How Do Bed Bug Detection Dogs Actually Find Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are a virtually guaranteed way to damage the reputation of an otherwise ideal hotel, motel, home, hospital, business or facility. These tiny parasites infest new domains by hitchhiking on the clothing, suitcases or belongings of unsuspecting visitors and then reproducing rapidly and uncontrollably once they are in their new location.

Due to their small size, most people do not realize that they have carried bed bugs home with them until it is too late and an infestation has already begun. Although bed bugs are not directly harmful to humans, they are a significant nuisance and their saliva causes large, red welt like bites that take days to disappear. Since bed bugs can hide so well and reproduce so quickly, it can be very difficult to eliminate them once an infestation has begun.

A bed bug detection dog is a canine specifically trained to target the unique odour of bed bugs and communicate to their handler when this odour is present. A well trained bed bug detection dog can effectively locate bed bugs in virtually any sized facility while ignoring all other scents, sights, sounds and environmental distractions.

Dogs trained to find bed bugs are workaholics who live for their job. Bed bug detection dogs can distinguish the unique odour of bed bugs from all other bugs, residue and other animals. Well trained bed bug detection dogs can also distinguish between live and dead bugs. They are an incredibly valuable asset to private business owners, home owners and any other group or individual who believes that they may be suffering with a bed bug infestation. They are also valuable partners for pest control companies who want confirmation that their extermination efforts were fully effective.

bed bug detection dog

Who can benefit from a Bed Bug Detection Dog?

Bed bug detection dogs are a beneficial aid for a variety of groups and individuals.

Hotels and motels

Hotels and motels use bed bug detection dogs to confirm infestations in their rooms, as well as to confirm that extermination efforts have been successful. The presence of bed bugs in lodging facilities can quickly wreak havoc on a business’s success. In a society where most people use the internet and social media in order to make purchasing decisions, public reviews announcing the presence of bed bugs at a lodging facility by unhappy customers can result in a longterm serious loss of business.

Apartment complexes

Apartment complexes can have similar issues because many potential tenants do review searches prior to signing lease agreements. The congregation of any large human population or significant volumes of traffic can quickly result in an infestation if one person carries a couple of bed bugs in with them, a factor which unfortunately many lodging facilities must contend with at some point or another.


Medical establishments are another type of facility which can easily fall victim to bed bug infestations, for the same reason that other lodging style facilities do. Although a hospital’s business is not typically impacted by a bed bug infestation as patients tend to use them out of necessity, parasites are highly unsanitary and neither patients nor staff will be happy about bringing bed bugs into their homes after leaving. For certain individuals, bed bug bites can also cause allergic reactions which can be very dangerous for an individual whose health is already compromised.

Nursing homes

Nursing homes can become the victim of bed bug infestations as well, due to the fact that they house a large amount of residents and have high volumes of daily traffic coming and leaving the facility in the form of visitors, residents and staff. These infestations can make things extremely uncomfortable for the residents and may even result in a lawsuit if the courts feel that the facility did not take adequate action to eliminate the infestation as quickly as possible.

Office buildings

Office buildings can also fall prey to bed bug infestations. Typically there are high volumes of human traffic in office buildings, and since bed bugs tend to travel with humans on their clothing or in purses and bags, employees or visitors may bring bed bugs into an office building with them. The bed bugs can then hop off and make a home of their new surroundings. Although people typically notice that they are bit overnight by bed bugs, these parasites can also feed during the day if human hosts are relatively stationary. They can also easily get onto the clothing or in the bags of new hosts and travel with them into their personal residencies.

Cinemas, theme parks, and retail

Retail and entertainment businesses can all experience bed bug infestations. These are all industries whose primary services include hosting a large volume of regular human traffic. It takes only seconds for a bed bug being carried into a building to jump off of their host and begin creating a new infestation, and unfortunately this means of travel is a primary characteristic of bed bugs and their survival. If only one patron has bed bugs in their home or workplace, anywhere they go can end up falling victim to an infestation.

Residential homes

Residential homes may also benefit from the hire of a bed bug detection dog if the owners suspect that bed bugs are the culprit for the itchy red bites that family members have been regularly waking up with. Many times bed bugs will infest homes after trips away or if a resident is employed at a building experiencing a bed bug infestation.

How do detection dogs find bed bugs?

Dogs possess unfathomable olfactory capabilities. While humans have approximately 6 million olfactory receptors, dogs have between 150 million – 300 million. Some studies even cite that the canine nose is up to 10,000 or 100,000 times more powerful than the human nose. The canine brain is literally made to process smells. Dogs also possess a highly refined olfactory system which enables them to sort combination odours into individual components and then zone in on that particular smell. This is why dogs are able to follow a single human or animal trail, even when thousands of other scents may be present. Each nostril in the canine nose can also smell individually, which enables dogs to pinpoint the exact location of odour by immediately recognizing which direction it is coming from.

As predators, dogs are born hunters whose ancestors used (and still use) their incredible olfactory systems to locate and follow prey, sometimes for miles. Humans harness this power through the utilisation of detection dogs, who are canines specially trained to target one or more very specific odours in any environment, recognise the presence of this trained odour, follow it and alert their handler once they have pinpointed its exact location.

Bed bug detection dogs are trained to immediately recognize and respond to the smell of bed bugs. Once the association has been made with the odour of bed bugs, these dogs are trained to notify their handler when a bed bug is present, and trained to use a unique “indication” which the dog displays only once it has located the exact location of a bed bug. Because large amounts of odour smell different than minuscule amounts of odour (e.g. a bed bug infestations vs a single bed bug), dogs are trained on both single bugs and large amounts of bed bugs to ensure the generalization of bed bug odour.

After this, dogs are proofed off all other problematic odours such as different types of bugs, food, toys, animal and human odours. Once a dog is guaranteed to only indicate only once it has found a bed bug, it is trained in a variety of real life environments and situations, exposed to potential distractors and desensitized to anything that may be present in bed bug searches. It is critical to ensure that an operational bed bug dog is a single-minded machine who knows exactly what they are supposed to do while on duty and can accomplish their mission effectively and efficiently.

bed bug crawling on bed

Do Bed bug Detection Dogs find live bugs, dead bugs or both?

Although dogs are technically capable of finding both live and dead bed bugs, our bed bug dogs are taught to find exclusively live bugs. They are proofed off dead bugs because the removal of all dead bugs after an extermination effort is nearly impossible. Many times, pest control companies or individuals will hire a bed bug detection dog to confirm if an extermination effort was successful or not, and the only way to do this is to confirm the presence of live bed bugs exclusively.

Having a bed bug detection dog clear an area can be just as useful as getting a positive indication from them. Sometimes other bugs can be the culprit of bites, and bites do not always indicate an infestation. A bed bug detection dog is an extremely valuable tool for recognizing if there are any live bed bugs present, but they can also communicate if no bed bugs are present or if extermination efforts have been successful.

How reliable are Bed Bug Detection Dogs?

Well trained bed bug detection dogs are currently the most reliable method of confirming the presence of bed bugs, whether it be only one bug or an entire infestation. They are carefully selected by trainers and handlers for their solid working drives, their incomparable on the job focus, their incredible hunting capabilities and their environmental stability.

Not only are these dogs trained to detect, track and pinpoint the precise location of bed bugs, but they are trained to completely ignore potential distractions and any potentially problematic odours. They are the only tool capable of literally sniffing out bed bugs, while also doing so quickly and non-invasively. The reliability of bed bug detection dogs makes them an incredibly valuable tool in the process of eliminating an infestation for good, while potentially saving organisations and lodging facilities from otherwise avoidable reputation damage and loss of business.

Leave a Reply