[updated August 2022]
A well-trained bed bug dog and handler will be able to pinpoint where bed bugs are in your home.
Bed Bug Dog Inspections
Letting a trained dog pinpoint your infestation
You can use a bed bug dog to potentially help find the exact location of bed bugs in your home or office. This can help you quickly know if your infestation has spread to another room in your home or pinpoint the location in your room.
Professionally trained bed bug dogs can be 95% or more accurate in sniffing out bed bugs.
If you think you may have bed bugs you should act as quickly as possible to determine if you do or not. That can only happen with an inspection by a professional unless you have already positively identified a bed bug and can show it to a professional exterminator.You must have evidence or any ethical pest company will not treat your home, and with good reason because powerful pesticides are often used to kill bed bugs.
Interview the company or handler before you pay
Be sure if you have a bed bug dog inspection that any positive hits are immediately followed by a physical inspection where bed bugs are found. Physical evidence of bed bugs is critical for effective treatment.
Ask where the dog was trained and ask if you can see the dogs documentation proving it was trained at the facility you were told it was. There are several reputable training schools now, and just as many fake bed bug dogs. Then do a quick internet search for the school where the dog was trained. You can call the school and ask about the specific dog.
Dog training schools should be ok confirming a bed bug dog was trained there to protect their reputation which can be ruined if people lie about where their dog was trained and then fail to find bed bugs. Unfortunately, there are people who see they can make a lot of cash selling their dog as a trained bed bug dog.
The inspector or pest control operator still needs to FIND ACTUAL BED BUGS before you proceed to treatment. The dog is not enough, you also need a specimen.
False positives can happen. If they cannot find bed bugs after a positive hit by the dog, ask to have the inspection redone at no additional charge on a different day to confirm whether you do or don’t have bed bugs. At this point, you don’t know if you do or don’t or if the dog is having an off day.
Discuss with the company or inspector what their policy is if the dog makes a positive hit, but the inspector cannot find bed bugs.
How much does a bed bug dog inspection cost?
The cost of bed bug dog inspections varies depending on multiple factors. Most inspectors charge by the hour, while others charge by the room or size of the dwelling. The cost of a bed bug dog inspection can range from $150 to $300. You will feel more confident of the result of the inspection if you remove clutter so the dog can do its job.
You’ll want to know what kind of training the dog and handler underwent. Professional bed bug dog Inspectors should undergo rigorous training to learn how to care for and manage their dogs.
Are bed bug dogs accurate?
Bed bug dogs require continuous practice with their handlers after certification. You are paying for a highly specialized dog, similar to what bomb or drug-sniffing dogs undergo in training.
There are several bed bug dog training facilities and plenty of reviews online. I’ve included a list of bed bug dog training companies if you want a start.
Take written notes with everyone you talk to. Notes will help you make important decisions to help you get to zero bed bugs.
Results can vary, just like pest companies and individuals who work for that company. Do we wish they were uniformly perfectly trained, yes? Are they, no! Bed bug dogs may not be 100% accurate and can miss a bug or point to a false positive. But a well trained and well-maintained dog should have a very high accuracy rate and you should be able to trust the results.
I have provided questions (below) that you can ask a bed bug dog inspection handler or company, to help you make the best choices when selecting a bed bug dog inspection.
Questions to ask a bed bug dog inspector
It’s OK to ask questions. Someone who has invested in a professional dog will not be offended and will be happy to share with you the process and training that they went through. If a handler doesn’t give you specific answers, be concerned! A professional is used to answering these questions and is happy to accommodate you.
Bed bug dogs only can work for a few years before they retire. You want a dog that was trained in the last two to four years.
If they tell you their boyfriend is a police officer and trained the dog for you, end the interview, NEXT! (true story, this is what one inspector said to me)
If they are not the first owner it is less likely they had formal training in inspecting and dog handling, and the dog may not be properly trained.
How long did it take to become certified? Trainers and their dogs should undergo a minimum of six to eight weeks of training.
A quick internet search for “bed bug dog training schools” will bring up a wide variety of options. You are looking for a dog training facility that has been around for a while, that is well established and probably offers dog training for other purposes such as drugs, explosives, police, private and airport security.
Will the company come back and inspect again if you continue to get bites and a positive confirmation of bed bugs? Will they offer a second inspection at the end of your infestation to confirm they’re gone?
Even with a positive hit, you must still have a specimen to begin treatment. The dog handler should produce a specimen to confirm the dogs behavior response. If the inspector cannot produce a bed bug, it could be a false positive. Or, the dog could just be having an off day. Will they come back and do another walk through. This is fair because if there is a positive “hit” but no specimen found, you are still in the dark about whether what’s biting you is bed bugs. If you aren’t offered this, ask if it is part of the service. You can let them know that you expect it.
Testing the accuracy of bed bug sniffing dogs
The Department of Entomology, Rutgers University, which conducts ongoing research into bed bugs, determined in a published paper
“We evaluated the accuracy of 11 canine detection teams in naturally infested apartments. All handlers believed their dogs could detect infestations at a very high rate (=95%). In three separate experiments, the mean (min, max) detection rate was 44 (10-100)% and the mean false-positive rate was 15 (0-57)%.”The Department of Entomology, Rutgers University
The false-positive rate was positively correlated with the detection rate. The probability of a bed bug infestation being detected by trained canines was not associated with the level of bed bug infestations.
Four canine detection teams evaluated on multiple days were inconsistent in their ability to detect bed bugs and exhibited significant variance in accuracy of detection between inspections on different days.
There was no significant relationship between the team’s experience or certification status of teams and the detection rates. These data suggest that more research is needed to understand factors affecting the accuracy of canine teams for bed bug detection in naturally infested apartments.”