Dogs have a keen sense of smell. In fact, some dog species have more than 300 million receptors in their noses. Since humans have just 30 million receptors, dogs clearly have the advantage. The animals use these receptors to track scents through mud, rain and snow while people ask them to use their sense of smell to detect dangerous substances like drugs and mold. Today, according to, dogs are even sniffing out bed bug infestations.

The Study 

An Oxford Journal study published in 2008 confirms the success of bed-bug detection dogs. To complete the study, researchers used dogs that had been trained to detect live bugs as well as viable bed bug eggs. For the test, the team placed live bugs and viable eggs in polyvinyl chloride containers that featured air holes. During the study, the detection dogs were able to determine the difference between bed bugs and a species of ant, a type of termite and a German cockroach. ² The dogs were accurate 97.5 percent of the time when bed bugs were present while the false positive rate was zero.

When the researchers tested the dogs using live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs against dead bugs, samples of shed bed bug skin and bug feces, the dogs were 95 percent accurate. In this test, they had a 3 percent false positive rate for bed bug excrement. Because the success rate was so high for canine detection teams during the study, the animals are a alternative to classic identification methods.

The Best Dogs for the Job 

In most cases, a pest control company’s detection dog will be one that is bred to hunt. Beagles and bloodhounds are popular choices, but Jack Russell terriers, border collies, Aussies and Labradors also make good bed bug sniffing dogs. Often, trainers teach smaller breeds to sniff pests because their diminutive size is less intimidating to homeowners. In addition, handlers can lift small dogs to sniff drawers and bookshelves.  Because dogs can find bugs that are behind walls and under carpets, they are a good substitute for traditional detection techniques.

Best Management Practices 

The National Pest Management Association released a guideline regarding the use of dogs in bed-bug detection. According to the organization, canine teams are the best detection choice when a home is believed to contain bed bugs, but the homeowner or pest control technician has yet to spot viable eggs or live bugs. Dogs are also recommended for large building pest inspections. Before hiring a canine team for bed bug detection, be sure to request certification. This documentation confirms that a third party certifier has vetted the animal. It also verifies that the team is able to identify living bed bugs and viable eggs as well as differentiate them from other odors.

Integrated Pest Management

Detector dogs are especially useful in pest control because the animals use their sense of smell instead of their vision to discover insects. This makes them more reliable than traditional detection methods. Using dogs is environmentally friendly, and you’ll know quickly if you have an infestation.

Other detection systems can take time to confirm the presence of bed bugs. Pest control companies are beginning to offer comprehensive service with integrated pest management. This technique uses planet friendly treatment methods to eliminate pests. With an accurate identification process, a pest control company can recommend an effective treatment.