Are Bedbug-Sniffing Dogs Accurate?

bedbug-sniffing dog

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As bedbugs continue their spread across the U.S. and other developed countries, more and more pest control companies are turning to bedbug-sniffing dogs to search for these tiny, often-elusive bugs. But, how accurate are the noses of these dogs? Should you spend the thousands of dollars that can be charged for eliminating bedbugs based on the nose of a dog?

For the majority of cases, the answer is yes, but “majority” is not always. Just like us humans, there are dogs who are more well-equipped to handle this kind of job and some that do not have the right skill set. The bedbug-sniffing dogs you want to find are those with extensive training and ones who work with experienced handlers. It’s best to ask the pest control professional a few questions and require a bit more evidence before you put your signature on the line for treatment.

Read on to find out if a bedbug-sniffing dog could be the right chose of extermination for your home.

Require Evidence of Bedbugs

Regardless of the reason, the advice that homeowners should take away is to require additional, solid evidence of bedbugs (or any pest for that matter) before agreeing to pay for their elimination.

  1. Require visual evidence. Ask the pest control professional to do their own inspection and show you a bedbug (alive or dead), or at least solid evidence/signs of their presence.
  2. Ask for a “second opinion,” that is, ask that a second bedbug-sniffing dog be used to see if it detects bedbugs. (This is not always effective, as both dogs could have been trained the same, or a smell that threw off the first dog could also cause the second dog to make a mistake as well.)
  3. Request that traps be set in the area where dogs are alerted to the presence of bedbugs. If bedbugs are present, and the traps are properly placed, bedbugs should be caught and evidence proven.
  4. Ask to see the pest control technician’s current, independent, third-party certification, which is recommended by NPMA in accordance with guidelines outlined in the Minimum Standards for Canine Bed Bug Detection Team Certification. 

National Pest Management Association Recommendations

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) advocates the use of “specially trained canine scent detection teams,” stating, “Because of their abilities, these teams can be particularly useful in certain circumstances, such as when bed bugs are suspected but no live bugs or viable eggs are found through visual inspection.” However, the association also cautions that “While canine scent detection teams have been known to be effective, pest control professionals should not rely on them 100 percent to determine the presence of bed bugs.”

NPMA has also published bedbug management guidance for the pest control industry developed by industry professionals, regulators, academics and entomologists. The association has made the document, Best Management Practices for Bed Bugs, available to consumers and recommends that the guidelines be followed closely by all licensed pest professionals.

Additionally, NPMA recommendations to pest control professionals, include guidance that if the bedbug dog alerts to a bedbug scent, “the handler or pest management professional should confirm the alert prior to making a treatment or recommendation of treatment. Specifically, the handler or a pest management professional should visually inspect the area to confirm the presence of an active infestation or utilize a second canine team.”

Bedbug-sniffing dogs can be very beneficial in the detection of bedbugs, but because there is no way for a homeowner to know what training the dog has had or its reliability in detection, evidence of bedbug presence should always be requested prior to a treatment being made.