Consumers, before you hire one, find out what that bed bug dog can do!

by nobugsonme on August 14, 2007 · 42 comments

in bed bug dogs, bed bugs

Update (2011):

The field of canine scent detection for bed bugs has changed considerably since this post was written in 2007. Consumers considering hiring bed bug sniffing dogs should read our FAQ on canine scent detection which is much more recent than the discussion below.

This article by Leslie Earnest in the LA Times business section yesterday appears to be a companion to the bed bug article referred to in my last post.

It describes how the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association in North Carolina has begun certifying bed bug dogs that can detect live bed bugs or viable eggs. This is important, since dogs that can do this can detect when infestations are gone. Bed bug dogs who just sniff out bed bugs may be detecting remains of dead bugs of an eliminated infestation.

For now, if you hire a bed bug dog, be sure and talk with the technician about what the dog can do–does it detect live and dead bugs? Or does it differentiate? What about eggs?

This article focuses on Mike Masterson, owner of Isotech Pest Management in Pomona, California. His two bed bug dogs, Matt and Matti, work as a pair; if one detects bed bugs, the second comes in to validate that.

Check it out.

1 Winston O. Buggy August 14, 2007 at 9:25 am

This is an important timely post as the objectivity of an organization like the
National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association will be important in
establishing credentials for dogs and to some extent thier handlers. Unfortunatley they are somewhat limited for funding at this time.

Following a similar scent I unfortunately have heard that one bed bug dog company services apartments at the time they supposedly detect bed bugs when asked about materials and methodology they were a bit to vague according to my source.
Lets see inspection no bed bugs = $ Inspection yes BB treat $ + $ = $$.
Mind you I am not insinuating this is common but regulation or supervision
is going to be needed.

2 Bugalina August 14, 2007 at 10:04 am

Winston, You make an excellent point. Something I have thought about as well. I keep telling people “Buyer Beware” I too am hoping and praying that people will not lie, cheat and steal as per bed bug infestations but I think this is naive on my part. There will be those who will lie cheat and steal and that is why regulation and/of supervision is going to have to come into play…Until then BUYERS BEWARE …

3 nobugsonme August 14, 2007 at 11:36 am

Yes, that seems like a conflict of interests. People using a dog should have the option of selecting their own service provider for the pest control step, even if the PCO does the dog thing too. And there should be no financial disadvantage either.

Some are willing to do anything to make a buck. Like selling information available for free on the internet, for example. Again, not naming any names.

4 James Buggles August 14, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Bed bug dog inspectors should not work for a PCO. I believe this is the case with Advanced K9 Detectives. Does anyone know of other such independent services? It’s probably okay to hire a PCO’s dog if you’re a renter and plan to use your landlord’s PCO if you have bed bugs. Then the handler will have no reason to lie because he’s just getting the dog job.

5 James Buggles August 14, 2007 at 10:15 pm

NESDCA should sell them as pets. That might end their funding problem — the guard dog for the 21st century. I’d buy one.

6 hymenoptera August 15, 2007 at 1:35 am

If your going to buy one they cost in the neighborhood of five thousand dollars and require training refreshers.

7 nobugsonme August 15, 2007 at 1:59 am

The articles claim the going rate is $15K for one or a pair for $20K.
(Order now for holiday delivery! They make great gifts for PCOs and hoteliers… Just kidding–I don’t want the ASPCA and PETA after me.)

8 hymenoptera August 15, 2007 at 9:50 am

I sit corrected the termite dogs were under 10. It’s also a matter of training
a handler too. Not to mention the home boarding of the dog. An acquaintance
had to care for a termite dog a begal and the dog chewed up his furniture.

9 nightshirt August 15, 2007 at 9:58 am

nbom 15-20k to buy your own dog or what? $15,000 to have one sniff out the bb’s – i would rather then go through the process of extermination and for that price could probably hire someone to prepare for me than pay 15-20k for a sniffing dog. unless for the 15-20k i am purchasing the dog?

10 nobugsonme August 15, 2007 at 11:21 am

No, Nightshirt–that’s to purchase one, as a business person.
Your own sniff out should be somewhere in the 200-500 range, I believe, but maybe some folks can tell us what they paid recently.

Of course, perhaps PCOS with bed bug dogs will simply charge the same as they normally would for service, or a bit more, since the dog is helping them identify the problem. That could be one advantage to using a dog plus PCO firm, if a normal k9-only firm is more expensive.

11 Bugalina August 15, 2007 at 11:46 am

Contracting with a PCO who owns their “sniffer dog” could be comforting in a way, ..on the other hand, hiring an independent “sniffer” would mean no future financial gain if bugs were located. Either way, there is room for chicanery. I would recommend that anyone hiring a bed bug dog make sure they have found evidence on their own. At those prices vulnerable people can really be taken advantage of. I have spoken with people who paid $375.00 for a 10 minute inspection. We can only hope that everyone’s ethics are “in”….

12 SPDIBBK9Handler August 17, 2007 at 4:44 pm

I can give you the perspective of a PCO with a bedbug dog. It is a bit more complicated than people may think. For one thing, at least in the state of North Carolina, it is illegal for someone to inspect for any insect infestation for hire without having a license. To obtain a license, it takes a minimum of 2 years working in pest control, a substantial investment in equipment and training, not to mention liability insurance and meeting the regulatory requirements. In short, I don’t think you will see anyone just do inspections, it just isn’t economically feasible. On the economics front, getting anyone to pay the rates needed to support a bedbug dog and handler without generating any additional income from the control side of things just isn’t going to happen. Added to this, even if you have an inspection team willing to work with another PCO, very often the contract you have with the treating party has a clause nullifying the contract and any warranty if another PCO treats or inspects. As far as buying a dog and using it on your own property, please realize that working dogs are not pets. They are trained intensively, and they live for their work. Just checking one house would really stress them out. On top of that, the dog is only half the team… the handler has to be trained (which is harder than training the dogs) and has to know not just the biology of the insect they are looking for, but how to read the dog, when to know when the dog is being lazy and just trying to get rewarded, etc. Like so many things, this is an area that on first glance it seems like it should be simple. The reality is slightly different. On the ethics front, I am 127% behind the concept of NESDCA… our industry suffers greatly from what we call jacklegs who take advantage of people. Imagine if in your line of work, the unethical actions of some individuals not just hurt the image of what you do, but also the bottom line and feasibility of your work. When people go out and do poor or unethical treatments and lawsuits result, the insurance rates for all of us go through the roof. I take pride in what I do, and the help I can give to people who are unable to help themselves. It really angers me when some unethical jerk takes money that would go to feeding my family and paying my technicians so they can support their families. What would help is if the end consumer is educated enough to be able to discern which PCOs know what they are doing, which is one of the reasons I really appreciate, and look forward to NESDCA taking a leading role in keeping this part of our industry not just above board, but respected. I’ll step down off my soap box now.

13 nobugsonme August 17, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Thanks SPDIBBK9Handler,

I am glad you commented. First, I think we’re all aware that bed bug dogs aren’t pets, nor would someone buy and use their own. I was just making a joke.

I appreciate your perspective on the issue of inspectors working alone vs. PCOs with dogs, and on the NC laws.

On the other hand, I just heard one local PCO (Cooper in NJ) returned his new bed bug dog.

It will be interesting to see if most firms end up doing both services.

14 Sam Smith President NESDCA August 17, 2007 at 5:40 pm

Glad to see you guys are on the same page we are about most of these issues. I wanted to clarify some things for the readers and contributors of this page.
1. NESDCA does not now nor will we ever sell bed bug dogs or any dogs for that matter. We are strictly concerned about consumer protection, and making sure that if you say you have an Enotomology Scent Detection Dog that you claim will assist you in locating any pest you need to meet certain standards. We recognize the potential for handlers to mislead people about whether they have a certain pest or not. We want to approach this from an ethical prospective. In the past some “certifications” were issued by the trainer and so the credibility of that dog team had some doubt attached to it. NESDCA provides the consumer with a choice. They can begin to ask “is your dog team accredited?” if so “by whom” and what are the standards. Does the trainer certify his own dogs? Currently NESDCA does not require dog teams to be trained by a NESDCA trainer in order to be accredited. However certification can only be achieved if current NESDCA standards,which are set by the pest industry and world leading entomologist, are met.

2. I will answer as a PCO in my home state of North Carolina you must be a PCO to perform a pest inspection of any kind. It is probably the same in most states that regulate our industry. I do not have a Bed Bug Dog so I do contract out for that service. Or to be more precise I have the customer contract with another company to do it. If I had a bed bug dog team I am sure I would not do this. Why? because it costs the consumer more to contract that service separately and I would include it as part of the service. I have never had a dog team come in to a customers home with out already suspecting we were dealing with bed bugs. I believe this will be the case in most incidents. The only preventive inspections that may possibly apply to a private residence would be a case which the owner believes they have been introduced in to the home. On going contracts should only apply to such places as hotel/motels, and other public areas of concern that have a continuous flow of potential concern that Bedbugs may be introduced. I think it is not the best choice to sell a on going bed bug program to a home owner that has never had bed bugs. Education in most cases would be the appropriate course of action to help them reduce the likelihood of a bed bug infestation. Someone talked about the comfort a Bed Bug Detection team gives. There is no doubt in my experience using a Scent Detection Team, that a customer sleeps better at night than just relying on a human inspection. I think the industry standard for knowing you no longer have bed bugs is 60 days of no bites and visual conformation. The dog team does not require this extended amount of time to know for sure you have no more bed bugs.
We invite all to join, so please visit and ask us any questions you have in our forum.

15 SPDIBBK9Handler August 17, 2007 at 6:32 pm


No worries on the joke.. I have however had people ask me in all seriousness if we could train their pet to do the inspections. I’d hate to hear what the actual trainers get in the way of questions like that.

I can’t speak to the return of the dog, other than to say it could be half a dozen reasons… they may just deal with extremely obvious infestations where the dogs aren’t needed (there any of those up in Jersey? 🙂 ), it could be the cost of a handler/dog team made it unprofitable, they may not have been able to find a handler (the state of Hawaii has been unable to get handlers for at least two positions at one of their airports… for 2 years! I think they finally gave up and eliminated the positions)… or several other things that come to mind.

What I do know is that the dogs are a valuable tool.. but they are not a magic bullet. I trust our dogs, but we still try to find the actual insects for the client so that they trust US. I train with our dogs every day and know that they can find as little as 1 egg or a 1st instar nymph, but the client gets to see them for an hour or so… Which is yet another reason I like the concept of NESDCA, or even state regulation or certification… so there is an inherent level of trust and acceptance.

For some reason we all get on airplanes feeling safer that bomb detection dogs are working, and we don’t question when a drug dog alerts and leads to an arrest of a drug dealer… but we get all sorts of resistance to the concept of canines using their talents to help us with this most cryptic of pests.

One other point on the topic of inspection and treatment coming from one company… I know we are better at treating now because we have the dogs to let us know what actually works, and how the bugs disperse. The companies that have to take the wait and see approach to what works have a much longer learning curve. (not that i am claiming we know everything… we try to learn something with each new treatment… there has been a lot of knowledge lost in the last 50 years on these bugs)

This post is getting longer than I intended, but one more final point, Sam, not to disagree as this may just be clarification on what you said, as you may have been referring just to the general public; but I can think of at least one subset of residential clients that we do have a need for continuous monitoring.. those people that travel as part of their work, especially the international travelers, (commercial airline pilots come to mind.. especially since we have treated several of their homes for the bugs).. but in general i can agree most people can use the detection service on an as needed basis, or for confirmation of elimination.

16 nobugsonme August 17, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Sam Smith,
Thanks for weighing in.

I appreciate the development of certification by an objective body which does not sell bed bug dogs.

There’s a lot of potential for the dogs to help people recognize bed bugs more quickly so treatment can begin. We have people commenting on the site every week who have bites but no other signs of bed bugs (yet) and we know how awful it can be when visual inspections (esp. at early stages of infestation) turn up nothing. Many of our readers have been treated by PCOs and landlords (and, sadly, even loved ones) as if they were imagining things simply because people who are allergic will react to bed bug bites in many cases before an inspector can see the signs. PCOs in some locations are also just beginning to see bed bug cases, and aren’t used to subtler signs. In all of these cases, a well-trained dog would be a sanity-saver for the residents.

And we know, as you do, about the snake oil salesmen, honing in on the bed bug industry…

So I just can’t see how certification could be a bad thing.

SPDIBBK9Handler, you are absolutely right about flight crews and frequent travelers. We’ve had many readers who got bed bugs in such professions (pilots, flight attendents, their spouses, and business travelers).

I know that, if it were available, many of us would pay to have our bags checked by a bed bug dog in an airport, before returning to our cars and homes.

And I also think that another good reason for preventive bed bug dog inspections is when one is renting or buying a new home. So many of our readers get bed bugs when they move into a new space. Of course, the rental trucks as well as the new homes are a danger spot…

17 Bugalina August 17, 2007 at 6:59 pm

I am a little confused. From what I am understanding…Mr. Smith is saying that Scent Dogs are hired out by PCO’s…as in “subcontractors”….Is that correct ? Then Mr. Smith says that in order to do a pest inspection the Handler has to be a licensed PCO? Is that correct? I know there is a gentleman with a dog named Jada who does bed bug inspections in NY and surrounding areas. Is he required to be a licensed PCO?? Is Bill Whitson connected with NESDCA ? Thank you for the time to answer…..

18 hopelessnomo August 17, 2007 at 9:26 pm

I think it’s unfortunate if existing pest control inspection laws and PCO firms’ profitability imperatives (or liability insurance obligations) combine to model the future of bedbug dogs on K-9 cops. Police K-9 handlers have to be cops, yes, but they are not selling services. Requiring handlers to be licensed pest control technicians is also asking a lot. It will probably make bedbug dog inspections very unaffordable.

19 SPDIBBK9Handler August 17, 2007 at 11:31 pm


I’d say I would have to disagree with you, and not just because I’m a chlorfenapyr-flavored cool-aid drinking PCO. Do you really want handlers out there who do not have any experience in the control methods or identification of the insects? What is to keep them from ID’ing a german cockroach nymph as a late instar bedbug? And to be honest, even though people are often freaked beyond belief about the bedbug issue, we field plenty of questions about all sorts of pests while we are doing bedbug services. I sometimes think it is a coping mechanism for the clients to ask about other problems so they can spend some time NOT thinking about bedbugs.

As to the regulation, it would be a wonderful world if there were enough informed consumers out there so that they could differentiate between idiots and skilled pest control techs, and to let the free market forces regulate the industry. (I’m going to gloss over the whole putting restricted use pesticides in the hands of anyone who wants to call themselves a PCO and having them kill off a lake. or a kid.)

As to the economics of it… ask yourself this.. how much would you ask an employer to pay you to day in and day out, go out into complete strangers houses knowing full well there is a great chance you can bring their problem, be it bedbugs, fleas, or cockroaches home with you? We in the control side of things are not immune to getting infestations in our homes.. and the control measures are no less drastic for us. Now combine that lovely thought with adding several hours to your day each day to spend training the dogs you use. Which we happen to use live bedbugs only for, so add in taking live bugs into your home every day on purpose… now take that figure you are thinking (it is usually much higher than for just a plain ol’ spray and pray technician), and add in the cost of a vehicle. and gas. And the dog (which cost as much as the vehicle), throw in matching employer taxes, that benefits package you wanted as part of the deal, the liability insurance (also tends to run as much as new vehicle every year), the cost of covering labor on re-treats or re-inspections you have under warranty, oh, don’t forget the office rental, people to answer the phone, advertising so that anyone bothers to call the office you rented, (and the phones to answer)… add that all up, and you haven’t even got to profit yet. Now if you take all that, and try to make it work on just doing inspections, your inspection charges would make what people who do both inspections and treatments now look like bargain basement super deals.

The marketplace will eventually work out these issues… enough money will be put into R&D of new pesticide classes so that we can get some decent control over the insects. It may take several years (especially the way we keep having whole chemical classes yanked off the shelf). Barring good easy control measures, there will be a big boom in the demand for inspection and the time consuming treatment services, which will lead to a lot more people putting the money into getting the equipment and people to service that demand, which will drive that cost back down. The only part of that equation I see being a big bottleneck is skilled technicians and handlers… Ask any PCO what their biggest headache is, and it is usually in finding and keeping good people.

Honestly, who’s crazy enough to want to go into this line of work?? 🙂

Before you think I am doing a poor PCO routine, let me say I enjoy my work, I knew full well going into it there would be days spent in a damp dark crawlspaces with camel back crickets jumping on the back of my neck. But to me the benefits of helping people outweigh all that. And yes, I sure as heck plan on making a profit… why else would I put in 70 hour weeks? My wife would be a bit displeased if we couldn’t make the mortgage payment.

I’d also love it if I could make the business model of just doing inspections work. Not dealing with carrying chemical inventory, and the roughly $25,000 we spend per tech for equipment and training was very tempting. I did actually run the numbers on it, and it was not pretty once you got down to it. If you can make it work, and get past the regulatory hurdles to boot, and convince the treating PCO’s to not cancel their service contracts on the customers you inspect for, I for one will be cheering you on. And sipping my cool-aid. (but with fipronil in it)

20 hopelessnomo August 18, 2007 at 12:38 am

Hi K9Handler,

I don’t doubt that the numbers didn’t work for you — or that things will play out in the industry as you’ve indicated.

I just think the possibly bedbugged client would be better served by an independent bedbug dog specialist. There are bedbug dogs working now in states where they apparently are not required to be pest control technicians as well. I mean, is it even the same skill set? Knowing how to read the dog and dilution calculations? Wouldn’t it be better for pest control firms to invest in the training of their technicians, the regular, boring (human) bedbug inspection and treatment stuff? The way I hear it (every single day in the forums), such training is needed like yesterday!

I think identification is best left to entomologists. Pest control to pest control operators. And bedbug dog detection services to bedbug dog detectives. (And DP diagnoses to psychiatrists! ;))

Nobody can be blamed for seizing a market opportunity, but the need for “additional income from the control side of things” is, in my opinion, correctly viewed as an ethical problem for the PCO, not a sad fact of life as you make it out to be.

Anyway, peace, like the kids say.

21 Bugalina August 18, 2007 at 7:53 am

Mr. Smith…Thank you for the information. But you didn’t answer any of my questions above…Could you please??? I agree with you about the risks of your job and having a problem getting good help. I could never go into someone’s bed bug infested environment. I once spoke with an entomologist for a major Pest Company and his exact words to me were ” My wife would kill me if I brought them ( bed bugs ) home”…I’ll never forget when he said that….but please can you answer my questions and also, can you tell us what the Scent Dog industry feels is the percentage of accuracy for locating LIVE bed bugs in a home or apt.? And, what is their “range” of scent ?? THank you Bugalina

22 SPDIBBK9Handler August 18, 2007 at 10:01 am


In theory, each specialist is the best in their particular field. The thing you might be missing though in regards to ID and control is that to control something, you must know what you are looking at. That is why a big part of the pest control licensing process is proper identification of insects. We don’t need to know exact species most of the time, but there are some cases where we do. For instance, if my customer sees an ant that is small and black(ish) in their house, they want them gone. If I or my technicians don’t bother to ID that ant, we can cause all sorts of problems. Lets say it is an Odorous House ant, and that tech just sprays a standard repellant insecticide, those ants are going to be literally all over that house as the colony(ies) bud, and the ants just go around the treated areas. If it’s acrobat ants, I need that tech looking for overhanging branches butting up against the roof structure. If it’s carpenter ants, that tech needs to find out if they are nesting in the structure and destroying it, or just foraging in from a nearby stump. The case gets worse when you talk about “flying ants”… If we mis-ID termite reproductives as just ants, I could be looking at paying to repair an entire house, and possibly lose mine in the process. If we mis-ID ant reproductives as termites, I could be looking at severe fines and regulatory action on our license. With bedbugs, it is no different… I have had people tell me they thought they had ticks, as the adults do resemble ticks. And the nymphs can look like cockroach nymphs. So the control technician, and the dog handler MUST be able to identify the insects. (They do not have to field ID if it is Cimex lectularius or hemiterus, but they better durn well know if it is Cimex adjunctus– if you are wondering, yes, all my techs have 60X field microscopes.)

I agree, in an ideal world, we could have dedicated bedbug dog handlers… and that still is our goal, but as part of the total package of detection and control.

The other thing to keep in mind, is that most people who get bedbugs it easily becomes their obsession. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that currently, MOST people needing pest control help still don’t even know bedbugs exist. The market size out there is growing, (far too fast) but is not a majority.


I can’t give you hard and fast numbers, as there are several methods of training dogs, and several companies to be honest, don’t care if their dogs find live or dead bugs. I would say there may even be some out there who want their dogs to find dead bugs, so they can kill them again. That is one of the reasons NESDCA was formed.

The best estimate we have on the dogs efficacy is in the 95% range. The University of Florida (Gainesville) is currently doing research to determine just that. The grant was just recently made by the NPMA for that research. Believe me when I say I am anxiously awaiting those numbers, as the dogs they are using meet the criteria in the NESDCA certification guidelines.

As far as range from the insect, it really does vary by dog, and somewhat by breed. It isn’t scientific, but I have seen the dogs pretty much zone in on the bugs from the moment they walk in the door and bee-line to where they are. I’ve also seen them work an area for several minutes before the decide where to alert. That kinda goes to how the dogs are trained… I have one dog that doesn’t like to alert until he can narrow it down to within about 6 inches of where the bugs are… and part of that is my doing in training, where I would not reward him on controlled hides of live bugs until he was right on the spot. The down side to this is that I need to watch him like a hawk to tell when he is homing in on a spot vs. his usual search. The upside is I can more easily find the bugs if I know to look at say, this arm rest near the seat cushion on the right side, vs. tearing a whole chair apart.

I would suggest reading the certification guidelines on the NESDCA website if you want to know what the dogs have to do to certify. And remember also under NESDCA rules, it is each dog-handler team that certifies… so if a handler works multiple dogs, he or she must certify with each dog individually. The same holds true with a single dog with multiple handlers. That makes sure you know that dog and that handler know how to work with each other.

Did that help any?

23 Bugalina August 18, 2007 at 10:30 am

Yes Thank you ..and I will read the certification guidelines. One question not answered though…Do you “own” your certified dogs or do you “subcontract” them out from someone else ? Also do you know if handlers of dogs currently “scenting” in NY are compelled to be PCO licensed? I want to believe in the dogs for bed bug scenting….I really do, but I still have doubts as to their efficacy. I think in Hotel rooms they might achieve a higher rate of success because there are no bookcases, and crown moldings, and ceiling fans and laundry rooms, etc.. The less complicated the room the easier it would be for the dog to detect. That’s my gut feeling on it. But it is comforting to know that Hotels and Motels are using them.

24 Sam Smith President NESDCA August 18, 2007 at 12:35 pm


Your Welcome and Thanks for having such a great site for educating the public!

For clarification I think you are getting SPDIBBK9Handler posts and mine confused. Before this post I have left only one other post at 5:40p.m. on Friday the 17th of August 2007. This post will be my second. I believe you have us confused since I did not speak of some of the things you are saying I have, such as risks of the job, however SPDIBBK9Handler did address that. I will answer your questions so far, and would ask that you address any further questions about NESDCA or that you think would best answered by me to our forum. Although I think this site is great I do not frequent it as often as and so anyone needing answers that I or our expert advisory board can answer would be best served to leave them on our forum for quicker reply. We have K-9 trainers, K-9 Team Evaluators, PCOs and Entomologists as part of our organization that will also contribute to the questions asked there.

I think this site is great so please don’t think I am trying to pull people away, on the contrary I will send people here, and may we post a link to on

I do not know who Bill Whitson is so the answer is no at this time. He can (like anyone) apply for membership and we welcome his application. Also we welcome Jada and her handler to apply for membership and accreditation.

I apologize for not being clear. The Bed Bug Detection Team my company deals with is part of another pest control firm in our state.

I cannot answer about the laws for any state but North Carolina and whether they have to be licensed. North Carolina requires you to be a licensed PCO which also means you have to be bonded (have insurance) before you can do a pest inspection for hire. I like this because it adds that extra protection for the consumer.

You said “I just think the possibly bedbugged client would be better served by an independent bedbug dog specialist. There are bedbug dogs working now in states where they apparently are not required to be pest control technicians as well. I mean, is it even the same skill set? Knowing how to read the dog and dilution calculations? Let me answer this as a PCO and K-9 Handler. Unfortunately for our industry we are largely viewed as “spray jockeys.” However, there is far more to controlling pests than dilution calculation. The same is true for handlers of K-9s it is not just about knowing how to read your dog. What is more credible to a consumer? A dog team that tells them they have bugs or a team that says you have bugs, this is what you can expect because I know there general modus operandi and I know what will be necessary to eradicate this infestation for you. I think it cannot really be argued effectively that the consumer is better off financially either by the handler not being employed by a pest control firm. The overhead for performing inspection is going to be far less for a Pest Control firm than an individual. Pest Control firms perform pest inspections everyday and so they already have most of the equipment in their arsenal prior to deploying a K-9 Team. This alone should make the cost of the inspection less when conducted by an already established pest control firm. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that I think it is a must that a Pest Detection K-9 Team be employed by a Pest Control Firm. I am just saying I think it is better for the consumer and most likely will be more affordable. Whether the team is a independent company or a employed by pest control firm I do believe they should be accredited and not by the trainer of the dog. There is no credibility in that.


The last home I performed a bed bug treatment in was first treated by another company. That company (a statewide company) sent their “bed bug specialist” down and he spent 20 minutes in one room, walked out put a towel under the door “to keep them in” and told the customer “that ought to do it.” The customer didn’t think this sounded right (they were dead on) and contacted my company the next morning. We got the dog there and inspected and found them in 6 rooms total. Visually verified all K-9 alerts (had to take apart some furniture to do this) So we did not go about it with the attitude of because the dog says so. We were sure to show the customer what we found, live bugs and live eggs. Keep in mind this whole time I never spoke 1 negative word about the other company. The handler and I then told the client what they needed to tell their present company about what we had found and where we had found them. That’s right I did not try to sell them a treatment. I educated them. I bet you can guess how it ended though. Yes, they asked us to perform the treatment. We did, and then followed up with a second treatment a few weeks later and will return in a few weeks with the dog team to be sure we got them all. These people were to the point of tears when they came to my office. After the last treatment they told me they felt like I was family. They requested the dog team back and said they were so glad they contacted me and I contacted the dog team, commenting on how much peace of mind it had given them. It was very apparent that the dog team has eased there mind about their situation and whether control will be obtained. This is another reason we need standards for these dog teams. To be sure the consumer gets the best inspection for their peace of mind.

I also to a degree agree with your earlier post when you said “I would recommend that anyone hiring a bed bug dog make sure they have found evidence on their own” but let me add and agree also with nobugsonme “that we know how awful it can be when visual inspections (esp. at early stages of infestation) turn up nothing.” So that is why it is important to be able to show the signs or with our standards the live bugs and eggs to the client. We certainly do not want to discourage the public from calling for a K-9 inspection just because they can’t find them for themselves first. We have to rely on the fact that they have bites and then with a properly trained and accredited dog team we can help them find and eradicate the infestation (even when a human inspection cannot find them) before it spreads further. I believe this approach in the long run will benefit us all.

NESDCA does not now nor will we ever sell, or lease dogs. This is one of the important aspects of our organization that sets us apart. If we sold or leased dogs or told potential or existing handlers who to buy them from then how could we be unbiased in accrediting dog teams. The answer is clearly we could not.
I again cannot answer whether NY regulations require that a Bed Bug Detection K-9 Team or Termite Detection team be licensed. That is something that should be able to be researched on the internet. If the state requires a person to be licensed to perform a pest inspection then the same would be true for a K-9 inspection that deals with finding any pests.

I personally aside from NESDCA feel that the consumer greatly benefits from a handler/inspector that can recognize and understand what he or she is looking for whether licensed or not. In most cases this type of education is most readily accessible to someone in the pest control profession.
To answer your question about the “how the scent dog industry feels is the percentage of accuracy for locating live bed bugs”, I will tell you what NESDCA requires in order to be accredited. That figure is now set at 90%, however research is currently under way at the University of Florida, funded by NPMA and NESDCA that may show them to be more accurate than that. We will post the results of that research when completed on our website. Your other question “what is their “range of scent ??” the same research I spoke about above is showing that with bed bugs, temp, wind currents, and the position of the bed bug can effect the range or distance that a canine is able to pick up the odor. This is another good reason to require a team be accredited. Part of our accreditation deals with the handler being evaluated too, not just the dog.
I truly appreciate the interaction on this blog. I would encourage everyone that contributed or reads this blog to attend the PCT Bed Bug Conference in Las Vegas on 09/18/2007.

You can register online at: The NESDCA board of Directors and Advisors will be there along with many experts in the field. This is the sister seminar to the one just held in NY. I hope to see you guys there, and don’t forget to visit with any further questions.

25 hopelessnomo August 18, 2007 at 3:01 pm

Stan, thanks very much for your comment. I appreciate the patient explanation of the position that you and your organization will advocate. However, I am not swayed by your argument, particularly since comparing a competent K-9 handler employed by a PCO firm with an incompetent independent K-9 handler obscures the issues.

We’ve had interactions here with both a PCO/dog handler and an independent dog handler. I found them both highly intelligent and committed and, needless to say, very knowledgeable about the biology and control of bedbugs. To believe that the necessary knowledge on these matters is properly the province of licensed PCOs goes against the reality that we see every day. If only.

Unfortunately for me, as I would really give anything to return to my pre-bedbugs days of ignorance on the subject, I know very well that there is “far more to controlling pests than dilution calculation” and I could explicate my cranky take on this for days and days — but no worries, I won’t.

I remain wary of policies that would lead to bedbug dogs being used to give PCOs a marketing edge at the expense of the very real benefit of independent verification. I hope market forces shape this rather than policy.

Thanks again for your contribution to this discussion. I’m willing to believe that we’re on the same side where it counts, the need for highly trained and certified dogs and handlers.

26 Sam Smith President NESDCA August 18, 2007 at 4:23 pm


I assume that your above post was for me “Sam” since I do not see a Stan in this posting area. It is not the stance of NESDCA that a PCO must handle a dog, I want to be clear on that, or for that matter that a dog handler should be a PCO.

I hope that you or anyone else did not take anything I said to be offensive or antagonistic or for that matter to imply anything except exactly what I said.

Your latest post may lead some readers to believe that I said or implied that if you are a K-9 Handler that does not work for a PCO firm that you are incompetent. That implication could not be more false and obscures the issues for the readers.

I have stated pretty clearly our positions and anyone that does not understand it or needs to find out more should visit our website I do not wish to keep going back and forth about what others may want to believe is our agenda. It is clearly laid out at our website.

I hope we are on the same side all the way around. That side being the side that wants to protect and educate the consumer and insure that they have a choice and a source for answers when they are looking for a competent K-9 Team.

It appears that my words here may be misunderstood and even twisted as is often the case with such forums, and so I respectfully step down from any further commenting on this forum/blog to avoid any further misunderstandings for the consumer. Anyone wishing to know more about NESDCA’s agenda can visit our website for clarification or can contact me through and I promise you a 1 on 1 return call to answer all your questions.

27 hopelessnomo August 18, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I’m sorry for misreading your name, I apologize.

I also apologize if I offended you or, as you suggest, gave the appearance of misrepresenting your words. I’d like to think that the readers of this blog are very intelligent and do not need me to interpret your posts for them.

I also do not represent anyone here and my views as stated are strictly my own.

I regret that my attempting to debate these issues with you was unwelcome. It never occurred to me. Further, it’s not the nature of this blog to do anything like you suggest, so your displeasure with my comments has to stop there, with me.


28 joenobugs August 18, 2007 at 6:11 pm

Some people have to get the last word!

Keep up the good work NESDCA. It is clear to me and others what your agenda is and we applaud you for taking the first step to making sure the public has a choice (a good choice) when it comes to K-9 Inspections.

29 Bugalina August 18, 2007 at 7:28 pm

I guess its a matter of trust !! I would like to see any Hotel that I stayed in , have a bed bug scent dog in the lobby. I would like to see bed bug scent dogs on airplanes… I appreciate the insightful comments of hopelessnomo….and I hope Mr. Smith has the good intentions that he says he does. Lord knows we need all the help we can get in this fight against bed bugs, however when people are desperate they can be easily taken advantage of…So its a matter of good will and trust. One bad apple can spoil the barrel…

30 Winston O. Buggy August 18, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Well since I started this off thirty comments ago, you can see the myriad of issues that
come into play as with most bed bug related issues there are no simple answers. Bed
bug dog handlers are a professional group of people who need to make a living too.
I think they can provide us with a great tool in determining infestations, especially
in large commercial or residential settings. As stated at the outset the concerns in regard to this are one of the reasons to support NESDCA. And of course it also points out what a great far reaching and diverse community this site has as the premier bed bug web site.

31 nobugsonme August 18, 2007 at 11:09 pm

Thanks, Winston!

I appreciate the participation of K9Handler and Sam Smith. I hope you’ll come back and participate any time.

Sam–I will link to the site, and I hope you will link to Bedbugger too. We all benefit from more interaction–here, there, and everywhere.*

*At Bedbugger you get extra points for comments quoting Beatles lyrics, in context, of course.

32 Richard Cooper August 22, 2007 at 2:25 pm

(Editor’s note: Richard Cooper asked me to remove the message he left here, which was in response to something on the forums, and to replace it with the following, which is in response to this thread. Nobugs.)

There have been comments on the bedbugger site about Cooper Pest Solutions returning a bed bug dog. We spent a number of months evaluating a bed bug sniffing dog and did in fact return it once our evaluation was complete. Our assessment of the inspection technique is that we believe it can be a highly effective method if the dog has been trained correctly and is handled correctly. In addition, we also believe that a two dog system for verification purposes is also necessary to better address the subject of false alerts. I recently had a discussion with a dog trainer in Florida who made the point that in order to truly address the false alert issue you need to use two different handlers in addition to two different dogs which I would fully concur with. The question becomes how much assurance do you want in your results and how much are you willing to pay for the increased level of assurance? Suffice it so say, if my organization chooses to offer bed bug dog detection services it will be with a two dog system. I have the utmost confidence in the trainer that we worked with (J&K Canine Academy) and would work with them again in the future should we decide to move forward with canine scent detection for bed bugs.

Richard Cooper

33 SPDIBBK9Handler August 23, 2007 at 9:08 am

NOTE: I am moving this response I gave to Richard Cooper’s post from the forum area where it was to this area at the suggestion of nobugsonme. The aside to buggeroff I am leaving in as I think it flows into the general conversation. To see buggeroff’s comments that led to that response, please refer to the forum area.


I hate to do this, but I must respectfully disagree with you on some points. In regards to claims of 90%+ accuracy, the certification standards developed by NESDCA REQUIRE at a minimum, a 90% accuracy rate. To date there are several dogs that have certified meeting that accuracy standard. It is true that the market has been flooded with dogs trained to a much lower standard, and it is very difficult for the end consumer to tell the difference by simply looking at a dog or talking to a handler which dog is which. It may be those dogs that your are referring to. That goes to the very core of why NESDCA was formed. Will every dog perform well above that 90% mark every inspection? The simple answer is no. But even if a dog meets the minimum standard of 90%, you are looking at a tool at least twice as effective as a human inspector alone. And several orders of magnitude faster.

buggeroff, as an aside, I believe it is Customs dogs that are REQUIRED by their standards to be 100% accurate. So it certainly can be done. It is expensive, and time consuming, and huge numbers of dogs wash out. That is the difference between 90%, 95%, and 100%… it an almost exponential growth in cost vs. return. What any particular task requires is determining where the point of diminishing returns reaches the point of “good enough”. If it a dog that is dealing with a life or death situation, I want that 100% dog a bunch more than I do a 90% dog. If it is termites or bedbugs, honestly, 90% is probably a very reasonable expectation.

As to the multiple dogs with multiple handlers… I agree there is a very real need for 2 dogs. I see no reason you need multiple handlers. The truth is, even with 1 dog you could in theory work out a decent protocol to deal with the threat of a false alert.. something along the lines of barring visual evidence at the location of the hit, returning on a different day and just working that area. But this increases the labor cost by a huge factor. The biggest cost in any inspection or treatment practice is not really the dog. It is the handler and the associated labor cost. With two dogs and 1 handler, you reduce that labor cost (at an increase in fixed cost), and still can get the confirmation on the hit. I guess this debate on 1 or 2 handlers could fall under the category of getting a certainty factor of 98% instead of 90-95%.. but at a 100% increase in the cost.

From a marketability standpoint, there is no way hotels would pay the added cost, and while the very wealthy residential customer could foot the bill, most of the discussions I see on this forum are on how to get costs of treatment and inspections down to the level of affordable for most.

Richard, I very much respect your opinion, even if I differ from it on this topic. You certainly also hold many people’s respect for your ethical standards. I certainly look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas in a few weeks.

34 Winston O. Buggy August 23, 2007 at 12:41 pm

The art of using bed bug detection dogs in the fullest sense is a
work in progress. And it’s always encouraging to see intelligent
dialoge between commited professionals.
Arrf barked Sandy, but what does it mean?

35 joenobugs September 4, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Here is a related article I saw in PCT magazine it also mentions NESDCA go there and then click Four-Legged Bed Bug Detectives on the left.

36 Bruce September 5, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Great site and a great discussion. I tend to be on the side of certified dogs and handlers. You all know better than me how time intensive and difficult full eradication of bedbugs can be. They are quite a pesky problem that provoke stong emotions in those with the problem. I first encountered them while in the military. Slept in a building that was heavily infested and in two nights had so many bites I was misdiagnosed for a couple of hours with small pox. It took a couple of weeks for my skin to return to normal.

The dogs appear to be less than perfect but my experience in watching a termite dog work – they are exponentially better than humans alone and as was mentioned above much faster. NESDCA should bring this method to better use by consumers and provide a greater confidence level. It is not an inexpensive proposition for the business owner to provide this service. It requires or should require time to learn the procedure, then the cost and maintenance of the dog or dogs, and periodic recertification etc…
In the field of medicine we require and expect this type of dedication and certification. Eventually, this increased standard will bring better and faster results for consumers. But it will probably mean many smaller operators will be out of certain aspects of pest control unless they subcontract for the use of such dogs. I applaud these pioneers and many more will do so also if bedbugs and other pests become the problem many predict they will be in the future.

37 bedbugdogexpert June 22, 2008 at 3:10 pm

There is no correlation between effective bed bug detection k9s and licensed PCO individuals or entomologist.Developing standards for bed bug detection dogs are no harder to create than, is a cheese omlett. Lets get real, all scent detection and dicrimation standards for the pourposes of certifying a scent detection K-9 were established by law enforcment agencies back in the late 1980’s. The triaining of scent discrimination and detection tasks for K9s on bed bugs is no different from that of a drug K9. I would question the envolvement of any entolmologist in establishing certification standards for bed bug detection K9s. The correlation only has relivence if the respecttive entomologist or PCO technician had a personal and lengthy experiance, in not only training k9s but, training K9 handlers, as well. Having a “certified K9 from an orginization that polices and certifies itself and oversees the certification process seems questionalbe at the very least. All police and fire agencies have their service K9’s go through certification by independent agencies out side of their respective agencies and orginizations. This eliminates the potential for politics or impropriety to enter in to the process. NESDCA does not do this. NESDCA has their own members who are licensed PCO’s, perform the certification and re-certification process. There for their,K9 certification process in my estimation has no relivence. NESDCA needs to have it’s K9 handlers find an independent orginization to certify their K9’s


38 Doug Summers MS August 22, 2008 at 6:22 pm

BedBugDog is a trademark of Florida Canine Academy.

I agree with all of the points that you raised in your comment about K9 teams & certification organizations. NESDCA does appear to function primarily as a marketing organization for J&K K9 teams.

However, if you are going to hold yourself out as an expert to the public, you really should consider running your comments through a spell check program before you post them.

I realize that sounds harsh, but I mean it in a friendly way.

39 Paul Washington September 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm

As a soon to be retired NYC civil servent, I was looking to get into the bed bug detection business. I have been reading the various comments posted with great interest. I would love to get some feedback on the viability of starting such a business, specifically the demand for detection services only. I have owned and loved dogs my whole life, am still young and am serious about starting this venture in NYC but wonder if the market for motels, hotels, nursing homes etc. isn’t yet saturated.

40 nobugsonme September 30, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Paul, there are (to my knowledge) two main training centers for bed bug detection dogs in the US: J & K Canine (run by Pepe Peruyero) and Florida Canine Academy (run by Bill Whitstine).

They have different philosophies — and I assume different methods — but both appear to be capable of producing bed bug k9s and training handlers who do good work. I suggest you contact them both directly as they may have advice re: how glutted a particular market may be.

41 Doug Summers MS September 30, 2008 at 10:02 pm

The NYC market is not close to being saturated at this point.

Give Bill a call, if you want more information.

If you click on the dog avatar associated with my name on the forum it will link you to our website.

42 bedbugfinder October 2, 2008 at 1:59 am

I have a Florida Canine Academy Bed Bug Dog, I am a Certified Pest Control Operator and own a Pest Control Company. I have researched these insect for 8 years now. I keep colonies of Bed Bugs for research I feed them on myself on purpose. I live and Breathe Bed Bugs. In the State of Florida it is required that Detection, Identification, and Treatment of any insect be done by a Licensed Pest Company. This is the Law, but I completely understand the need for an unbiased opinion, and I agree with this view. 98% of our Canine Detection is performed as contractor service for pest control companies other than my own. We are the checks and balances for many resorts and hotels. We do not wish to chemically treat these commercial places, we leave that up to the Pest companies that are already in place. This method has proven very successful. We inspect, They treat, we inspect to confirm the kill. They are CPO’s and We are CPO’s. The most valuable benefit to our customer is that when we have a dog alert, I confirm the alert, and in comes the treatment company. Truly the hard part is to find two pest control companies that are willing to work together in two different fields, Detection or Treatment. Most pest techs that perform Bed Bug jobs on a regular basis will tell you how good and effective they are, but when a Certified Operator trained and armed with the best detection tool and companion comes to check the work, Now there are checks and balances. Sometimes the tech did a great job, and sometimes the dog says otherwise and it needs more treatment. The really great part of our system, is that I have a long history with these insect and can help the technicians from other companies make better chemical selections, or different application methods, that can speed up the process of elimination. It truly all boils down to this: Bed Bugs are spreading throughout this Country at an alarming rate. Companies need to set aside differences and work together. I am not trying to take business away from other companies just because I have a Bed Bug Dog, It doesn’t make me as a company any better than the next. What makes us better, is a little humility, and the willingness to work positively with multiple companies to achieve the goals that all bloggers on this site so desperately deserve, dead bugs.
My dedication to my profession goes well beyond the 9 to 5. After all it is 1:20 in the AM and I am here posting, see what I mean…
There are Pros and cons of having a non PCO doing insect inspections, here is why Florida in particular has taken the “PCO Only” stance in its statute. Over the past few years we have had many home inspectors not licensed for pest control, performing Termite Inspections, they have minimal training and no insurance to cover any missed termites or damage. The consumers were paying the price. Homebuyers would purchase a home based on these inspectors’ uneducated guesses, and the buyer would be stuck with thousands of dollars in termite damage with no recourse. This is why States have licensing laws. To protect consumers from unlicensed unprofessionals using tools to detect something or build something that they know very little about. These Dogs are tools, Fuzzy, and cute tools, but they are tools, just as hammer is to a carpenter, would you want a barber to build you a house just because he bought a hammer. Or a Bug Man flying your commercial airliner simply because he bought a flight simulator video game. Trust in your professionals. It’s what they do, but pay close attention to how they use their tools. There are bad carpenters and contractors just as there are bad PCO’s, as in everything…Get References, ask for them, ask to talk to prior customers, It goes a long way.
You are not hiring a Dog, You are hiring a Trained Professional with years of experience that happens to bring a highly refined detection tool. You have to decide on your own whether or not he knows how to use it.

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