What Are the Best Breeds For Bedbug Detection?

What Are the Best Breeds For Bedbug Detection?

If I told you there was one breed better than any other I would be lying. All trainers may have their preferences based on experience and availability, but numerous breeds have made fantastic bedbug detector dogs.


Many of the sporting, herding, hound and terrier groups have been the bread winners in the detection of bedbugs. Bedbug detection dogs do work, if they are properly trained, there are a lot of different breeds that could be described as the best.

How do I Select the best dog breed for Bedbug detection?

To ensure a quality working dog on the back end, we must first identify the traits of a quality working dog and how these traits have a direct impact on the dog’s usefulness in the field. The following characteristic traits and drives must be assessed.

What are the top 6 testing criteria for selecting breeds for bedbug dogs

  1. Pronounced Motivation for toy or food
  2. Intense Hunt Drive (Not to be confused with retrieve only)
  3. Good Social Skills
  4. Environmental Confidence
  5. Low Distractibility
  6. Health Check

The best dog breeds for bedbugs are supreme hunters

The American kennel Club (AKC.0rg) states that German Shepherds (GSD) and Belgian Malinois are law enforcement’s most popular choice for patrol dogs. Although these breeds may work well for bedbug detection, there are numerous breeds that work great for scent detection in general.   

Here are some things to consider when selecting dog breeds for bedbug selection

Toy/Food Motivation – First and foremost a detector dog must possess a natural, super intense desire to possess a toy or food.  Various tests can be done to measure the degree of intensity for this, most notably persistence tests with hard to reach areas and general possessiveness.

Hunt Drive – A lot of people confuse retrieve with hunt.  Good retrieve displayed by a dog is good, but you must look further to how the dog hunts for an object when something has not been immediately thrown with a clear line of sight.  We must be looking for a dog who is very persistent with the hunt and does not lose interest or become distracted.  We must also look for a dog that does not show an uneasiness to enter tall grass, pile of tires, confined space, etc.

A good detection dog has good social skills

A quality bedbug detector dog cannot be bothered or show aggression toward people or other animals.  This will become a distraction in the field and have a direct impact on the serviceability of the dog on the job.  An aggressive dog will be a liability and nobody wants to deal with that.

Environmental Confidence – Any working dog must be confident in new and challenging environments.  There are varied degrees that any dog could be affected by, however certain tests should be done to know what you are dealing with from the beginning.  Selection tests involving slick floors, tight spaces, wobbly leg table tops, loud noises, people, and new environments are all but a few of the areas a selection test should include.

Low Distractibility – Detector dogs are not always working in perfect environments.  Things like cat urine, animals, noises, or merely consistency in their work can cause distracted behavior and a lack of obedience to their task.  This is a trait that can wash what seemingly appears to be a great dog out of a detector dog program.  It is a quirk that can be maddening for dogs that pass all other tests.

Always check the health of the dog before selecting your bedbug dog

Anyone in search of a detector dog should first look for the obvious and then seek a comprehensive physical exam from a veterinarian.  The dog’s age, teeth, bloodwork, heart function, stools, coat condition, and X-rays of hips and elbows should be considered prior to acquisition as a detector dog.

How do I Select a Bedbug Dog Handler?

The selection of a good handler for the dog is equally as important as the selection of the dog.  A bad handler will ruin any good dog.  The program will be doomed with a poor handler or management.  Traits for a good bedbug dog handler include the following:


Top 10 Traits For Bedbug Dog Handlers

  1. Responsible
  2. Initiative and Work Ethic
  3. Organized
  4. Appearance (Overall appearance in attire and how one carries themselves)
  5. Human Relations
  6. Love of Dogs
  7. Attitude
  8. Integrity
  9. Fluidity of Movement
  10. Humble (Not a know it all)

Matt Skogen at IronHeart High Performance Working Dogs


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