairhope, Ala., told Fox News that she uses a wheel with six arms to train her dogs. Each arm of the wheel has a container at the end. She places a bed bug in one of the containers and the dogs must identify the correct container. Each dog does something different when it finds the bug. One sits in front of the container. Another barks at it until the owner takes it out.

Finding the Right Company

While bug-sniffing dogs are becoming popular with pest management companies, Pedigree has some suggestions for finding a quality outfit to work with:

  • Ask for proof of training and certification of both the dog and owner. Make sure the certifications are current, as well.
  • Find out if the service and price includes inspection and extermination or inspection only. An inspection/extermination company profits from finding bugs so some people prefer to work with an inspection-only firm.
  • Get visual proof of any positive identifications, which will verify the dog’s accuracy.

Carol Pash considers herself a free spirit who’s passionate about animals, fashion, cupcakes, and traveling.

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