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Becoming the Elite: How K9 Bed Bug Detection Units Are Trained

Burns Pest K9 and Handler.

What goes into K9 bed bug detection?

Dogs can detect bed bugs more easily than you or any other human. This holds true because they have particularly sensitive noses. These animals often help pest control experts identify infested areas. However, they can only find tiny insects if people carefully select the right canines and conduct thorough training.


Certain types of dogs prove desirable for this role. Handlers generally favor ambitious young canines that don’t behave aggressively. A small hound can enter cramped spaces and usually doesn’t scare people, so Jack Russell terriers and beagles provide appealing options. Many mixed-breed dogs also perform this work, according to The Washington Post.


After selecting a suitable animal, the handler must train a canine for about 90 days. The first step is to teach the pooch how to follow simple commands. It learns to respond to several brief words like “stay.”

Next, specialized K9 bed bug detection training begins. A dog must become familiar with commercial vans and a variety of structures. The trainer allows it to visit motel rooms, apartments, university dorms and offices. This helps prepare the animal’s mind for real inspections.

The training process continues in a fake motel room with beds and other furniture. Handlers arrange several containers that hold mature bugs, eggs, cast skins and nymphs. This gives the canine a chance to learn about the insect’s subtle odors.

Trainers teach dogs to identify containers with live pests in them. The animal eventually learns to sit next to the appropriate jar in exchange for a reward. A handler typically instructs the canine to search for insects when it hears a certain word.

Dogs must learn to tell the difference between dead and living bed bugs. They also need to recognize that old shells, feces or skins don’t necessarily represent a current infestation. This training enhances a dog’s accuracy.


A trainer needs to educate canines about common hiding places for bed bugs and their eggs. They learn to search for bed bug signs by hunting live insects in a fake motel room. The hounds discover these pests in closets, electrical outlets, mattresses and carpet padding.

This benefits pest control professionals because they don’t need to move heavy furniture and mattresses to look for insects. Canines can also detect bugs or eggs in a completely hidden area, such as the crevice behind a heating fixture or baseboard.

Dogs and humans face a major language barrier, so it’s vital to teach the animal about an obvious way to signal that it senses bed bug signs. Different trainers will instruct a canine to sit, touch the affected object or point at an infested area with its nose.

These animals occasionally need retraining to maintain their skills. Well-taught dogs can inspect numerous properties each day. If you’d like to benefit from K9 bed bug detection, turn to Burns Pest Elimination. Our family-owned firm offers thorough inspections and multiple treatment options. Please contact the BPE staff to learn more.