Do Bedbug Dogs Work?

The short answer is yes. Bedbug detection dogs work very well.

The long answer is yes, IF the training is conducted properly and the handling of the dog is good, especially in the field and not just in training. If we focus on the protocols and deployment in the field, we can easily separate a quality program operating with integrity from a program that is taking chances and gambling too much with someone else’s money.

Top Reasons For Bedbug Scent Detection Dog Success

You Must Ensure Proper Training Prior To Deployment

  • Average consumers may not know much about how these bedbug dogs work, but that’s for good reason. It’s a complicated process.
  • Merely running the dog through the area and relying solely on dog alert is not enough. Proper bedbug detection handling should include visual confirmation and “checks and balances” to ensure job well done.
  • An accredited training facility like IronHeart High Performance Working Dogs ensures quality controls and deployment practices are conveyed to the handlers to ensure integrity in the field.

Dog Must Be Able To Correctly Identify The Odor Of The Bedbugs

  • Avoid visual or physical feel of vials
  • Avoid contaminated vials
  • Ensure realistic “Scent Picture”
  • Ensure quality “proofing” continues throughout life of the dog. This assures handler that the dog is not alerting to contaminants on training aids associated with things like gloves, food, toys or human scent.

How do bedbug dogs work in discovering the scent of bedbugs?

A bedbug dog should be very focused and methodical in their hunt for bedbugs.  If the dog has been properly imprinted on the odor of live bedbugs and viable eggs, it is important the bedbug sniffing dog is exposed to live infestations in the field to more accurately catalog the scent plume emanating from actual infestations rather than solely on training aids having bedbugs.  The bedbug dog works by searching the productive areas where bugs are normally most prevalent.  The bedbugs have an odor that has been associated with the smell of rotten raspberries.  The bedbug dog conducts the search for bedbugs much the same as a drug dog searches for drugs.

The key to how a bedbug dog works is ensuring the proper handling of the dog


One of the key objectives for the handling of any good bedbug detector dog is to always maintain the highest motivation in their dog.  Many variables can affect this motivation such as living conditions, chemistry with the handler, and intensity for their desired reward.  A good handler must recognize the signs affiliated with lower motivation and take immediate steps to do whatever necessary to improve it.  Below listed are some of the things a handler must do to maintain proper motivation:

  • Unless routinely locating live bedbug infestations, motivational hides must be used in real search locations. Not limited to routine training areas.
  • Dog must be motivated to work. Proper care and consideration must be given to maintaining motivation for toy or food.
  • The breed that you choose as your detector dog is not as important as their motivation and drive.           


  • A good handler must maintain good tempo. Good handlers can normally be creative enough to coax or encourage the dog to continue a quality search.  They must also recognize fatigue or “work stoppages”

Timing of Reward

  • Confirm evidence of bugs on dog alerts prior to reward
  • Ensure quality final response after reading alert behaviors
  • Maintain discipline in proper scent picture and final response
  • Proper flushing behavior must be achieve

Ensure proper management of search areas

  •  The importance of a “walk-through” is very important for the following reasons:

Safety/Condition Check

  • Animals, dangerous people, hazards, chemicals, etc.
  • Eliminate units requiring dog “Conserve Energy”
  • Record anything not conforming to your agreement: Cooking, clothing, trash, smoking, litter boxes, etc.
  • Be methodical:
    • a. Work “hot” to “warm” zones of greatest probability of bugs first
    • b. Ensure dog targets and completes good patterns on seams.

Ensure thoroughness of search

  • Conduct thorough visual searches in units where there have been sightings or complaints of bugs.
  • Dogs have moments where motivation and focus can be reduced similar to humans.

Many things can affect motivation such as:

  • Big distractions
  • Poor chemistry with handler, illness, etc.

When detecting bedbugs, it works best to confirm visual evidence of bugs where canine has alerted prior to reward.

Bedbug dogs do work, yes if you purchase your bedbug dog from a reputable source and utilize a highly trained team of dog and handler.

Matt Skogen, IronHeart High Performance Working Dogs

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