Bed bug detection canines

Dogs' noses have a reputation for finding trouble; be it bombs, drugs, cancer, or the puppy biscuits hidden in your backpack (I had a Dalmatian chew through mine to get treats!) Recent years' surges in bed bug infestations have prompted scent detection trainers to put canine noses into a new line of work- bed bug detection.

Not just any nose will work; the dog must have certain characteristics. Unlike police scent canines, bed bug dogs tend to be smaller, agile breeds. They have to be focused, capable of the long hours of training and field work. Bed bug canines train for up to 8,000 hours in conditions designed to resemble true living quarters. New owners must complete training as well. This ranges between 2 days and 2 weeks (depending on the academy) learning to properly communicate with the dog and interpret responses.

Bed bug hormones give off a distinct odor which even humans can detect in large quantities. Trained detections canines can locate faint bed bug secretions down to a single bug or egg. Detection dogs learn to differentiate between the scent of dead and live bugs/eggs and bed bug secretion, triggering only the live bugs or eggs. They detect odors within 3-5 feet, responding with a predetermined signal to alert the handler.  

Bed bug dogs range in accuracy, depending on a number of factors, usually around 90% accuracy. This is a huge leap from human detection; estimates suggest experienced PCOs are accurate half the time or less. Detection by scent also enables detection in inaccessible or low visual areas.  

Another advantage to canine detection is time.  The same thorough inspection that would take hours for a human can be completed by the pup in a matter of minutes, and without disturbing your closet, removing baseboards or disassembling your DVD player. 

A detection dog is only half of the team, so consider the handler's reputation as well. Critics suggest that unscrupulous PCO's may encourage dogs to falsely trigger in order to double dip; typical treatments commonly run upwards of $1000, while canine detection costs between $100-$350.  Good canine handlers will search for visual confirmation when the dog triggers, alleviating possible discrepancies. 

Another common concern is that of dogs who 'earn' their food throughout the day with each successful detection. Critics suggest that the dog may trigger 'false positives' on a particularly hungry day. Others say it undermines the trust of the client, whether or not false positives occur. Animal rights groups cry injustice. 

In fact, the practice of making service animals 'earn' their only meals in the form of rewards has existed for some time. Data supports both sides, so for now it's at the digression of trainers.