When it comes to killing bed bugs, it’s not uncommon for people to look for any solution that promises immediate results. Bed bug bites in the middle of the night can leave anyone feeling paranoid and uncomfortable enough to lose precious sleep. But because bed bugs are notoriously difficult to spot, some feel a canine bed bug inspection is the only sure solution for identifying the problem so they can rest. Unfortunately, using canines to inspect your home for bed bugs is probably not the right solution for most cases.
While that answer will problably ruffle the feathers of some, especially among dog handlers, I will make my case for why I don’t support or use dogs to inspect for bed bugs.
The Case Against Canines
My opinion comes from having worked with certified bed bug sniffing dogs in the past. While I have worked with trained dogs in several states, as far as I know, these dogs are all trained and purchased from the same facility in Florida.
While working for a company that exclusively used dogs for bed bug inspections in pest control cases throughout the northwest, I began to notice serious inconsistencies with the lead dog. Because of my extensive experience identifying bed bug infestations, the owner of the pest control company would take me along on inspections to verify the four-legged inspector’s results. In many cases, the dog would indicate the presence of bed bugs in a home while my inspection would show that no bed bugs were actually present. More disturbingly, our dog would even occasionally miss the presence of bed bugs that were actually in the home.
A bed bug sniffing dog is still just a dog. It can get tired, and some days he or she downright refuses to work. I remember having to reschedule entire apartment complexes (hundreds of unpleasant phone calls!) because our lead dog just didn’t feel like working. Sometimes she was hungry and would hit on things just to end the inspection so she could get her toy and treat. From what I could tell working with a bed bug sniffing dog, potentially hundreds of homes and apartments had been heat treated for bed bugs that were never actually there. This was a difficult conversation to have with the owner, and I ended up leaving that company because I could not in good conscience continue the charade of charging customers for services they did not need. That company continues to use that dog to this very day.
I’m a man of science, so I understand that this one dog may not be representative of the whole and that my experience is anecdotal. So we’ll explore some things that fall outside of the realm of anecdotal evidence.
Bed bug sniffing dogs cost around $50,000, and that cost, like any other business expense, is passed on to the customer. Bed bug sniffing dog inspections in the Ventura and Los Angeles County area cost anywhere from $200 to $500 for a standard home. I offer free bed bug inspections. Bed bug sniffing dogs can “hit” on an object but cannot find the bed bug or provide evidence to show you a positive visual identification. I will always show you positive visual evidence of an infestation.
This means that when a canine “hits” positive there is a risk that you do not have bed bugs and may go forward with a costly treatment you didn’t need. However, with a human expert like myself, that risk doesn’t exist. I’ve met several canine handlers that had no pest control experience whatsoever and couldn’t even identify bed bugs in photos. Their job is to handle the dog and mark down whether the room is positive or negative. Many of them aren’t even required to have pest control licenses since the actual treatment is subcontracted and they aren’t personally rendering an opinion of whether a home has bed bugs.
I’ve found in my customer research that feeling secure is a common reason people choose to go with a canine inspection. This need is based on the flawed idea that bed bugs can be hiding anywhere. While it is possible that bed bugs can be in many places, it’s probable that they will be in specific places. Those are the places I start my inspections, and as a result, I can usually find a bed bug within the first minute of my free inspection. The major difference is that I’m using my vision and logic instead of my nose.
When Does A Canine Bed Bug Inspection Make Sense?
When is canine bed bug inspection the right choice? I suggest it for routine inspections of large multi-family buildings or hotels that need over 50 units inspected in a few hours. This is where the dog has an advantage. However, many large hotels have come to the same conclusion (at great expense) about the reliabilty of canines, and now use a bed bug expert like myself to independently verify any positive “hits” by a dog. I do not suggest this method of inspection for single family homes or even large buildings where a reasonable suspicion exists of an infestation. I can often help verify bed bug infestations over the phone within a few minutes, and with improved cell phone camera technology, I can positively ID with even more accuracy.
So while dogs make great pets and incredible companions, when it comes to bed bug inspections I feel they have a very limited use. Call day or night if you think your home or office has bed bugs. 805-746-4547