The keen sense of smell that dogs possess has been valued for decades and used to detect a variety of substances, from illicit drugs to mold, in well-populated areas like Staten Island, NY. Pioneering pest control companies have since begun to train dogs to sniff out elusive pests, like bed bugs, which are almost impossible to spot with the naked eye. Read on to discover how these bed bug dogs are selected and trained.
Bed bug dogs are selected based on their breed and level of energy, as the job requires highly energetic candidates with genetic traits that enhance their sense of smell. Hunting breeds, such as blood hounds and beagles, have been bred to seek out prey and carcasses for their owners. They are, therefore, favored above all other breeds. Other appropriate breeds include border collies and Jack Russell terriers. Small breeds are preferred because they can be raised into the air with ease to sniff cabinets and shelves. They also tend to make residents of the inspected property feel more at ease.
Dogs are trained from a young age and must first learn obedience to their handler by being taught simple commands such as “sit” and “stay.” During this time, the handler will discover the best ways to train a particular dog and assess its temperament. Dogs that are either too timid or aggressive are not good candidates for this line of work as they may behave unpredictably when exposed to a new environment. The dog must also have a good work ethic and be seldomly distracted during training.
Most handlers focus their training on the identification of odors associated with bed bugs to optimize results and minimize distractions. The dog is exposed to bed bugs in different stages of their life cycle so that it will be able to detect eggs and adult bed bugs alike.
Trainers typically set up multiple containers that house bed bugs, their shells, as well as dog treats and other recognizable items. The dog must then identify the container that contains the live bed bugs. Once the dog has found the correct container, he will be rewarded. It is vital for a bed bug dog to be able to distinguish between live bed bugs and the casings of dead bugs, as alerting the handler to an old infestation that is no longer hazardous will only waste time and resources.
Identifying Common Hiding Spots
In a mock hotel room, a trainer may teach a search pattern to the dog that includes the most common spots in which bed bugs can be found. The dog will learn to target mattresses, headboards, closets, and carpets, for example. These dogs also learn to detect bed bugs through walls and behind electrical sockets, where they are often found.
Pointing Out Bed Bugs
There are various ways in which a dog may be trained to point out its target. Pawing the relevant area serves as a clear way to communicate with the handler but, in the case of sniffing out bed bugs, may damage furniture and spread the infestation. Sitting in front of the target is rather safe and specific behavior but does not always indicate the exact location of the bed bugs. Many handlers prefer to train their dogs to point their noses at the exact location of an infestation.