Tri-County canines use heightened sense of smell to uncover bed bugs
A dog’s nose is a truly remarkable piece of equipment. Scientists estimate that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human’s. If you make an analogy to vision, what a human can see clearly at 10 feet, a dog would be able to see just as clearly about 20 miles away! Furthermore, a dog’s sense of smell is much more discerning than a human’s. Dogs are able to pick out certain odors in amounts as minuscule as parts per trillion. It is no surprise, then, that dogs can sniff out bed bugs down to a single egg. All organisms, bed bugs include, have a distinct odor profile. Once a dog is trained to identify and react to the odor of bed bugs, he or she can detect the presence of a live infestation in a matter of minutes. The same task would often take a team of humans hours and involve turning the room upside down.
Tri-County’s canine team consists of two rescues: Lady and Bo. Both dogs were trained for hundreds of hours before qualifying for field work, and they continue training on a daily basis. Lady, a black lab mix, is a larger more energetic breed with a great deal of stamina. When we need to inspect a large facility in a short amount of time, Lady is the dog of choice. Because of his short legs, Bo, a dachshund beagle mix, doesn’t have Lady’s stamina. However, he can fit into tight spaces and even be lifted by his handler to inspect on top of dressers and other higher furniture. Although canine teams can be very accurate and efficient at detecting bed bugs, concerns over the possibility of false positives (identifying bed bugs when there are actually none present) have risen over the years.
For this reason, Tri-County employs a unique protocol to ensure that any alerts by our dogs are legitimate. When one of the dogs signals on an area, our handler will reward the dog for his or her alert and mark the area where the alert occurred. After the canine portion of the inspection is complete, a handler and technician will check all of the areas where alerts occurred to confirm the presence of live bugs or eggs. In this way, the dogs serve to narrow the search for our human inspectors, but the likelihood of a false positive result is drastically reduced.