How Accurate Are Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs

Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs: The Truth about Canine Inspection

This golden retriever (named Jola) is sniffing for bed bugs under a mattress.

Thinking of hiring a trained dog to detect bed bugs? If so, it’s going to cost you about $350 regardless of whether the dog finds bugs or not.

Does scent detection work?

Below, we one visitor that claims it’s a waste of money and a K9 scent detection company’s response as to why it failed – but the general consensus is yes, it works extremely well, BUT only if:

  • The dog trained by a reputable canine detection program for bed bugs only and not cross trained to detect other insects (reduces false positives)
  • The handler is trained (accredited certification) to work with and understand alerts from the dog
  • Dog can accurately detect as little as one or a few bed bugs
  • Dog can detect live bed bug eggs
  • The handler will work to confirm dog’s findings and point out the infestation

A university study on dogs that completed a special canine bug detection training program found they had a 97% accuracy rate, but they dogs from that special program. Unfortunately, some inspection services use this statistic to promote their services even though they never had the same training. Make sure the canine used is trained using an widely recognized program.

If the company is as good as they say, they shouldn’t have a problem providing you with a sealed pin-holed plastic vile containing a few live adult bed bugs that you can hide in a room for testing. They will explain that conducting the test near a vent or up high may prevent detection.

Below is Jenifer’s story on how sent detection repeatedly failed her.

Scent Detection That Didn’t Work

Jennifer’s bad experience & a canine detection company’s response

About 2 1/2- weeks ago I noticed my wrist itched at work. upon inspection, the bites looked and felt just like mosquito bites. When I got home later I inspected my body and counted 2 bites on my right finger (about 1/2 ” apart), 2 or 3 bites on my right wrist, and one bite on my left thigh (just above the knee).

Just to be on the safe side, the next morning I had an exterminator come and do an inspection of my home to make sure I was safe and pest free.

The exterminator who came to do the inspection told me that my bites looked a lot like classic bed bug bites and explained that he needed to do a thorough inspection of my house … especially of the bedrooms. He turned my house upside down looking for bed bugs. After a long search he said that he felt very certain that I did not have bed bugs and went on and on about all the telltale signs of bed bugs and how nothing in my home shows evidence of any (except for my bites!).

Anyway, after a week or so of bite free, restful sleeps in my bed, I woke up last Tuesday morning with 8 or 9 bites on my left wrist and arm! I was/am upset, disgusted, frustrated and in pain. I envy those who are not allergic to these awful bites. Consider yourselves lucky. The following morning, I called my dermatologist and he saw me that afternoon. My dermatologist said that he was 95% certain that I had bed bug bites and 100% certain that they are insect bites either way. At this point I am really starting to lose my mind. Not only have I spent $40 on a doctor visit copay, but $185 on pest inspection and nothing has changed: (

Now I have spent nearly 200 dollars, lost a lot of sleep, and look like I have some sort of a skin condition you could catch. not a pretty picture. I spent nearly all of Wednesday night becoming a web MD/expert on and about bed bugs. After doing all my online research while I was paralyzed by fear of falling asleep – I decided the smartest thing I could do is to hire special dogs to come and sniff the exact location bed bugs!

Okay, so I hired this company with hounds that only can identify the scent of bed bug. Scam? who knows? I certainly didn’t care because I was/ am so desperate to get these things out of my house! So here is what happened. Yesterday the man with the dog came over to my home. The dog goes up to the beds in my house and apparently really reacts to something on both the bed in my master bedroom and the bed in my guest-room. You can’t imagine how excited I am that I am THIS close to hard evidence of real, live, disgusting, blood sucking bed bugs! I am this close to a solution!

Okay, the bed bug dog, handler, and I go back to the bedrooms to hone in on the exact spots the dog reacted to. This way I can find out where I need to treat the infestation. The doggy is good and shows me the spot again. I look at the box spring and then at the guy and dog and say “Uh, okay- umm can we see them… or like one”? the guy tries to find one for me but goes on to say “how hard it is to find these little suckers” and “gosh they are just so sneaky”. Ughhh. My hope of the beginning of the end of bed bugs has quickly been deflated. All I can think to myself is what a crazy, gullible idiot I have turned into in a mere 2 weeks. I will not even say how much money I spent on this. It is shameful…

Believe it or not that was my day yesterday. C’mon people- HELP ME!

Response from the owner of a bed bug dog company

I own a Bed Bug dog scent detection company that detects the odor or LIVE bed bugs and viable eggs with the use of dogs. The team here at BadBedBugs contacted me to see if I could shed light on this matter for you.

I first want to start off by saying that using dogs to detect bed bugs is certainly not a scam. In fact, scientific studies have been done on the dogs to prove the accuracy of their findings. Now here is where that last sentence gets tricky. Yes, the University of Florida has done extensive studies in regards to the use of dogs and posted that their findings were that dogs were averaging 98% accuracy. But what you need to understand is that the University used dogs that were trained at special Canine Academy. And because the University released their report without discussing who’s dogs they used, now everyone with a bed bug dog now thinks they have the right to say that their dog is 98% accurate, when in fact, that statement is completely inaccurate.

All dogs should be single scent dogs and certified via a third party and not an in-house certification program.

Now onto the situation at hand….

I don’t know what the rules and regulations of the company you used are, but I will say this, when we do an inspection we rely 100% on the accuracy of the dog. If our handlers start second guessing our dogs, then that defeats the purpose completely. And so that you know, the extensive study that the University did stated that humans were only as high as 30% accurate in finding bed bugs. Which is the other reason we don’t search for them after the dog alerts.

Now, it is true, bed bugs can be elusive. especially if they are nymphs (babies). In some cases they can actually hide within the fabric of your bed making them almost impossible to find. Also keep in mind that they could be elsewhere in your living space. Nightstand, couch, chairs, carpet, clock radios, etc etc. And for that reason alone, this is why using a dog like the ones we use, are a perfect fit for your situation. Secondly, if you were able to just see them on your bed, then you wouldn’t need a dog to begin with.

I recently had a customer go through the exact same thing as you. She had 4 pest management companies come in and none of them found a single bug. She then called us in and the dog alerted us to bed bugs on each side of her mattress. I wrote in my report that the dog alerted to both sides of the bed and was also trying to crawl under the mattress. So I suggested that if her pest control company wanted to find them to look on the mattress and under the bed.

The customer called me back 2 days later crying saying that the pest control company did not find anything at all. I asked if the pest control company completely searched the bed and box springs. She said yes. I asked how and she told me they had flash lights out looking all around the bed. When I asked if they took the fabric off the bottom of the box spring she replied NO. I suggested to look there, as I stated before the dog was trying to crawl under the bed. She called me back 30 minutes later again in tears apologizing to me stating that she found the evidence she was looking for. At last, they identified bed bugs.

I truly hope this restores your faith in the accuracy of a trained dog’s ability to sniff out bed bugs.

Scent Detection That Worked Great

Mimi’s great experience where a bed bug sniffing dog did what the pest control companies couldn’t

Mimi hired pest control companies to help her find bed bugs and in the end, it was the bed bug sniffing dog that solved the problem! Her story is listed below:

My nightmare started exactly 2 weeks ago today. That is when I caught my first bed bug on my body around 2 am. I feel “lucky” that I caught the little *#%@ because I had suspected there may have been an issue a couple of weeks prior but could not find any of the evidence in my room or on/around my bed, sheets, box springs, night stands, curtains, picture over my bed, light sockets, etc.

Late November I had to go to Cincinnati for business and about 2 weeks later I received my first “spider” bite. It was the worst bite I have ever experienced! Red, extremely itchy, and swollen. About a week later, low and behold, I got another spider bite. a few days later 3 in a row on my elbow. I even went to my doctor because my boyfriend said it looked like MRSA. After the Dr swabbed the infected area, I told him I thought it could be bed bugs. He said Mimi, you do not have bed bugs.

Well, a week later is when I caught the thing red handed biting me in the middle of the night. That night it woke me up because my neck was itching so badly. I got up to see what was wrong with my neck when I spotted her on my white t-shirt. I freaked when I caught it because blood squished out of it’s body! That’s when I knew I had bed bugs. I put her in a plastic container and looked up images on the internet.

I had three pest control companies come out (Terminix, Orkin, and OPC Pest Control), all did what I thought was a thorough inspection but none of them found any bed bugs.

So next I called this guy in Northern Kentucky who has dogs that smell live bed bugs and their eggs. His dog identified a bag that contained my down comforter (I madly cleaned, vacuumed and bagged everything the day I found the bed bug).

Broke down my whole bed and vacuumed every crack and crevice of my furniture and light socket. I have been vigilant in my search for bed bugs, exoskeletons, larvae, and eggs but still cannot find anything except for that one bed bug I caught. I know that there must have been more than that one as I had 15 bites on my neck 2 weeks ago.

The bed bug dog handler said the one I caught was a female so I am waiting to see what happens in the nest 2 weeks.

It’s been 2 weeks today since my last bite but I still wake every night with nightmares of bed bugs crawling on my neck. I wake myself up scratching my neck but, thank God no bites…. yet! I am going crazy

I think I have caught this early and if I have total faith in the dogs, only my comforter was compromised but time will tell!

Wish me luck and I wish all of you luck as well as this is the most emotionally devastating experience I have gone through to date.

A bit about the bed bug sniffing dogs that were used.
The dog service was $360. For me it was worth it as I feel his dogs are well trained and were invaluable in helping to find their location in my house! I am keeping my fingers crossed as it’s been 3 weeks since I realized I had bed bugs and no bites!

He had two dogs. The first dog he called “the sweeper”. She is a black lab and she indicated the plastic garbage bag I had put my comforter in the night I found a bed bug. (He had opened all the black plastic garbage bags that I stuffed all bedding into so the dogs could get a whiff of them).

The second dog, a terrier, was brought in after the first dog and he said was his pin point dog also only indicated on the same bag. Both dogs went through the whole house (3 levels) and all closets, dresser drawers, and my car.

He lives 1 1/2 hours away from me so my charge was reflected in my bill. He had been a pest control specialist in the Cincinnati area before he got into training these dogs and he is very knowledgeable about bed bugs as he has had a lot of experience in the Cincinnati area.

I was a little skeptical at first but he told me there is no guarantee but, he has a lot of confidence in his dogs. As of now, I do as well!

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.

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.

5 Advantages Of Canine Bed Bug Inspections

Among the many traits and characteristics for which bed bugs are noted, being nocturnal and very elusive tops the list. This uncanny attribute often creates havoc with business owners and even presents challenges to some pest management specialists. There are times a business owner will suspect bed bugs are present within the facility, yet no live bugs or eggs have been found or properly identified. Other facilities, such as large hotels and motels, will need thorough inspections of the entire building or buildings to identify every infected room.

Inspections and circumstances of this nature can be very time consuming and costly, and yet still not entirely successful. Properly identifying and exposing the bed bug infestation under these conditions will often call for specially trained bed bug scent detection canine teams. There are at least five advantages of using canine bed bug teams:

  1. All life stages are detected. A properly trained and accredited bed bug canine is qualified to alert to both live bed bugs and live bed bug eggs. This is the only technique that can detect all stages of live bed bug stages by scent.
  2. The bed bug canine is highly accurate. The certified canine has a very high percentage of accuracy, often being said to be as effective as bomb sniffing dogs. These bed bug canines show their accuracy by detecting live bed bug scent through mattresses, inside walls and furniture.
  3. Fast inspection times. In addition to accuracy, bed bug canines are extremely fast and efficient. They can effectively search entire buildings in very short periods of time. Large hotels can be covered in a fraction of the time it takes to complete a visual inspection, giving owners peace of mind that the facility is free of bed bugs.
  4. Protect your image and reputation. Because of their accuracy, properly trained and certified canines are actually recognized in courts of law as a scientific instrument. Your certification of inspection from canine scent detection teams will greatly enhance your reputation and protect your image. The canine team will inspect each room with minimal disruption and leave no mess behind. With their strong scent detection, they remove the need to pull up carpet, remove baseboard and receptacle covers or dismantle furniture, all of which protects your image and reputation.
  5. Reduce the costs of treating a severe infestation by early detection. Because of their accuracy, a bed bug canine team can identify one bed bug just as easily as it can detect a severe infestation. This early detection means treatment will not need to be as extensive as it would for a more severe infestation, saving you money. This also helps reduce any time or expense from disruption of business.

These advantages will be attractive to any business owner whose interest is in maintaining a successful business while protecting the reputation and image of the company.

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.”

Conclusion

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.

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