Dogs and Bedbugs - What's the Connection?

Could it really be possible that man’s best friend could actually help us to detect bedbugs when we’d otherwise be unaware of their presence? According to research and studies conducted, the answer is yes – most dogs can be trained to sniff out these pesky critters, enabling us to fix the problem quickly before being overrun by a massive bedbug infestation.

Bedbugs are notorious little parasites that have the uncanny ability to hide in places we'd never even think to look – even if we did, we probably wouldn't be able to see them or their minuscule eggs anyway. Technically referred to as "canine scent detection," dogs can be trained to sniff out the bugs, similar to the way they’re trained to look for bombs, drugs or even mold, and to give their trainers different signals to indicate when they've found something.

In many cases, dogs can be trained to detect a single bedbug – which is extremely useful for preventing infestation by the pests. However, like any other method for detecting the presence of insects, this “inspection tool” is not without its flaws. Dogs rely upon their noses to sniff out bedbugs, so any number of mitigating factors could prevent even the best trained dog from doing his or her job properly.

The actual location of the bedbugs is the first factor at play, as dogs will be able to detect those hiding behind a baseboard or in a mattress – but not one located in the corner of the ceiling or on top of the drapes, especially when airflow in the room is pulling the scent upward or into an air vent. The temperature of the room is another prime factor when it comes to the canine scent detection of bedbugs, as extreme cold may affect their abilities to smell the live insects, which are also very sensitive to heat.

Today there are companies specializing in canine scent detection services and if you are considering hiring one, be sure to ask a few important questions first, including their success and failure rates. How often have the dogs been unable to find bedbugs? Also inquire as to how often have the dogs given false positives, meaning they indicate there are bugs but none are actually present, and find out what other substances – if any – the dogs have been trained to detect.

While this method of finding bedbugs is still being developed and perfected, the most highly skilled dogs being trained today using highly specialized techniques are actually able to discern between a current and an inactive infestation. What this means is that the dog is able to tell the difference between live bugs and their carcasses or fecal droppings. Ongoing research is even being conducted to find out if dogs may also be able to detect the presence of termites, a possibility that has the potential of saving innumerable amounts of money spent on structural damages.

Just as man's best friend has served humanity by assisting police officers and drug enforcement agencies, dogs can – amazingly enough – also be trained to help keep our homes free from a frustrating infestation of bedbugs.