How to Train Dogs Who Sniff Out Bed Bugs

Most types of dogs can be trained to sniff out bed bugs.
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Just as dogs can be trained to sniff out drugs and explosives, they can be trained to sniff out bed bugs, which can find their way into all kinds of furnishings around the home. Because these bugs are tiny, having a dog who can tell you where there is an infestation can keep you from having to treat an entire home. Plus, dogs have been proven to be almost 100 percent accurate, when properly trained, at locating bed bugs.

Place several bed bugs in three of the five salt shakers. In one of the remaining salt shaker, place the eggs, skin casting and fecal matter. If you do not have access to an infested area from which to collect these things, you may be able to purchase them from an entomologist in your area. Leave one salt shaker empty.

Let your dog sniff only the shakers that contain the live bed bugs. Make sure he sniffs only the salt shakers with the live bed bugs so that he doesn’t confuse scents.

Take your dog out of the room and close the door so that he can’t see what you are doing. Hide all of the salt shakers throughout the room.

Open the door and bring the dog back into the room. Issue a command, such as “seek” that you will be using every time you want your dog to get to work locating bed bugs. This is the command that William and Connie Steeves of Connecticut’s Canine Bed Bug Locators LLC when they want their Cavalier King Charles spaniel Gracie to sniff out bed bugs.

Reward the dog with a treat and positive reinforcement when he finds the salt shakers containing the live bed bugs. Do this only when he finds the shakers with the live bugs. If he finds the empty shaker or the ones containing the dead matter, simply ignore the dog. This will teach him that you want him to sniff out live bed bugs, not salt shakers or dead matter.

Keep repeating this exercise. It may take a lot of repetition before your dog gains an understanding of what it is you want him to do. Once he does, change the routine up by hiding the live bed bugs in increasingly difficult places for him to find and expanding the search area to the whole house instead of just one room. Dogs can also be trained to detect viable bed bug eggs and ignore nonviable ones, so you may want to consider running this exercise with both types of eggs once your dog is more advanced.

Items You Will Need

  • Dog
  • Bed bugs
  • Bed bug eggs, skin casting and fecal matter
  • 5 salt shakers