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.