Dog TrainingDog Travel

Bed Bug Dog Inspection

One of the most festive long-distance travelers on Thanksgiving Day is the little bed bug, furtively accompanying holiday travelers while hidden inside overly loaded luggage and small bags.

It’s pretty tough to actually see bed bugs, as they are small in size—3/16-inch or about the size of an apple seed. Indistinguishable to the human eye, a bed bug dog inspection is the easiest way to find this little creepy-crawly, mainly because of the dog’s acute sense of smell.

The  rising sales of specially trained dogs for bed bug dog inspection has a lot to do with the rising numbers of bed bugs as they travel across the nation by droves.

Bedbug-sniffing dogs, adorable yet stunningly accurate — entomology researchers at the University of Florida report that well-trained dogs can detect a single live bug or egg with 96 percent accuracy — are the new and furry front line in an escalating and confounding domestic war.

The reason bed bug dog inspection works so well with the famous bed bug sniffing dogs is that the bugs give off a very sweet yet unpleasant odor. I know….that does not make much sense, but they give off a musky stink-bug scent. The stronger the smell, the larger the bug infestation.

Additionally, they may appear undetectable  visually, but they stay very close together in groups and leave large amounts of blood spattering on mattresses and furnishings. The more bugs in an area, the easier it will be to see the blood or allow the bed bug dogs to detect the odor of the unwanted guests.

About the bed bug

Also spelled as bedbug, this annoying small pest is very flat and oval. The bed bug is reddish-brown in color unless it has fed on the blood of its human travelers, causing its body to distend and change the body color to more of a reddish shade. It will feed on any warm-blooded host, not just humans, such as dogs or cats.

bed bug dog
Credit: © istockphoto and Fenne kustermans

Image: iStockphoto/Fenne Kustermans

These nocturnal, wingless bed bugs love to hide in mattress seams, sheets, furniture, picture frames, electrical outlet plates, cracks, and crevices. The fact their bodies are so thin and flat makes it difficult to find them until you wake up all bitten up. Their favorite establishment has long been the hotels, as they travel in luggage, moving freely from room to room.

Bed bug sniffing dogs

Many people have said that the Lab is the best dog for bed bug dog inspection, and they are. Labradors are intelligent and easy to train, used as some of the best search-and-rescue or therapy dogs in the world. In fact, the Lab is one of the “top 3 among service and scent detection dogs.” (SniffsK9s)

However, bed bug dog trainers are a breed of their own, as training a dog to find a teeny-weeny bug is a whole lot different than catching the scent of an entire human body under earthquake rubble.

News came out the other day in the New York Times about a beg bug sniffing dog that was a puggle (half pug and half poodle), called “the new breed of bed bug guard-dog.”

But with cities like New York in drastic trouble because of the rapid increase in global travel that is bringing them into the United States, it soon will not matter what breed of dog it is, as long as they can find bed bugs to root them out.

New York Bed Bug Problem

Consider that six years ago, there were 537 bedbug complaints and 82 violations (in other words, verified infestations); last year, complaints topped out at nearly 11,000, with 4,084 violations cited (nearly double that of the previous year).



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  1. December 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm — Reply

    Interesting article, I know I am always concerned about bed bugs when traveling. I suppose they are as prevalent or more so overseas.

  2. November 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm — Reply

    We run a rescue center for older dogs…slightly over 20 of them. The easiest part is feeding and watering (we do fresh water two to three times a day). But dogs come here unsocialized, needing medical care and vet care, trained for the leash, and need to simply become used to being loved.

  3. November 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm — Reply

    On top of the daily exercise, feeding, grooming and play time required with a pet, a working dog must also have daily maintenance training to keep their skills sharp for the job. Our dog Loola Loo, spends 30 minutes to several hours a day going through bucket, distraction and senario exercises (amount depends on whether she is working that day or not). Ken, Bed Bug Mutts

  4. November 30, 2011 at 7:33 pm — Reply

    So are search and rescue dogs, NY. But it is well worth it the food and water, and cleaning up after them…simply basic care.

  5. November 30, 2011 at 6:10 pm — Reply

    these dogs are also a fortune to maintain.

  6. November 30, 2011 at 6:03 pm — Reply

    Thanks for the write up on bed bug sniffing dogs. Very interesting…I’d love to hear more about how the dogs are trained. We take our two dogs to k9 nosework training and they sniff for different odors including birch, clove, and anis. It’s very different from obedience training, but a lot of fun for our dogs.

  7. November 30, 2011 at 10:41 am — Reply

    Your info is good, though your picture is that of a stink bug not a bed bug. As I see the second picture is credited to Istock – becareful as they have labelling errors misidentifying several other insects as bed bugs. Keep up the good work spreading the word, not the bed bug by correcting your photo. Thank you. Ken Hando, Bed Bug Mutts

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