Results of University of Florida tests on bed bug dog effectiveness are out

by nobugsonme on August 20, 2008 · 18 comments

in bed bug dogs, bed bug research, bed bugs

The long-awaited University of Florida study of bed bug dogs that we mentioned last year has now been published:

Ability of Bed Bug-Detecting Canines to Locate Live Bed Bugs and Viable Bed Bug Eggs

Department of Entomology, Building 970 Natural Area Drive,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
J. Econ. Entomol. 101(4): 1389-1396 (2008)

Here’s the abstract in full:

The bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., like other bed bug species, is difficult to visually locate because it is cryptic. Detector dogs are useful for locating bed bugs because they use olfaction rather than vision. Dogs were trained to detect the bed bug (as few as one adult male or female) and viable bed bug eggs (five, collected 5-6 d after feeding) by using a modified food and verbal reward system. Their efficacy was tested with bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs placed in vented polyvinyl chloride containers. Dogs were able to discriminate bed bugs from Camponotus floridanus Buckley, Blattella germanica (L.), and Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar), with a 97.5% positive indication rate (correct indication of bed bugs when present) and 0% false positives (incorrect indication of bed bugs when not present). Dogs also were able to discriminate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs from dead bed bugs, cast skins, and feces, with a 95% positive indication rate and a 3% false positive rate on bed bug feces. In a controlled experiment in hotel rooms, dogs were 98% accurate in locating live bed bugs. A pseudoscent prepared from pentane extraction of bed bugs was recognized by trained dogs as bed bug scent (100% indication). The pseudoscent could be used to facilitate detector dog training and quality assurance programs. If trained properly, dogs can be used effectively to locate live bed bugs and viable bed bug eggs.

You can easily access it on the Armed Forces Literature Retrieval System, using the title above.

The study used dogs trained by Pepe Peruyero.

The results are impressive: “Dogs trained to locate live bed bugs and viable
bed bug eggs had an overall accuracy of 97%, which is similar to previous studies on insect detector dogs” (1394).

But there was also a 10% no-indication rate on viable bed bug eggs (10% of the time, dogs did not alert to viable eggs being present). The study suggests this can be attributed to a low concentration of the target odor. These false negatives (as well as false positives) can also be attributed to the handler’s “misreading dog behavior” (1394).

Ultimately, the study concludes that

Dogs can be trained to locate cryptic insects that are difficult to uncover visually as long as dogs are trained in a similar manner to the method we used, training is maintained regularly, an experienced handler is used, and nontarget odors are separated from target odors (1395).

This comes as no surprise, but cannot be emphasized enough. We know that bed bug dogs can detect bed bugs. We also know that it doesn’t always work.

Bed bug dogs have to be properly trained, the training needs to be ongoing once they’re with the handler, and the handler has to know what they’re doing and do it well.

Everyone is not cut out to be a dog handler. This is a booming industry and a lot of people are trying to get in on it. People with no experience handling dogs are among them and some of these may not be cut out for it.

The potential is there for people to obtain bed bug dogs from the trainers but to handle them improperly, or not maintain training. So even if your bed bug dog handler got his or her dog from the same source, depending on how the handler is working with the dog now, your results may not be as impressive.

Consumers considering a bed bug dog need to remember that anyone can hang out a shingle and advertise their “bed bug dog;” there’s no government agency certifying their effectiveness. So get references and recommendations and choose wisely.

1 parakeets August 20, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Great information. Thanks for posting this.

2 Nancy August 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm

I wish I had one of these detector dogs.


3 Erik Alden August 20, 2008 at 11:09 pm

If anybody needs this service in CA specifically We are NESDECA certified and our canine Maddi participated in this research.
Bed bug Inspections inc.

4 nobugsonme August 20, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Hi Erik,

Are you the Erik Alden on the Verminators?

5 Doug Summers MS August 21, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Congratulations to Margie for getting her study published.

6 bed ug dog expert August 25, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Let me preface by saying that, I can see some major flaws in this resarch already. Who set the polyvinyl chloride containers in place for detection by the dog? Where the scent item containers, handled by researchers who, were part of the research environment with, the dogs being tested? Or, where they handled by a third party, not familiar to, the tested canines? Where the scent containers handled with new rubber gloves every time so as, not to potential contaminate the scent item? Why was glass and or, metal containers not, offered to contain the scent item as well? How do you know, the dog was not just alerting on the polyvinyl chloride containers? Moeover, your use and development of psuedoscent sounds like an attempt to sell something to the bed bug detection/inspection dog industry. Are you developing this product and seeking a patent? Psuedoscent does not work. If you really did your research, you would see that dogs, clearly trained in specific scent, discrimination tasks, can differentiate psuedo scent, from that, of real/actual scent. This is why drug dogs are no longer trained with, psuedoscent and why cadavor dogs are no longer trained with, pig parts. Furthermore,it appears that the research is attempting to make the dog trainer of this research out as, the only person to train a bed bug dog. I find that suspect, contaminating and not to fall, within the parameters of social and scientific, research framework. Go back to the drawing board. I hope you were not funded with government money. If so, I would like my portion of tax dollars back.

7 bed bug dog expert August 25, 2008 at 10:34 pm

I appoligize for the two (where) that should have been (were).

8 nobugsonme August 26, 2008 at 1:27 am

bed bug dog expert,

The “you” you are addressing, that is, the authors of this study, are not affiliated with this website. If you wish to get in contact with them or challenge the validity of their study, I recommend writing to them c/o the addresses above or addressing your comments to the Journal of Economic Entomology.

However, I would note that this study has been accepted via a peer reviewed scientific journal; I would assume that the authors’ use of proper scientific method is not in question.

9 bed bug dog expert August 26, 2008 at 8:39 am


With all due resspect, the individuals who posted the rsults of the research dicussed the results of bed bug dog detection research. Entomology is the study of bugs, not dog behaior. Not-to-mention, the researchers position, regarding the person who trained the dogs for the research, appeared to be a marketing ploy and biast. If this research was evaluated and found to be sound by the (SWGDOG) The Scientific Working Group on Dog an Othogonal Detector Guidelines which, I am not affliated with, then we would not be talking. If the researchers did not want to recieve comment regarding their research on this web site , they should not have posted.

10 nobugsonme August 26, 2008 at 11:47 am

bed bug dog expert,

What I tried to clarify for you in my last comment is that the researchers did not post here. That’s why I found it odd that you (bed bug dog expert) were addressing the authors of the study, who do not appear to be present for this discussion.

I am the owner of an independent website about bed bugs. I regularly post bed bug-related news and information. I posted the article above. The indentations in the article show where the abstract and article has been quoted.

Everything else above is my own words, which is why my pseudonym (nobugsonme) is attached to the article. I have no dog in this race, so to speak.

I hope that clears things up.

It seems to me that a study of bed bug-detecting dogs is relevant to the Journal of Economic Entomology. However, you’ve stated your position, and I don’t wish to argue that point with you any further.

11 bed bug dog expert August 26, 2008 at 2:08 pm


You obviously posted the published research. You own the website. I have no argument with you. It is very clear that you have provided a public service in creating this form which allows individuals to aquire essential and uncontaminated information. May I take this moment to commend you

12 nobugsonme August 26, 2008 at 9:50 pm

bed bug dog expert,

Thanks– though I doubt any source of information is “uncontaminated,” in the sense of being completely unbiased.

13 Doug Summers MS August 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I’m not sure we can assume that the procedures were sound based on the fact that the study has been published. The authors specify how the procedures were carried out in detail so that they can be scrutinized, criticized and replicated by other researchers.

The lack of an experienced canine olfactory expert is a valid criticism of this study in my opinion.

This is a study of dog behavior that was conducted by insect researchers who are closely affiliated with the same kennel that trained the K9s.

The procedures that were used to handle the PVC containers are not detailed in the article. Who handled the test containers & the procedures that were used are critical issues in a scent detection dog evaluation.

How does the reader know that the dogs were not being cued by the scent of the trainer, handler or researchers on the test containers?

I am not as concerned about the use of the PVC containers since they were used uniformly.

I would be more concerned about other materials that were used in the targets such as the type of tape that was used to secure the live specimen vials. In a previous evaluation conducted by the University of Florida, the researcher observed that one of Pepe’s dogs alerted to a target that only contained duct tape.

The small sample size and the use of a single handler are also serious issues that limit the validity of the study.

I think Margie’s investigation into the use of solvents to attempt to produce a pseudo-scent is good science, but I doubt that the experimental pseudo-scent will be practical for training K9s for a number of reasons.

14 nobugsonme August 28, 2008 at 1:41 am

Thanks for your comments, Doug.

15 Vector Guard Inc December 12, 2008 at 11:49 am

My Fellow bedbug watchers, killers,inspectors this is really getting to be a all out every man for himself expidition. If we could take a dogs nose apart and look at the millions of scent glands in thier nose we could solve alot of problems, but we can’t we have to trust the dog. Being a part of the inspection team I think our focus should be on how to use this incredible gift of the canines to help educate and minimize the bedbug situation. There are always going to be disagreements but the key is to work together to create a win win situation for the people suffering from this problem. I would ask any of you to trade places with these folks who have a problem and have had to face the costly, scary, intense situation. Please let’s all remember the dog is a tool not a cure all for the problem, they are just like people they make mistakes they have bad days and we have to just work with them and learn to read them and do the best we can with thier abilities.
I hope in the future entomologist, handlers. pest control companies will stop looking at the bottom line and start looking at the great tool we have available to us. And understand we have to create the win win not tear down every dog handler trainer and customer, our motto is people don’t care how much you know til they know how much you care.”

16 BED BUG INSPECTION DOG LLC December 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm

I don’t think the intent is to “tear down” any one’s school of thought. I think you have mistaken satire and objectively researched criticism. In fact, there have been numerous readers that have offered praise for those that have debated the issues. I have attempted to enlighten the readers with out prejudice where, I think the PCO industries short Cummings exist. I believe I live by the 8th commandment, “Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness.” I have been very critical about the PCO industries use of a particular breed of dog, its use of out dated training and reward methods and alleged bed bug K-9 certification, process methods. If I, make an accusation, it will always be substantiated. If I have been incorrect, I will always acknowledge it.

Gary Broberg

17 Vector Guard Inc December 15, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Dear Bed Bug Dog fellow handler, I was not trying to point any fingers it’s just I have heard things and I have seen blog after blog of opinions and accusations not by you but others or types of dog’s methods of trainers ability of handlers those type of things. If you feel I was pointing at you alone I do apologize I am not into that. My dogs do what they do all I do is do my best to make sure the alerts are as accurate as possible. I train with the dogs on a regular basis, we believe to be the best at something you need to practice. I am sure you do the same. I can tell by your blogs you are a passionate person about your business and your dogs and that is to be admired and respected so If I am may bid you good luck God’s speed and great success in the future.

Jimmy Lawrence
Vector-Guard Inc.

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