Bed Bug Dogs(7 posts)
There has been alot on this foum written about bed bug dogs and how if a visual inspection is not done afterward, confirming a bed bug presence, that you shouldn't treat.
My experience has been the opposite. I had a dog in last week because I got bit a few times over the last few weeks, following a trip to Florida. We had then moved into a new home. I knew in my gut that we had them-all the signs pointed to them. So I got a dog in, who alerted to my suitcase as well as my drivers side in my car.
We followed up with a visual inspection from the pest control company, which found nothing. HOWEVER, the room that the suitcase was in was a sauna (not in operation), so there were literally thousands of places for the bugs to hide.
I wanted to nip the problem in the bud, so we called in a PCO and had the heat treatment (a week after the dog inspection). Upon completion of the heat treatment, the company noted that bed bugs came out in two different rooms in my basement (none upstairs, thank goodness). They were killed.
I should also note that we had many boxes in the basement.
If I had waited to visually confirm, we would've had a huge infestation on our hands, as the bugs would've gradually moved throughout the house and laid more eggs, and the treatments may not have been effective.
So my advice is...go with your gut. Save yourself the anxiety and get treatment. I did and the relief is wonderful.
I would also like to note that these forums can really do more harm than good, as they chronicle all the negative stories but have very few positive ones. If people have stories of what worked for them, it would be really helpful to other people dealing with this to have you post your story.
You may be interested in the Success Stories forum. I moved your post there since it seems like you would want this.
I'm sorry you think the forums "do more harm than good."
We hope everyone will come back to tell us about their success, but most do seem to forget. It's pretty clear from the feedback we do get that most people here do seem to get rid of bed bugs.
People often stop by or contact me individually at 6 or 8 months to say, "I think they're gone, no trouble for months, but I am afraid to say it or they might come back." It may be a bit irrational, but I've heard it too many times to count.
I am glad your story has a happy ending. I am curious whether you saw any of those bed bugs? (For example, did the company collect and show you samples?)
I am one of the folks that pioneered the use of K9s for bed bug detection.
Waiting for physical confirmation is the correct protocol... I have seen people treat on the basis of bites plus a K9 alert, but if we are going to apply IPM methodology properly.... It is critical to identify the pest with physical evidence to select the correct treatment.
Early treatment is beneficial and you were wise to trust your gut instinct in the present case... but the big problem with "trust your gut" as public advice is the possibility of unnecessary treatment for the many people who firmly believe they have bed bugs when the source is actually a different cause... An experienced NY specialist estimated earlier on another thread that up to 80% of the people he sees are suffering from skin reactions due to a source other than bed bugs.
I follow your thesis that waiting would have made matters worse, but I would suggest that with an established colony in several parts of the house... that physical evidence was already in place that could have been discovered by a more thorough visual search of the areas where the dead bed bugs were located.
Monitors are a great tool to use to collect evidence of live activity... if the visual search after a K9 search or a bite complaint is unproductive.
Keep in mind that you are preaching to choir...but the first step in any proper IPM program is to positively identify the target pest.
We sympathize completely with the frustration, stress and expense that is imposed on the victims of this stealthy pest due to the fact that we cannot positively identify the presence of bed bugs by visually examining marks on someone's skin.
I am very glad that your suspicions were confirmed and that your problem was solved with an effective treatment... People will read your story and they can decide on the best course of action.
Without corroborating evidence, "peace of mind" can look like this. (Imagine if the family in question does not have the time and/or money to do all the heavy lifting and replacement goods that BB treatment often entails):
Jessica Silver and her husband paid $3,500 in extermination fees after a dog indicated there were bedbugs throughout their row house in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. They got rid of 40 garbage bags full of clothes and baby toys that they feared were infested and their Pottery Barn queen-size bed. But Mrs. Silver continued to get bitten, and she called another exterminator, ...who spent two hours combing through her bedroom, where the biting was taking place, only to find no traces of bedbugs, alive or dead.
The culprits, she eventually discovered, were rodent mites.
These are not "all or nothing" situations in relation to bed bug detection. Verification is an important aspect of K9 Scent Detection and without verification, one cannot conclude on the alert of one dog at one location that an infestation exists. As Doug and others have noted, without verification, it is really roll of the dice - about a 50/50 change of yes or no.. That is not science, and intuition is not evidence.
K9 Detection is highly accurate and this has been demonstrated in studies and by the dog training itself. But it doesn't mean that all K9 Scent Detection Teams are equal .. and dogs are living beings, and have good days and bad days. Some firms use two dogs independently, and if both dogs alert on the same location, the probability of it being a valid alert is high.
On an unconfirmed alert, the use of other detection devices such as dry ice monitor, and climbup monitors will verify the dog's alert.. but as Doug has stated, and I agree, an alert on its own without verification is not a confirmation of infestation.
A well trained and competent team whether specialized in only detection or part of a pest control firm should use alternative methods to validate the infestation.
I have been on cases in which people believed they had bed bugs, but did not have them. And in one case, a dog did alert, but there was no evidence of bed bugs.... none...ZERO... and the victim still thought they were being bitten even when the bed was protected by climbups, and zero evidence form climbups after "weeks".... At end, the victim began to realize that the angst had been so high and was convinced by the preponderance of no findings that the bed bug infestation (ONE original sighting ... only ONE, on coming home from a known infested site) was non existent... This held...
My point is that in the absence of confirmation of an alert, competent teams will be innovative...
I believe that a two dog alert is very strong evidence even in the absence of immediate confirmation, but it is NOT verification.... But using the other methods makes a lot of sense.
Depending on a single alert without verification is risky..
We had what seems to be the opposite problem with a K-9 during our first infestation. I slept one night in my son's room and woke up with bites. My son had been there obviously most other nights, and he seems not to react to bites though the bugs must have been biting him. The first K-9 that was here did not alert in any of our rooms. Later that evening, however, we found a live unfed adult crawling on the bed. When I checked my son again in the middle of the night we found another. We had a new dog the following day who did alert. Upon starting treatment, the PCP unscrewed the slats from beneath the mattress and we found the colony.
As a result, it's hard for me to trust a dog either way.
I'm sorry to hear that the first team botched the inspection... as Sam pointed out all K9 teams are not equal.
I have to disagree with your views on the use of two dogs for verification... I have utilized the cross check technique when I already had a 2nd K9 team present on the jobsite, but I cannot endorse it.
We could bring in large packs of K9s and have them all alert, but our searches should still lead us to physical evidence of live activity.
Here is the problem... K9 handlers that rely on "the Rick Cooper 2nd dog verification system" are often sloppy handlers that typically fail to perform a manual inspection... Visual confirmation is a critical quality control measure.
How can a handler possibly know if his K9 is accurate without verifying the presence of the target pest in the identified locations?
We wouldn't find these tactics acceptable with arson, drug or bomb dogs... "Sir, I need to place you under arrest... two of our dogs alerted to the empty trunk of your vehicle... we didn't actually find any contraband... but we trust our dogs completely... Turn around...!"
Hopefully, we can appreciate the analogy... There isn't a single military or law enforcement agency in the world that endorses this technique for any forensic K9 application... It was placed in the NPMA BMP's as a result of politics... not scientific merit.
The routine use of the "Cooper 2 dog system" approach can result in the conditioning of the second dog to follow the scent trail of the first dog team... The second dog will always know the path that was taken by the 1st team... also where they stopped, lingered, searched, received a food reward or played with a reward toy.
After all... These are scent detection dogs that use their noses to gather information... They will also know... what you had for lunch or who you shook hands with earlier!
If the same K9 handler is utilized for both searches with different dogs or if the 2nd handler has knowledge of the suspected location... we have a high probability of handler bias as well.
A cross check is a tactic that has very limited use... The only advantage for me is that I can use my impression of the K9s body language as an additional measure for making a judgement call after an unproductive search.
Some handlers utilize the "Cooper approach" because they just really suck at performing manual inspections... and they are tired of being embarrassed repeatedly in front of their customers.
The protocol that I teach is to perform a thorough visual inspection after an alert.
We can place monitors in the identified locations to help collect a specimen... if the visual inspection is unproductive.
Handlers and PCOs need to exercise judgement and consider all the evidence, but even multiple K9 alerts are not the same as a physical identification.
Bite marks plus fecal droppings that are confirmed via a Bed Bug Blue test kit and multiple K9 alerts... would be an example of a scenario that calls for the use of judgement on the part of the professionals involved,...if a live specimen can not be located.
A valid K9 alert typically leads us to physical evidence about 75 -80% of the time.
Sometimes there are inaccessible locations that can't be searched or time constraints that prevent a thorough search, but two K9 alerts on the same location should not be regarded as reliable technique for verification... At best, we have identified a location that deserves further investigation due to the increased index of suspicion triggered by the K9s behavior.
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