Trained bed bug dog alerting

Bed Bug Dogs – The Importance of Certification

When looking for a bed bug detection dog, a certified bed bug dog should be at the top of your list. Just as you wouldn’t employ an unlicensed electrician or plumber, you want to ensure that the bed bug dog and handler inspecting your house or facility have credentials to do the job. Making a mistake about the findings and false alerting could cost you thousands and thousands of dollars in treatment that you might not need. Conversely the the bed bug dog misses the bed bugs, it could result in heavy infestation and many more dollars in treatment than would have originally been necessary (not to mention the heartache of living with bed bugs). It doesn’t matter how long the handler has been in business if they aren’t certified.

I work many different detection dogs and train detection handlers and when you are out on a job your dog can pick up bad habits. You need to go back to your training to right any wrongs. For instance, if you go out on a multi-unit job that is heavily infested in bed bugs and the dog is constantly getting a food reward each time he alerts, soon he realizes he gets food if he alerts. Back in training you set up problems where you know locations of bed bugs. If there is a false alert you know it. Out in the field you don’t. So the false indications can become ingrained unless you diligently ensure that your dog is honest. Or if your dog is not a diligent searcher, he can start missing bed bug locations.

The working dog requirement is annual certifications. That way a handler must keep up with his training if he wishes to pass the test. Constantly working your dog and not keeping up with ongoing training can be detrimental to a previously good bed bug dog and result in an unreliable bed bug dog.

I’ve seen many bed bug dog handlers that have certifications on their websites but they are not current. Not only do you need to confirm certification but request a certificate (online or on the website) so you can see that it is current. If it has lapsed (longer than a year), what about the dog’s training? There are actually only a handful of currently certified bed bug dogs in Massachusetts. It is too bad because it impacts the reputation of those of us who genuinely train our dogs and follow the working dog guidelines to ensure the highest industry standards. Be sure to only consider a currently certified bed bug dog for your inspection if you want reliable results.

Got Bed Bugs? What NOT To Do!

Bed Bugs and Travel

You’ve just gotten back from a trip. You spent and overnight in an expensive hotel. Two days later you notice a uneven line of bites on your ankle. You go online and decide the hotel room must have had bed bugs.

Too late, you’ve brought your suitcase up to your bedroom and unpacked all the unworn clothing. FIRST NOT! When you travel throw all your clothing (worn and unworn) into the washer and drier immediately upon return. After visiting an infested home I remove my clothing in my attached garage and throw it into the dryer for 30 mins unless I plan to immediately do a wash and in that case I wash on hot then dry immediately. (did you notice the word immediately?)

Okay, so your unworn clothing is back in your dresser, unwashed and undried. Too late now. You may or may not have brought bed bugs back with you. You will have to wait to see but don’t wait too long as you don’t want a large infestation. Bed bugs feed every 5-10 days. Bed bug bites sometimes are delayed at coming out so if you notice the bites a few days after travel, they may have happened in the hotel room.

What you should start doing is checking your bed. If you notice bloody dots on your sheets it’s not a good sign (smashed bed bugs possibly unless you know what else they are from). If you find a bug do NOT kill it and flush it down the toilet. Get a piece of clear tape and tape it down, then put it (in the clear tape) in a sealable plastic bag and take a picture on the macro setting of your phone. You can email that picture to an extermination company or to us. Could you have found the only bed bug you brought home? Maybe but not likely. They reproduce very quickly. Keep watching.

Bed Bugs and Bed Bug Detection Dogs

If you find positive proof of bed bugs and you live in a single family home, you don’t need a dog, get an exterminator in. If you live in an apartment building and you find a bed bug in your apartment, tell management and they should get a dog in to determine if any of the adjoining apartments have bed bugs and exactly how many units need to be treated. They quickly move from unit to unit. If you are uncertain about whether you have bed bugs, do NOT use household sprays. Once you have sprayed chemicals a dog cannot come in for 30 days. If you’re getting bitten but haven’t seen the bed bugs, get a dog in to determine if you have bed bugs or are getting bitten from something else.

Do NOT spend the money for extermination until you have positive proof that it’s bed bugs. I just went out to a search in Concord, MA. The homeowner had bites and one service was going to come in to exterminate at a high cost. The owner called another service who recommended she confirm first and referred her to me (my bed bug detection dog search is much much cheaper than the extermination). That is the more reputable extermination company because there was no beg bug scent in her home. Her bites may have been solely from her stay at the hotel and no bed bugs hitched a ride to her home. Or they could have been bites from something else.

We are not in the business to service people who don’t need us. If you call us we will consult with you at no cost to see what we can resolve over the phone to determine your problem. Many people do not want to wait to see if they brought in bed bugs and want to go ahead and have a bed bug detection dog search for piece of mind. I can understand that.

Once you think you have a problem with bed bugs educate yourself online and call a professional to find out what your best alternatives are before you have a large bed bug infestation. We offer free consultation so don’t hesitate to call us!

Bed Bug Dogs – Detection Dogs Interdisciplinary Scent Group New England

I co-hosted a Detection Dogs Interdisciplinary Scent Group Seminar recently. We had participants from Nose Work, Narcotics, Explosives, Human Remains and Bed Bugs. The common theme is using dogs to detect scents. The other scents were distractions to the dogs. For a Narcotics dog, human remains is interesting but should be left alone. The dog will smell HR but move on, continuing to look for his target odor: Narcotics.

Bed Bugs are a challenge because their scent cone is smaller than the other scents. Bed bug dogs need to detail areas in order to get
their noses to the target scent. Generally it’s necessary to keep them on lead. My cadaver dog generally works off lead even in buildings. My bed bug dog works on lead. If I let her off lead she may pick up on a scent and follow it to source. But if it’s one bed bug she could miss it since the scent cone is so tiny. So working her on lead keeps her closely detailing and slows her down so she doesn’t miss the subtle bed bug odor.

The further challenge is that there are so many other distractions in people’s homes. During training you need to proof bed bug dogs off all the other food, toiletries, air fresheners, etc and although the bed bug dog can sniff, he must move on searching for his target odor: bed bugs. And with any kind of air flow, the dog may pick up the odor more readily but conversely the scent cone may be dispersed and the dog may have a more difficult time following the odor into source.

These challenges are true for all detection dogs. But my bed bug dog must work the cone longer before pinpointing the odor. And my bed bug dog must detail every room to ensure he doesn’t miss a tiny number of bed bugs. The earlier they are found the easier they are to exterminate. I bring along a pseudo scent on jobs and if there are 40 rooms I put out a vial every 5-10 rooms to keep my dog focused. My bed bug dog is very high drive but we all start seeing double after detailing countless identical rooms. And finding bed bugs is what makes it fun (and rewarding) for the dog.

Each discipline has it’s own challenges and detection dog training must be fine tuned to address these challenges.

Trained bed bug dog on a couch

Bed Bug Dogs – When, Where, What?

So you think you have bed bugs? Bites? Found a bug that really looks like a bed bug you’ve seen pictured online? What are your choices? Catch the bug with a piece of clear tape, put it in a sealed baggie and take a picture on your phone.
You can contact a bed bug organization to get more information and feedback on whether the bug you found is in fact a bed bug. You can also contact an exterminator or a bed bug dog service. Both should be able to help you. But you don’t have a picture and you don’t want to wait it out.

Exterminators will generally send out a technician to go through your facility to look for bed bugs. If you have a heavy infestation it will be obvious to the technician and you won’t need bed bug detection dogs. If the facility is large and you need to determine exactly where the infestation is a bed bug dog is indicated. And if you have a light infestation a dog is 60+% more successful than a human at finding the bed bugs. The dog can also pinpoint the location so it might not be necessary to treat an entire bldg or even an entire house.

You’ve just come back from a trip and think the bed bugs have just moved into your house. No big infestation and you want a bed bug detection dog. Some exterminators have their own dogs that are owned by the company. Others use independent contractors with dogs. And finally there are bed bug inspection dog services that you can go to directly. Why one over the other? The independent services are not affiliated with an extermination company so they are unbiased about finding bugs. There is no advantage to them in finding bugs as there may be to an extermination company. The real money is in the treatment process not the inspection process. So even if an extermination company tells you there is no charge for the dog inspection, that is factored in to the treatment cost.

Questions to ask the service about their bed bug detection dogs. Are they certified? If a dog is not certified you have to ask why. There are various certification boards that ensure that the dog is reliable, truthful and able to differentiate live vs dead bugs. Personally I would only use a service that has certified dogs. Also ask about training. The guidelines for working dogs are minimally 16 hours of training a month. Any handler should be keeping training logs of the dog’s training sessions. Also you want to confirm that the service has liability insurance should anything happen.

If you decide to go to an independent bed bug inspection dog service and they find bed bugs, you can find an exterminator or ask the service for some recommendations. There are options to heat treat or chemical treat and it’s worth taking your time to find out the best alternative for your situation.