How Accurate Are Bed Bug Dogs

Doubts Rise on Bedbug-Sniffing Dogs

    Nov. 11, 2010

If any heroes have emerged in the bedbug epidemic sweeping households, movie theaters, retailers, schools, offices, you-name-it nationwide, it is surely bedbug-sniffing dogs.

Cute, diligent and armed with highly sophisticated detection tools — their noses — these dogs are fast becoming the American equivalent of the St. Bernard rescuing the snowbound in the Alps. Commercials vaunt bedbug-sniffing dogs’ prowess and purport up to 98 percent accuracy. In New York, a bedbug-sniffing beagle named Roscoe has become so well known — he has a Facebook page and now an iPhone app — that fellow beagles often are mistaken for him on the street.

But as the number of reported infestations rises and the demand for the dogs soars, complaints from people who say dogs have inaccurately detected bedbugs are also climbing. And in the bedbug industry, where some dog trainers and sellers have back orders until spring despite the dogs’ $11,000 price tag, there are fears that a rise in so-called false positives by dogs will harm their credibility and business.

“Many pest control companies have the same frustration,” said Michael F. Potter, an entomology professor at the University of Kentucky, “that they often follow behind dogs that are indicating bedbugs, and they can’t find anything.”

In a co-op near Union Square in New York, a dog indicated bedbugs in a third of the 50-odd apartments, though physical traces of bedbugs were found in only five, according to one resident. He resisted pressure from the co-op board to get a $1,500 treatment because his family had not been bitten by or seen traces of bugs.

A designer on the Upper West Side said a dog brought in by her co-op to inspect every apartment had detected bedbugs in her home even though neither she nor her husband had been bitten. An inspection by a different exterminator revealed no bedbugs, but her building paid thousands of dollars for apartments to be treated, including those where bedbugs had not been found.

Jessica Silver and her husband paid $3,500 in extermination fees after a dog indicated there were bedbugs throughout their row house in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. They got rid of 40 garbage bags full of clothes and baby toys that they feared were infested and their Pottery Barn queen-size bed. But Mrs. Silver continued to get bitten, and she called another exterminator, John Furman of Boot-a-Pest, based on Long Island, who spent two hours combing through her bedroom, where the biting was taking place, only to find no traces of bedbugs, alive or dead.

The culprits, she eventually discovered, were rodent mites. Mr. Furman said the antibedbug treatment probably killed some mites but failed to eradicate their breeding grounds in the walls.

Mrs. Silver did not want to name the bedbug-sniffing dog company she used. After she posted details of her case on an online bedbug forum, she said a company representative threatened to sue her for slander, and the moderator of the forum took her post down.

“Everyone’s getting sucked into the whole bedbug pandemonium,” Mrs. Silver said.

While many dog companies advertise an accuracy rate of 95 percent to 98 percent, that figure is taken from a 2008 clinical trial conducted under controlled conditions by an entomology team at the University of Florida. Their findings do not necessarily reflect the success rate of individual companies’ dogs, operating in the real world with a lot more variables.

Dog experts say false positives can result from the poor training of a dog or its handler. The dog might detect a different type of insect. Or the dog could be reacting to a cue from its handler, be it accidental, like reaching for a treat to reward the dog, or, more ominously, on purpose. Pepe Peruyero, a trainer who runs the J&K Canine Academy near Gainesville, Fla., said if a dog’s company also offered extermination treatment, it was “financially advantageous” to have a dog alert.

False alerts can also be made by well-trained, highly attuned dogs. Andrew Klein of Assured Environments, based in New York, said dogs might pick up on bedbug scents transmitted by clothes or wafting through ventilation from a neighboring apartment. “The dog can’t tell us gradations of intensity,” Mr. Klein said. “If there is no bug, if there is no bite, we monitor.”

The apartment in Union Square had bedbugs a year earlier; though the bugs were eradicated, it was possible their scent remained. The owner of that apartment, as well as the Upper West Side designer, spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want their names associated with bedbugs, but others in their buildings also said that dogs had indicated bedbugs even though no physical evidence of the bugs was found.

Some also believed their co-op boards overreacted by paying to treat their apartments. “You’re under pressure to go the extra step even if you don’t think it’s warranted,” said a lawyer who lives in the same building as the designer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s you against the dog.”

Bell Environmental Services, which performed the inspection in both buildings, said that just because bedbugs could not be found did not mean the dog was wrong. The bedbugs could move or be hidden, the company said, and up to 50 percent of people experience no reaction from bedbug bites.

Physical evidence is especially hard to see. A newly hatched bedbug is the size of a pen tip, and fecal droppings are the size of an ink dot.

“The search for a bedbug can be similar to trying to find a moving needle in a haystack,” the company said in a statement.

Bell, which is the owner of Roscoe, added that it explicitly warned customers when its technicians had not corroborated dog alerts with physical evidence, and that the decision to treat is made only by co-op boards or residents. If its findings are questioned, Bell offers to send in a second dog to inspect areas where dogs have detected but not found bedbugs, the company said, and uses dogs that are constantly trained to sniff out bedbugs and distinguish them from other insects.

It is unclear how often false positives occur or lead to expensive extermination treatments (there are also cases of false negatives, when bedbugs are present but not detected). The state consumer protection boards in New York and New Jersey said they had no records of complaints, including complaints of false positives, made against companies that use bedbug-sniffing dogs.

Mr. Peruyero, the dog trainer, is pushing for scent-detection dogs to be certified through an independent oversight board, the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association. But there is factionalism and fighting in the industry, said Philip G. Koehler, an entomologist at the University of Florida, over which association, if any, should certify the dogs.

“The bedbug thing has grown so rapidly that it’s grown ahead of the regulations,” Professor Koehler said.

Do Bedbug Dogs Work? Yes, and No.

Sorry, but bedbug dog accuracy is not as great as you might think. The dirty little secret in the industry: False positives are rampant.

For the past few years, working canines have been on the front lines of the battle against the bedbug resurgence in the United States.

Trained dogs, surely the heroes of this pest epidemic, are bringing in wads of cash for extermination companies.

But do bed bug dogs work? And just how accurate are they?

A 2008 study (PDF) from the University of Florida has been held up by the extermination companies as proof positive that bedbug sniffing dogs do work.

The controlled study showed a 97.5% “positive indication rate” and no false positives. The report concluded that “if trained properly, dogs can be used effectively to locate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs.”

And that’s all the proof that extermination companies needed.

Now, Exterminators Everywhere Have a Bedbug Dog

The industry has grown exponentially since then, as has the bedbug problem in general. Now many companies across the country have bedbug-sniffing dogs — mostly Beagles, but sometimes Puggles (Pug/Beagle mix) and other breeds. I’ve even seen one company with a Chinese Crested.

Of course, these dogs don’t come cheap.

Extermination companies might spend upward of $10,000 for the dog and some handler training. If you’re an unlucky resident using the services of a sniffer dog, you might wind up paying the exterminator $325 an hour — just for the dog to sniff around your home.

Perhaps the most famous of the bedbug sniffing dogs is Roscoe, a Beagle “canine inspector” for Bell Environmental Services in New York. Roscoe even has his own iPhone app and Facebook page.

No doubt, having a dog is a major selling point for an extermination company in the bedbug business.

Do Bedbug Dogs Work?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but bedbug dogs are not as accurate as you might believe.

I know, I know… that University of Florida clinical study from 2008? It’s proof positive, right?

Well, sure, the numbers were huge, but the 98% accuracy rate doesn’t actually have anything to do with how any particular company’s dog might perform here in the real world.

In fact, the dirty little secret is that false positives by bedbug dogs are rampant in the industry, owing to poor training of dog or handler. The dog might be reacting to cues from the handler, or wanting a treat.

Not to sound conspiratorial here, but let’s say that a company tells you its dog has detected bedbugs in your apartment. Doesn’t it stand to benefit financially from the extermination costs? So, a false positive would work in the exterminator’s favor.

ANew York Timesarticle highlighted the problem, with an entomology professor conceding, “Many pest control companies have the same frustration … that they often follow behind dogs that are indicating bedbugs, and they can’t find anything.”

WasYOURPet Food Recalled?

Bell Environmental responded to that article by saying that it informs customers that there is no physical evidence of bedbugs even though the dog might have indicated their presence. The choice to exterminate is then left to the resident (or landlord).

Doug Summers of BedBug Dog, in Safety Harbor, Florida, says, “Dogs can be distracted by a number of factors: people in the room, other pets, food smells, litterboxes and other attractive scents.”

He adds: “An established infestation is usually obvious to the dog. A single bug is easier to miss. We expect a 90%-plus accuracy, but a false negative is always possible.”


I believe there should be an industry-wide, independent certification process for bedbug dogs and trainers.

Also, don’t assume that just because a dog has indicated a “positive” result for bedbugs in your apartment, you actually have them. Use your due diligence.

One handler tells me that training a dog to sniff bedbugs is only slightly easier than training a dog to smell cancer.

Bed Bug Dogs

Why We Need Bed Bug Dogs

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” The fact is
bed bugs are biting. Complaints continue to rise as the problem spreads across the globe.

What You Need to Know About Bed Bugs

Size and Feeding Habits
About the size of an apple seed, bed bugs hide in mattress seams, behind base boards, in furniture and anywhere else close to a human host. Bed bugs tend to emerge at night in search of a food source: human blood. After feeding, bed bugs can leave some people with itchy, red welts. While bed bugs are not known to cause disease, they can put your company’s reputation at risk.

Bed bugs are virtually impossible to prevent. They can thrive in spotlessly clean environments, overriding the best sanitation efforts.

How Bed Bugs Infest Property
These pests can hitchhike into your property on personal belongings, shipments, or even on your next guest. Bed bugs multiply at rapid rates. In just one month, two bed bugs can produce more than 150 offspring.

It takes just one incident to affect your business and impact your bottom line. That’s why your pest management partnership is so critical, and why a bed bug dog can help.

The Orkin Bed Bug Dog

Your New Partner in Pest Management
Bed bugs reproduce quickly, so it’s crucial to detect and treat for bed bugs early.

At Orkin, we continue to research and implement innovative, scientific pest management techniques to help protect your business. That’s why we have a team of trained canines ready to spot bed bug infestations.

Orkin’s bed bug detection dogs join our team of Ph.D.s, entomologists, and sanitarians, to provide an extra set of eyes and a keen sense of smell to help “spot” any bed bug problems you might face.

How Can Your Business Benefit from Bed Bug Sniffing Canine?

Here’s what to expect with the help of a bed bug dog:

  • Accurate Results:Did you know that dogs have about 45 times more smell receptors than humans do? This keen sense of smell makes them the new experts on bed bug detection.
  • Quick Detection:Bed bug canines can easily find the areas where bed bugs reside, and detect them quicker than their human counterparts. Faster detection can speed up the treatment process and allow you to get back to business as usual.
  • Trusted by the Law:Working canines have a long history of expertise, especially when it comes to their most valuable tool – the nose. Federal, state, and local government agencies employ dogs for search and rescue missions. Law enforcement agencies also use canine units to detect drugs and sniff out bombs.
  • Peace of Mind:Each Orkin Commercial Pest Specialist is a skilled service technician who has undergone formal accredited class work from Purdue University and is well versed in treatment techniques. The Orkin Man® plus The Orkin Dog – a formidable bed bug detection team.

Award Winning Training

No pest control company puts as much into training its pest specialists and bed bug dogs as we do.

Consistently appearing inTrainingmagazine’s Top 125 list, we at Orkin continue to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pest control pack.

Rest assured, you’re getting the most cutting edge and effective bed bug dog management techniques delivered by knowledgeable, expert staff.

Call today to check availability for bed bug dog inspections and to get help with bed bug prevention and control.

Are Canine Bed Bug Inspections Accurate?

Bed bug dogs are the latest advance in finding and killing bed bugs. They use scent detection, and are employed by exterminators, block management companies, and private individuals to find infestations. Their widespread use should surely indicate that they work.

Scientific studies indicate that canine bed bug inspections aren’t always effective. They frequently fail to spot infestations, and flag up false positives too. They can occasionally mistake signs of old infestations, like feces and dead bugs, for a new infestation.

This is why it’s important to do your research. Many bed bug sniffer dog owners claim that their dog has a close to 100% success rate. But we’ll reveal the real truth of the matter.

Table of Contents:

Can Dogs Really Detect Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs and dog detection—it makes sense.

Bed bugs produce lots of different scents, both intentionally and unintentionally. And many dog breeds have exceptionally sensitive senses of smell. It stands to reason that dogs should, therefore, be able to sniff out bed bugs, if trained properly.

What Do Bed Bug Dogs Smell?

Bed bugs use smells to navigate their way through the world. They use smell to find you, by sniffing out carbon dioxide and the scent of skin. But bed bugs also produce scents to communicate with one another, and to navigate.

This makes them vulnerable to being sniffed out. The kinds of smell that bed bugs create include:

  • An alarm pheromonethat they produce when something’s threatening them. If you lift the corner of the mattress to expose their harborage, bed bugs produce this scent and start scuttling around, trying to get away. The point of the scent is to alert other bed bugs to the presence of a threat.
  • The scent of fresh blood. If you roll over in the night and accidentallycrush a bed bug, you can smell the undigested blood.
  • The scent of bed bug feces.Bed bug fecessmells like blood, but with a deeper, rustier undertone. You can’t necessarily smell one poo, but if it accumulates, it can smell quite strongly.

If you can pick up on each of these scents, imagine how well a dog can. But the idea is to book an inspection before the infestation gets out of hand. When you’ve got hundreds of bed bugs under your mattress, you don’t need an inspection to tell you they’re there.

You want to hire a bed bug sniffer dog before you notice any of these smells.

Bed Bug Sniffing Dog Breeds

There isn’t one breed that’s best for spotting bed bugs. The usual breeds are involved in sniffing out bed bugs. If you want to hire one, you can find:

  • Beagles
  • Bloodhounds
  • Labradors
  • German Shepherds
  • Belgian Malinois

Any dog can be trained to detect bed bugs, but some will always be better than others. Breeds that are good at following orders and understanding human cues will perform better.

The breeds above have been used to hunt and search for centuries. It’s only natural that they could be retrained and made able to search for bed bugs.

Can Bed Bug Dogs Smell through Plastic?

The point of bed bug dogs is that they can sniff out bed bugs in hidden places. This includes bed bugs hidden in plastic, fabric, and under furniture.

By their nature, bed bugs are secretive. They hide in the darkest, most secure spots they can, to ensure they aren’t killed or eaten. In order for the dog to find them, they have to be able to sniff them out while they’re hidden.

If you placed some bed bugs inside a sealed plastic container, a dog wouldn’t be able to smell them. Dogs can’t smell through things. But bed bugs crawl around, leave their droppings, and aren’t entirely enclosed anyway. That’s why dogs can smell them.

However, there wouldn’t be any point of hiring a dog if bed bugs crawled around in the open. If they did, you’d be able to see them. Bed bug dogs are best used when you haven’t spotted any yet.

Can Bed Bugs Hide from Sniffer Dogs?

Bed bugs hide as naturally as they breathe. It’s second nature to them. If they ever see a sliver of sunlight, they run in the opposite direction. And for a home, they pick out the darkest, most secluded places they can. These are places like:

  • Inside electrical outlets
  • Between the wall and the baseboard
  • Under the mattress
  • In bedding and folded clothing

So, strictly speaking, they don’t hide when they sense the dog coming. But they live in places where they’ll be difficult to find. This can make them close to undetectable.

Are Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs Accurate?

The idea behind bed bug sniffer dogs is that they find infestations before they get too bad. After all, if you had hundreds of bed bugs in your bedding, you wouldn’t need a sniffer dog. You could lift the edge of your mattress and peer underneath.

This makes things more difficult for the dog. They’re looking for a needle in a haystack. However, a dog’s sense of smell is incredible. So, how accurate are bed bug sniffer dogs?

The Accuracy of Canine Bed Bug Inspection

According to theJournal of Economic Entomology, most bed bug dog handlers believe their dogs to have a very high success rate. The average rate of detection, so the handlers thought, was 95%.

If this were true, it would be an exceptionally high standard.

The team behind the paper above sought to put their claims to the test. They started by identifying which apartments in a block had bed bugs. They used monitors (traps) and visual inspection to ascertain the presence and size of each infestation.

They then performed experiments in real-life settings to see how effectively the dogs could detect bed bugs. These experiments took place over many days, and in different conditions.

On the first day, the handlers were informed of which apartments had bed bugs. In the other tests, they weren’t.

However, the dogs were nowhere near as accurate as their handlers thought. The best score was 88% of infestations detected, recorded by one handler-and-dog team on the first day.

On average, the dogs only sniffed out 44% of infestations.

Can Bed Bug Dogs Not Find Bed Bugs?

In the study above, the scientists figured out which apartments had bed bugs before the tests began. They did so by placing an average of 28 interceptor traps in each unit, and leaving them there for 14 days. If no bed bugs were found in the traps, visual inspections were performed.

Afterward, the apartments where false positives were made were examined again. That way, the team could rule out new infestations having begun.

The point of all this was to check how accurate the dogs were, both in terms of finding infestations that were there, and in terms of not flagging for false positives.

This gives credence to the figure above, which states that only 44% of infestations were discovered. That means that 56% of infestations weren’t found, either by the dog or their handler.

Can Bed Bug Dogs be Wrong? (False Positives)

Bed bug sniffer dogs are frequently wrong. The study above highlights how false positives are frequent, and why.

According to the research presented above, false positives were very frequent. The dogs followed a pattern whereby the higher the detection rate, the higher the false positive rate. So, for example:

  • One dog in the first experiment had a 75% detection rate, but a 50% false positive rate.
  • Another dog had an awful 10% detection rate, but a much better 7% false positive rate.

That means that bed bug dogs failed in two different ways. They generally failed to detect bed bugs. If they didn’t, then they also had a terrible false positive rate.

Why Are Bed Bug Dogs Sometimes Wrong?

The reason why false positives are so high is because of previous infestations. In many of the apartments where there were false positive results, there were old signs of bed bugs. These included dead bed bugs, old shells, and feces.

These signs confused the dogs, and made them think there was a present infestation.

It should be noted that other studies have had much more successful results. Another published in theJournal of Economic Entomologyfound that dogs could find 98% of infestations. However, these bed bug infestations were planted by the scientists themselves.

In the first paper, the bed bugs were already in the apartments, and weren’t planted by the authors of the study. The dog handlers didn’t know that they were actually taking part in a scientific test.

The results from the first paper are more likely to reflect the dogs’ real-world abilities.

How Much Does a Bed Bug Sniffing Dog Cost?

Bed bug sniffer dogs don’t come cheap. They cost $750 on average, with a range from $500 to $1000. This is very expensive for various reasons:

  • The dog doesn’t spend long searching in your apartment or house. In the study above, each dog spent just a few minutes in each unit.
  • While handlers claim that they have a very high success rate, they don’t in reality. There’s also the chance that the dog may give a false positive.
  • Hiring a bed bug sniffer dog may detect your bed bugs. But they won’t do anything to stop them. It’s not as if the dog scares them away. You’ll have to pay for treatment, too.

Consider both their price and their actual effectiveness. If you’re willing to look at real scientific studies rather than just advertisements and marketing, then it’s clear that they’re not as good as they claim.

Why Are Bed Bug Sniffer Dogs So Expensive?

Nothing comes cheap when you’re getting rid of bed bugs. Monitoring, identifying, and destroying infestations is always expensive no matter where you live.

With bed bug sniffing dogs, you have to consider what you’re paying for.

  • The dog handler’s wages and the dog’s expertise
  • The dog’s training and upkeep, such as food
  • Sundry expenses like gas, advertising and more.

That being said, considering their poor efficacy, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re being overcharged.

Bed Bug Exterminators with Dogs

Bed bug sniffer dogs are typically handled by regular people, not exterminators. Their owners are dog trainers, typically, who see bed bug sniffing as a valuable sideline. And it is, if the average costs above are anything to go by.

Exterminators don’t use dogs—they use other methods instead. However, you may find an exterminator that knows a bed bug sniffer dog. You might be able to get a discount.

The reason is that training a dog to do anything, whether they’re a service dog or a sniffer dog, is tough work. Dogs are smart, but need lots of training to get them used to their ‘job.’ Exterminators don’t bother with that, relying on monitors instead.

That being said, you may be able to find an exterminator that works with a particular sniffer dog. Make a few phone calls and see if there are any in your area. You may be able to get a discount on booking both the dog and the treatment.

Pest Control Companies and Bed Bug Dogs

You can hire bed bug dogs through well-known pest control companies. These companies include Orkin, Ehrlich, and Terminix. Each of these companies offers a service whereby you hire a dog, and then if necessary, get treatment.

These dogs aren’t going to be any better or worse than the ones you hire privately. All bed bug sniffer dogs have the same problems with false positives and missed infestations.

You can also hire dogs through these companies as a part of follow-up service. This is to make sure the bed bugs don’t come back. The point is that the dog will find individual bed bugs, so that they don’t start a larger infestation.

How Do Exterminators Find Bed Bugs?

Exterminators usually use other means to check whether you have an infestation. These methods are cheaper and have a better success rate, which is why exterminators prefer them.

They usually use monitors, often lures, that give off carbon dioxide or similar pheromones to human skin. The bed bug will climb inside, and will get stuck. Lures use glue to stick the bed bugs in place.

Otherwise, they’re simple traps. They have walls that bed bugs can grip on, so that they can climb in. But the inside is slippery, and they can’t get out. This is known as a passive monitor, or an interceptor. They go around the feet of your bed.

Other than that, exterminators will visually inspect your home. They’ll use their experience—they know where infestations usually live. They’ll check all the usual places, plus unusual ones like power outlets and floorboard cracks.

Should You Hire a Bed Bug Sniffer Dog?

On the above evidence, we would suggest against hiring a bed bug sniffer dog.

Their purported efficacy is based on studies that use planted evidence. Bear in mind that planted evidence doesn’t just smell of bed bugs. It smells like people, too.

Besides that, planted evidence isn’t going to be in a natural place. When studies are done on bed bugs in their natural setting, dogs aren’t as effective at finding them as their owners make out.

Bed bug sniffer dogs themselves are highly inconsistent. Some dogs perform excellently on one day, but then do terribly the next. And other dogs achieve much worse scores than other dogs do on average.

Plus, there are lots of alternatives that you should consider.

Alternatives to Bed Bug Sniffer Dogs

We would recommend sticking to these alternatives, rather than sniffer dogs. Below we’ve listed each option available to you, as well as the likely price and why you should use them.

  • Passive monitor traps.Monitortrapssit around the feet of your bed. They catch any bed bug that tries to get up into your mattress.
  • Searching for bed bugs on your own.Bed bugs have two or three likely hiding places. These are your mattress, your bedding and the furniture near your bed.
  • Using pesticides.If you regularly spray your own home with a pesticide spray, you can keep bed bugs away. Sure, you might not spot them, but you’re keeping them at bay anyway.
  • Hire an exterminator.Exterminators use passive monitors to check for bed bugs, too. But you can also benefit from their invaluable advice, which you’ll get if you hire them.

Hunting bed bugs on your own is easy. You have to look for the signs.

Signs of bed bugs include fecal staining, blood spots, old bed bug shells, dead bed bugs, and bed bug eggs. The more you spot, the bigger your infestation.

Passive monitors and pesticide sprays are much cheaper than hiring a bed bug dog. Monitors only cost a few dollars. Sprays cost a little more, but each time you spray, the pesticides linger for weeks.

The best thing about monitors is that they do even more than a sniffer dog. A well-made monitor, especially one using glue or water well, will trap individual bed bugs you bring home before they get a chance to set up an infestation.

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Lou Carter

Hi, I’m Lou. I’ve long been fascinated by bed bugs, ever since a friend’s life was turned upside down. That’s why I’ve put together this specialist site. You’ll find detailed answers to all of your questions on how to get rid of a bed bug infestation. I hope you find it useful!

Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs: Breeds, Accuracy and Detection Cost

The use of bed bug sniffing dogs in the detection and treatment of bed bugs at home is not as popular as other methods. But it is one of the most effective and less expensive methods of dealing with bug infestations.

Over time, dogs have been trained to detect quite a lot of things: bombs, cadavers, drugs, termites and so on. So it is not a surprise that in recent times, they are trained to detect a bed bug scent without seeing the pest.

Through canine bed bug inspection, you can be able to know if you have as little (in number) as just one bug hiding behind your appliances without having them moved. Without lifting your bed, you can be able to tell if a bug is hiding under it or not.

You don’t have to remove the entire carpet to check if there’s one or two there, bed bug detection dogs take away all that stress.

Are Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs Accurate?

95 percent of the time, yes! These dogs are professionally trained to the point they can effectively detect the presence of a bed bug behind a wall, in a pile of clothes, etc. Even if there’s just one bed bug there.

They are trained following the guidelines laid out by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA). Once they meet the standard set by NESDCA, they are certified and listed on the agency’s official also sees to it that bed bug sniffing dog training facilities and handlers abide by the high standards set by the organization.

Due to their training, the majority of the time, bed bug sniffing dogs are very accurate. However, there are times when false positives do occur. False positives here means that the dog gives a signal that there is a bed bug in a place where there is none.

Such a situation does not always happen. And when it does, it is mostly due to body parts or dead eggs from a previously treated infestation remaining in a corner of the room.

The average canine bed bug inspection accuracy is around 97%, excluding false positives.

Certain studies have also established that the probability of canine detection was not associated with the level of bed bug infestations.

What Breeds Of Dogs Sniff Bed Bugs?

While some persons argue that any kind of dog can be trained to detect bed bugs, others argue that certain breeds perform better.

Based on our findings, the breeds of dogs that are widely used for bed bug detection purposes are Belgian Malinois, Beagles, and Labrador Retrievers. These breeds have from 225 million to 300 million scent receptors in their nose while most dogs about 150 million.

That is the major reason the above-mentioned breeds after undergoing some training, perform far better than the others in terms of detecting bed bugs.

Do Bed Bug Detection Dogs Sniff The Eggs?

Yes, they do. During training, the dogs are taught to detect them just like they do the live bed bugs. Apart from that, they are also taught to detect all stages of the pests. Including their dead bodies, shell, etc. They can smell the eggs inside mattresses, pillows, under the bed, in corners and crevices of the room, etc.

How Do You Know When The Dogs Have Detected Bed Bugs?

The dogs are professionally trained to give out signals to the handler when they detect a bed bug in a particular place. Some of those signals include baring, sitting down at the particular spot or pawing right there.

If you are focused, it will be very easy for you to notice these signals and work with them.

Handling False Positives

Sometimes the dogs can give out signals that there are bed bugs in a place where there are none. This is known as false positives.

At some other times, a bed bug can be right within a distance and the dogs will fail to detect it. This is known as false negatives. Although this rarely happens, you need to learn the factors that always lead to this and how to handle it. That way, the rate at which they occur will greatly reduce. (Read on).

The ability of a dog to detect a bed bug can be affected by several things. One of them is the smell of other things around it.

Strong smells in a room where bed bug canine inspection is to be carried out can affect the accuracy of the result. Strong smells like the smell of food coming from the kitchen can distract the dog, causing it to miss one or two bed bugs it could have easily detected.

Also, the presence of tools and tapes that were used in the treatment of an infestation can cause dogs to give out the signal that there is a bed bug where there is none.

To prevent these two situations, here are a few things to do:

  1. Do all the cooking hows before the canine inspection begins.
  2. Avoid the use of detergents with a strong smell while the inspection is still going on.
  3. Do away with anything that will distract the dog in terms of sounds. Sound from music, movies, etc, can cause the dogs some distractions and make it miss a bed bug.
  4. As the handler, you need to pay real attention to the dog to avoid missing a signal it may giving to you about bed bugs in a particular area.
  5. If possible use more than one dog per time for more accurate results. You can also confirm the signals you received from the dogs yourself before going on with the extermination process.
  6. Ensure that the dogs are properly trained and certified to handle the type of bed bug inspection job you need them to handle.

How To Train Your Dogs To Detect Bed Bugs At Home

Bed bug sniffing dogs can help save you from lots of expenses. They can help you avoid spending too much money on buying expensive equipment to use for bed bug detection and so on.

They can also help you identify and treat an infestation while it is still early. Though there are several of them available in the markets, you can train yours at home to perform the same function.

Before showing you how to train your dog to detect bed bugs, let me inform you that training your dog for this is not an easy task. It is going to require lots of effort, time and patience on your part. It’s not a one-time thing, you would have to do it over and over before your dog can be truly ready for it. However, the training is worth it. Because once your dog is good at it, you have a lot to gain.

Below is a step by step on how to do that.

What you will need: 5 containers (live bed bugs will be placed in 3 of them later), a reward for your dog, live bed bugs.


  1. Place the live bed bugs in 3 out of the 5 bedbugs and leave the other two empty or place dead bed bugs in them.
  2. Allow your dog to sniff both the containers with live bed bugs and the ones with dead bed bugs or empty.
  3. After that, reward the dog with anything you know it will like and it sniffs the two containers again.
  4. Take the dog outside the room and hide all the containers. This shouldn’t be very difficult to find at first. You can just scatter them across the room, behind electrical appliances or cushion.
  5. Ask your dog to “find the containers”. If it figures out where the ones with the live bed bugs are, reward with whatever you know the dog likes. If it finds the empty ones or the ones with dead bed bugs, ask it to keep going but don’t reward him with anything.
  6. The more it finds the containers with the bed bugs the more reward you give to it.
  7. Repeat that several times in a day using different rooms and containers. The more you keep doing this, the more the dog will keep learning to recognize the scents of live bed bugs.

Note:While doing this, you need to make sure the bed bugs are all inside one container or the other. Do not make the mistake of placing them directly on your mattress or cushion and asking your dog to find them. To avoid some of them escaping and getting deep inside the mattress.

In the beginning, it will look like it won’t work. Like there’s no way your dog can perfectly master the differences between a live bed bug scent and a dead one. But as you keep practicing, it will eventually learn.

Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs Cost

If you do not have the time to train your dog to identify live bugs, you can buy or hire the one that has already been trained by professionals.

How much does a bed bug sniffing dog cost?

Presently, the price for a well-trained bed bug sniffing dog starts from $7,500. Depending on the size, age and location. It can be far costlier than that.

You can also hire one for use at home. Presently, the hourly rate for them starts from $325.

Should You Go For Canine Bed Bug Inspection?

From our discussions so far, giving this method of bed bug detection a chance can be a great idea. However, the choice is still yours to make.

Carefully consider all we have explained in this article and then do whatever you feel is best for you.

In Conclusion

Bed bug sniffing dogs are beginning to gain a lot of popularity among homeowners in recent times. While some are still wondering how effective they are, others are already using them to detect and eliminate bed bugs at home, hotels, etc.

Are you searching for bug-sniffing dogs? I hope you find this information useful.

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