If you watch a bed bug detection dog work, what you want to see is the dog thoroughly checking low, nose level and high as he moves along. Oftentimes a handler will work with the dog on the left side and move clockwise around the room in a pattern. You don’t want to see the handler walk into the middle of the room with the dog and walk out. That is not detailing a room. That’s air scenting and that isn’t sufficient in searching for bed bugs. Once you’ve gone around the outside of the room the handlers often go around each inside object in a counterclockwise direction.
Why is detailing essential with Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs have a very small scent cone – approximately six inches. A good bed bug dog will pick up the scent when moving into the room from a greater distance if the air flow is moving the scent around but that cannot be relied upon. A larger infestation is easier to pick up. But if you just came home from a trip and a bed bug or two hopped into your luggage, a dog cannot walk in and out of the room and pick up on that odor. The more thoroughly your bed bug dog details the room, the better you should be able to sleep at night. It takes longer and is harder work for the dog and handler, but it’s essential to do a thorough bed bug search. Some services want to cruise in and out of a facility, but that isn’t what you want to hire for a bed bug detection dog service.
How can you tell up front if a Bed Bug Dog service is thorough and reliable?
To start out, make sure that they are certified. The bed bug detection dog and handler team have to test annually in order to be certified. Also, if they say they are certified, ask them what date they certified. It is essential to retest annually and if it’s been more than a year, they are no longer certified. Ask your perspective service to run a test for you. Ask them to bring a vial of bed bugs they use for training or of pseudo scent which is the scent of bed bugs but not the real thing. Ask if you can hide it in the room somewhere and have the dog search for the vial. You may have to wait 30 mins after hiding so the scent cone is available to the dog. You also want to hide it in a location that the scent is available to the dog since there is only a tiny opening at the top of the vial. All you are trying to determine is if the dog can recognize and indicate on that scent. If the dog cannot find the vial, then you probably want to stop any search and find another Bed Bug Dog service.
We at Bed Bug Detection K9s are currently working a large job with 200 units. The previous Bed Bug Detection Dog service that they had retained walked into and out of each room without detailing. Immediately after the inspection they found a huge infestation of bed bugs in a unit. A huge infestation doesn’t happen overnight. The handler also refused to do the vial test prior to the search and was not certified. MANY RED FLAGS!!!!! We are splitting the search into three days with days of recovery in between. A dog cannot do more than that if they are doing thorough detailing. If you are a property manager and have many unit buildings, you will want the dogs to be fresh and effective. One dog cannot do 100 units in a day and be effective. Some services bring in several dogs and swap them out and that is a reasonable approach if the job needs to be done in short time. Otherwise spread it out. At Bed Bug Detection K9s we take breaks with the dogs. Fifteen minutes is enough to revitalize the dog and get them refocused. I like to stop after 70 units. Any more is too much detailing for my dog for one day. I can see if my dog is not focusing, or if I question an alert, I take a break and come back and re-inspect the unit. When my dog needs a break she doesn’t slow down, instead she needs to be recast because I see she is missing areas. Recasting in circling around to pass through the area again. She also might do a false alert. If she is tired and does an alert without sourcing the bed bug, it’s time for a break. Sourcing the bed bug means change in body language. She will breathe more heavily, her tail might move, she might do a button hole turn and go back to a previous area. That is all indication to me that she has found something and is working odor. The alert (behavior that tells the handler she has found – it might be a sit or a scratch or nose touch) is just the final commitment. So if a dog false alerts (tells you she has found without there being any bed bugs) with no body changes then it needs to be questioned by the handler.
A good Bed Bug Detection team will train minimally 16 hours per month. If a team hasn’t bothered to certify I truly doubt that they are keeping up with their training. Training logs are a part of the requirement and any professional service will have training logs on hand in the event they are ever called into court. It’s reasonable to ask a service about their training logs.
I am the owner and dog trainer/handler at Bed Bug Detection K9s. I also have two dogs that are certified in finding missing people and they are used by the state and local police. I follow the same high standards on working my bed bug dog that I do on my live find and cadaver dogs. Professionalism, reliability and accuracy are essential with any working dog and the client deserves to get what they pay for.