Bed Bug Dog Training: A Simple Guide to Effective Detection

Bed bug infestations are a growing concern worldwide, and early detection is critical in preventing their spread. One effective method for finding these elusive critters is using specially trained bed bug detection dogs. These bug sniffer dogs can detect the presence of bed bugs with remarkable accuracy, making them an invaluable tool for pest control professionals.

Bed bug dog training involves many hours of training with scent detection, general dog training, and specific skills. This unique scent detection dog training regimen equips them to locate bed bugs in various environments, from homes to offices to hotels. 

As a result, these bed bug-sniffing dogs become a powerful asset in the fight against bed bug infestations, ensuring that the problem is dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

Bed bug dog training_ Goosey the bed bug sniffing dog

Key Takeaways for Bed Bug Dog Training

  • Bed bug detection dogs are a valuable asset for the early identification and prevention of infestations.
  • These scent-detection dogs undergo specialized training and testing to accurately locate bed bugs in various environments.
  • Bed bug detection dogs play a crucial role in the pest control industry by helping humans know where to look.

Understanding Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are a small species of parasitic insects that feed on human blood, but they’ll go after other mammals too. Research the actual size of bed bugs before jumping to any conclusions. 

bed bugs, casings, and droppings on a mattress seam are parasites

Furthermore, these tiny pests are reddish-brown and have a flat, oval-shaped body. They can easily hide in mattresses, furniture, and other small crevices, making them hard to detect.

You might be wondering how bed bugs reproduce. Well, female bed bugs lay tiny eggs that are *almost* invisible to the naked eye. In just a few weeks, (less than 2) the eggs hatch into nymphs and grow into adults by shedding their exoskeletons through molting.

Understanding their behavior and habits is critical in recognizing bed bug infestations. Bed bugs are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active at night. They crawl out of their hiding spots, searching for a host to feast on. Some possible bed bug indications include bite marks, fecal stains, and shed skin.

Learn more about how often bed bugs bite here.

It’s essential to be familiar with the different species of bed bugs. Though there are various species, the most common one associated with human infestation is Cimex lectularius. These bed bugs prefer the controlled temperature that indoor environments provide.

Preventing Bed Bugs

Preventing bed bug infestations is crucial to avoiding unwanted infestations. Learn more about how to spot bed bugs, but in the meantime, here are some quick tips:

  • Regularly inspect your mattress and bedding for any signs of bed bug activity. See: “How to check your home for bed bugs” for more help!
  • When traveling, avoid placing your luggage on hotel beds or carpets.
  • When returning home from any public place, put your clothing through the dryer.
  • Vacuum frequently and dispose of vacuum bags promptly.
  • Seal any potential hiding spots, such as cracks in walls and furniture.
  • If you’re buying second-hand items, check them carefully before bringing them into your home. (how to check used furniture for bed bugs)

By understanding bed bugs, you can take the necessary precautions to ensure a bug-free home and a good night’s sleep!

Dog Breeds Suitable for Bed Bug Detection

Any type of dog doing bed bug training can be excellent at bed bug work. It’s essential to remember that it’s all about how well they are trained, how often the dog works, and the skill set of the handler. 

Any Dog With High Drive and Motivation

Bed bug dog training_ Goosey the nyc bed bug sniffing dog

The above photo shows Goosey, who is a treeing walker coonhound mixed with a black & tan hound, and APT.

The most essential trait for bed bug detection is a dog’s high drive and motivation. High drive and motivation mean you can train any breed with these characteristics.

High-drive dogs are easily motivated to work and learn through play and praise. When selecting a dog for bed bug detection, focus on their character and temperament instead of the breed.

Mixed Breed Rescue Dog

Southy a NYC bed bug sniffer dog

The above photo shows Southy an Australian shepherd, husky, German shepherd, malamute and labrador mix. He is a mix of many working breeds of dogs.

Mixed-breed rescue dogs can be fantastic candidates for bed bug detection training. These dogs often possess unique traits and instincts from multiple breeds, making them exceptionally adaptable and driven.

Since they’ve been rescued, they might also have a heightened sense of purpose and eagerness to work, which is crucial for bed bug detection.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are known for their intelligence, easy going attitude,  loyalty, trainability, and strong sense of smell. They often work as service and guide dogs due to their temperament and skill set.

Their highly developed understanding of smell and gentle and amiable nature makes them well-suited for bed bug detection.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds possess the intelligence, reliability, and strong work ethic for bed bug detection. Coming from the herding group, these dogs are naturally keen and resourceful.

Like the Labrador Retriever, they are often chosen for service and guide dog roles. Their strong instinctive drive and trainable nature make them excellent candidates for sniffing out bed bugs.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers are notorious for their tenacious and energetic personalities. As part of the terrier group, they have an instinct for hunting and tracking.

Their small stature and agility can be advantageous for accessing tight spaces where bed bugs are hiding. Combined with their keen sense of smell and determination, they’re a powerful ally in detecting bed bugs.


Like the other dogs on this list, beagles have a great sense of smell. Their ability to follow scents makes them popular for detecting various substances, including bed bugs.

As a smaller breed, they can navigate tight spaces more efficiently than larger dogs. Their friendly and curious nature makes them a joy to work with, ensuring you can train them to find those elusive bed bugs.

Bed Bug Detection Dog Training

Training a bed bug detection dog is an effective and efficient way to detect bed bug infestations. Dogs have a fantastic sense of smell that is way stronger than ours. In fact, they can detect odors  10,000 to 100,000 times weaker than what humans can smell.

On average, dogs have around 220 million olfactory receptors in their noses, while humans only have about 5 million. More receptors means that dogs have a scent detection capability of approximately 40 times greater than humans. 

What is the Accuracy Rate of A Bed Bug Bug Scent Detection Dog?

According to a study by the University of Florida, bed bug scent detection dogs have an impressive accuracy rate of 97.5%. This means that these specially trained canines can accurately identify and detect bed bugs in various environments with high precision.

The study provides documented evidence of the dogs’ exceptional capabilities, highlighting their effectiveness in aiding bed bug detection and control efforts.

It’s important to mention that the accuracy rate depends on the handler, the dog, their training process, and whether or not they are certified by NESDCA or WDDO. 

Some K9 teams may have a 99% accuracy rate, whereas others may have less than 75% accuracy rate.

In New York City, we (Doctor Sniffs) are among one of the only bed bug inspection companies that holds the two national certifications. We make it a point to keep up on our yearly certifications.

WDDO – Bed Bug Dog Certification (Certified Dogs)

The World Detector Dog Organization (WDDO) offers certification that ensures your dog is well-trained in scent detection. This certification focuses on the dog’s ability to accurately detect bed bug infestations and demonstrate scent discrimination, avoiding potential distractions. 

To obtain this certification, your dog must undergo rigorous training and pass an evaluation by approved WDDO evaluators. This ensures your dog can detect the scent of live bed bugs and their eggs.

K9 double-blind test ensures your dog does not alert on dead bed bugs or fecal droppings. The National Pest Management Association says using certified dogs helps increase the success rate.

To set up a test, contact the WDDO and look for a certifying official in your area. There are usually WDDO tests throughout the year in various parts of the US and Canada.

It’s also important to double-check the certification website, where you can look up certified teams by state. You must check on these sites to see if the canine detection teams are certified. Many companies say they are certified, but you won’t see their name on the list when you double-check—both WDDO and NESDCA list out certified teams by state.

NESDCA – Bed Bug Dog Certification  (Certified Dogs)

Another credible certification your dog can obtain is from the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA). Like WDDO, this certifies that your dog is adept in bed bug detection.

Successfully passing a NESDCA evaluation will demonstrate your dog’s ability to locate live bed bug infestations with a high accuracy rate. The test is usually set up in  mock hotel rooms or office buildings and will include distractions your dog cannot alert on. 

To set up a test, you can contact the NESDCA andlook at their yearly calendar for a certification event in your area. There are usually NESDCA tests throughout the year in various parts of the United States and Canada. 

Check the NESDCA site to see if the canine detection team you choose is certified! NESDCA also certifies termite detection dogs and rodent teams.

Trained to Alert to Live Bed Bugs or Eggs

Your dog will learn basic obedience, scent discrimination, and detection techniques during bed bug detection training. The early stages include imprinting, where your dog is exposed to the scent of bed bugs and their eggs, allowing them to become familiar with the odor and learn to recognize it later.

Rewards play a crucial role in training your dog and enhancing accuracy. While training, you can reward your dog for successfully detecting bed bugs.  

Each dog will need to choose what motivates them. Some dogs will work for a game of tug, whereas others will work for treats/food. This positive reinforcement helps them understand the task and perform better over time.

A successful bed bug detection dog has a high accuracy rate in sensing live bed bugs and their eggs, ensuring you can effectively eliminate the infestation.

Remember always to maintain your dog’s skills through regular training sessions, as this will ensure their detection abilities remain sharp in the long run. By training and certifying your dog in bed bug detection, you’ll be better equipped to tackle any bed bug infestations.

Using training vials with varying amounts of bed bugs is important. 3 bed bugs will smell a lot different than 23 bed bugs, so be sure to train with a variety of differently sized bed bug vials!

bed bug training vials

What are Some Types of Bed Bug Dog Alerts?

Bed bug detection dogs are trained to provide specific alerts when they detect the presence of bed bugs. Here are a few types of alerts commonly used by these dogs:

  1. Passive Alert: In a passive alert, the dog will typically sit or lie down when it detects the scent of bed bugs. This is a subtle and non-intrusive way for the dog to signal to their handler that bed bugs are present.
  2. Active Alert: An active alert involves the dog displaying more energetic behavior to indicate the presence of bed bugs. This could include scratching or pawing at the area where the bugs are detected, barking, or even jumping up and down.
  3. Freeze Alert: A freeze alert is when the dog freezes in place upon detecting the scent of bed bugs. This alert is useful in situations where the dog needs to remain stationary to prevent disturbing the infested area further.
  4. Point Alert: Similar to a freeze alert, a point alert involves the dog pointing its nose towards the source of the bed bug scent. This behavior helps draw the handler’s attention to the exact location of the infestation.

It’s important to note that different training programs may use variations of these alert types, tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the bed bug dog handler and the dog.

Each type of alert clearly indicates to the handler that bed bugs are present, allowing for targeted inspection. After one of our trained dogs alert we look for physical evidence of bed bugs.

What are False Positives?

When training your bed bug dog, you may come across instances where they signal detection, but no bed bugs are present. We refer to this as a false positive.

It is essential to understand why these occur and how to minimize such occurrences to ensure accurate results. However its also important to mention that since bed bugs hide in hard to find cracks and crevices, just because we don’t see a bug after the dogs alert it doesn’t mean its a false positive.

False positives can stem from several factors, including inadequate training, distractions, and a lack of proper rewards. Imprinting the scent of bed bugs during the initial stages of exercise is crucial for your dog to identify their presence accurately.  

Train for All Types of Scenarios

Additionally, scent discrimination exercises help your dog distinguish between bed bugs and other scents, reducing false positives.

We at Doctor Sniffs use PVC pipes to train our dogs off other distracting odors. We may put cat hair, food, tennis balls, and other items inside the pipes to ensure the dog is only alerting to the bed bug odor.

training a bed bug dog

One noteworthy aspect when working to prevent false positives is learning how to manage distractions. Building a solid foundation in basic obedience helps your dog focus on the task at hand despite environmental distractions.

Train Blank Rooms

Training blank rooms where there is no bed bug odor is an important part of the bed bug dog training regime. It’s important for your dog to learn that not every location is a “positive”. We reward our dogs with praise for searching a blank room, so they understand they are doing a good job!

During bed bug dog training_ place the hide in a wide variety of places

Implementing a consistent rewards system also plays a significant role in maintaining your dog’s accuracy. By training in unique places, you encourage your dog to stay motivated and concentrate solely on detecting bed bugs.

During certification, evaluators will assess the accuracy rate of your dog’s bed bug scent detection skills. A high accuracy rate is essential for establishing the efficacy of your dog’s training. To maintain this high level of accuracy, ongoing training, and practice are necessary.

In summary, you, as the trainer, can minimize false positives in bed bug dog detection through proper training, training blank spaces, scent imprinting, scent discrimination exercises, basic obedience, training off of other odors, paying close attention to your dog, and an effective rewards system. 

If you are a bed bug dog handler and are struggling with this you can text me (Diana) at 7189643484 and I can help you come up with some solutions.

What are False Negatives?

When training your bed bug detection dog, it’s essential to understand the concept of false negatives. False negatives occur when your dog fails to detect the presence of bed bugs even though they are present. In many cases, what we label as a false negative is due to the bed bug odor not being available. 

Your dog’s sense of smell is incredible, with many breeds having millions of scent receptors, allowing them to detect the scent of bed bugs with impressive accuracy. However, no bed bug detection dog is perfect, and maintaining a high accuracy rate requires consistent training and reinforcement.

Certification programs are available to assess your dog’s scent detection skills and will typically consider accuracy, distraction resistance, and overall detection performance. Earning certification can provide reassurance of your dog’s abilities as a bed bug detection canine.

Train with Distractions

To minimize false negatives, train your dog to be resilient against distractions. The environment they’ll be working in will be full of many different scents, and it’s crucial for your dog to focus on the task at hand. Continuously exposing your dog to various distractions and reinforcing their ability to remain focused will help improve their detection accuracy. 

Don’t Rush Through A Room

Not only will training for distractions help eliminate false negatives, but allowing your dog the proper time to search an area is crucial. Don’t rush in and out of space. It’s important to move things, so the bed bug odor may be more available for the dog to smell.

If there is 1 bed bug hiding in the center frame of a couch or box spring, your dog may need time to catch the odor.

bed bug dog training_ move things to increase air flow

It is critical to allow your dog to pass through a space a few times so they can sniff high and low. The bed bug odor may have been buried the first pass, whereas if you lift couch cushions or mattresses, you may make the scent more available.

Think About AirFlow in the Room You are Searching

Another thing to consider is airflow. If there is a window open or a draft, then the bed bug odor may be moving about the room in a way that dilutes it. In many cases, environmental temperature can also affect the bed bug odor.

Moving beds and exposing bed frames is a good way to make sure the dog catches the odor.

bed bug dog training_ set up unique scenarios


In conclusion, false negatives are critical when training your bed bug-detection dog. By focusing on scent detection, unique scenarios, imprinting, airflow, proper time, and distraction resistance, you can improve your dog’s accuracy and confidence in detecting bed bugs.

Remember, consistent training and rewards for your dog’s hard work will set them up for success in this specialized field.

Role of Bed Bug Dogs in the Pest Control Industry

Can the Bed Bug Detection Dog Sniff Out Dead Bed Bugs?

You might wonder if bed bug detection dogs can sniff out dead bed bugs. The answer is yes, but we don’t want them to alert on dead bed bugs! A bed bug-sniffing dog is often called in for a post-treatment inspection. Therefore, we only wish for the bed bug dog to alert on live bugs or eggs.

Post Treatment Inspections

After bed bug extermination, ensuring treatment eliminates all bed bugs is crucial. This is where bed bug detection dogs come in. Pest control companies often use these dogs for post-treatment inspections, as they can quickly and efficiently assess the success of exterminators’ efforts. 

With their heightened sense of smell, they can detect even the slightest traces of bed bugs, ensuring your space is bug-free. We have an article dedicated to helping you if you are still seeing bed bugs after treatment.

Presence of Bed Bugs in the Early Stage

Early detection of bed bugs is vital for controlling and preventing infestations. Bed bug sniffing dogs are of great value to the pest control industry for their ability to sniff out bed bugs in their early stages. By identifying an infestation early, pest exterminators can take swift action to prevent the spread of bed bugs.

In conclusion, bed bug detection dogs are critical in the pest control industry. The bed bug sniffers remarkable ability to detect live bed bugs and eggs and their efficiency in post-treatment inspections and early detection makes them invaluable assets for pest control companies.

Remember that a well-trained bed bug dog can help protect your home against infestations and ensure a rapid, effective solution.

Practical Application and Limitations of Bed Bug Dog Training

As you may know, using bed bug detection dogs can be incredibly helpful in identifying infestations. Trained canines can sniff live bugs and their eggs in mattresses, box springs, bedding, walls, and even electrical outlets.

This means they can effectively inspect large areas like hotel rooms, apartments, and buildings much faster than a human inspector.

However, it’s also essential to understand the limitations of canine inspection.

While dogs are excellent at detecting bed bugs and their eggs, they can only sometimes pinpoint the exact hiding spots within cluttered rooms or deep within walls and closets.

Pinpointing an exact spot is not critical as the long as the dog can detect the odor the entire room would need treatment. The dog is alerting to bed bug odor, so wherever the dog smells, the odor pooling is where they will alert.

It’s essential to remember that if you have bed bugs in one room, you may want to treat the entire home. 

When dealing with a potential infestation, it’s crucial to consider the practical applications and limitations of employing a bed bug dog. These dogs are typically most effective when inspecting clutter-free spaces.

For homes or apartments with more personal items, ensuring the room is as tidy as possible is vital to allow the dog to navigate and find hiding spots effectively.

To maximize the effectiveness of a bed bug dog, consider doing the following:

  • Remove clutter and personal items from the inspection site
  • Vacuum and clean carpets and flooring thoroughly
  • Don’t use candles, incense, or perfumes in the search area
  • Strip bedding from mattresses and box springs
  • Open closet doors and drawers to allow easier access

In summary, bed bug detection dogs can be valuable in identifying infestations, particularly in unoccupied and clutter-free spaces. However, it’s essential to understand their limitations and take necessary precautions to ensure a thorough and accurate inspection.

Frequently Asked Questions on Bed Bug Dog Training

How are dogs trained to detect bed bugs?

We train dogs to detect bed bugs by exposure to live bed bugs and their scent in a controlled environment. We may start out by placing the vials of bugs in PVC tubes. During this process the dogs can learn exactly what odor gives them a reward.

Right after this stage, we will teach the dogs to alert their handlers when they detect a bed bug infestation.

Positive reinforcement, such as toys, treats, and praise, are used to help your dog associate success in finding bed bugs with rewards.

Then the dog will start training in many different types of environments with all kinds of distractions. Most dogs pick up on the bed bug odor fast, but the training is an ongoing process that never stops.

What is the certification process for bed bug detection dogs?

To become certified, your dog must undergo a series of tests to prove their skill in detecting bed bugs. These tests may include identifying live bed bugs and their eggs in various environments and conditions.

Only upon successfully passing these tests will your dog be awarded a certification, which you must renew yearly to ensure continuous accurate detection.

What is NESDCA and its role in canine bed bug detection?

NESDCA (National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association) is an organization that helps maintain high standards for bed bug detection dogs. They provide 3rd party guidance for canine training programs and certify dogs and handlers for their bed bug detection proficiency.

Following NESDCA’s guidelines, you can ensure your bed bug detection dog is well-trained and reliable.

What is WDDO and its role in canine bed bug detection?

The World Detector Dog Organization (WDDO) is a 3rd party agency that plays a crucial role in certifying and accrediting canine bed bug detection teams.

Their certification process involves “double-blind” testing, where no one in the testing room knows the location of the tested odors. The double-blind nature ensures that the dogs accurately detect bed bugs without any external influence.

The WDDO certification is highly regarded in the industry and assures that the canine teams have demonstrated their ability to locate evidence of a bed bug infestation. These teams become practical tools in battling the growing bed bug problem by undergoing this certification.

Canine scent detection is considered one of the most effective means of detecting bed bugs due to the dogs’ heightened sense of smell. Studies have shown that trained bed bug scent dogs can accurately sniff out low numbers of bed bugs with a high degree of accuracy, even under controlled conditions.

Many pest control companies and inspection agencies rely on WDDO-certified dog and handler teams to efficiently and effectively detect and treat bed bug infestations. The certification provided by WDDO ensures that these teams have met rigorous standards and can provide reliable and accurate bed bug detection services.

Can bed bugs live on dogs?

While bed bugs prefer to feed on/bite  humans, they may occasionally bite your dog, especially in high-infestation situations. However, they do not live and reproduce on dogs like fleas or ticks do. 

Bed bugs are more likely to reside near the sleeping areas of humans and animals rather than on the host themselves. However, if your dog (or cat) hangs out under the bed, next to a significant infestation, a bed bug can hitch a ride on them. 

Is there a bed bug scent detection kit for training dogs?

Yes, bed bug scent detection kits are available specifically for training dogs to detect bed bugs. These kits typically contain pseudo bed bug odor to help your dog develop their scent detection skills.  

However, we don’t use these pseudo-odor kits. We only use live bed bugs and eggs to train our dogs. You can purchase vials of live bed bugs in glass jars with screens to start preparing your bed bug detection dog. Check out Bed Bug Training Aides

Final Thoughts for Bed Bug Dog Training

In conclusion, the training and certification of bed bug detection dogs are not just about teaching our furry friends new tricks. It’s about empowering them with the ability to protect us from the discomfort and stress caused by these parasitic insects. Bed bug dog training is a testament to the profound bond between humans and canines as we collaborate to create safer and healthier living environments.

These remarkable dogs, armed with their extraordinary sense of smell and unwavering dedication, are on the front lines of the battle against bed bugs. They are the heroes, diligently sniffing out the hidden invaders and giving us the peace of mind we deserve.

So next time you see a bed bug detection dog in action, take a moment to appreciate their incredible skills and their invaluable contribution in safeguarding our homes, hotels, and workplaces. These four-legged detectives deserve our admiration, respect, and gratitude for their unwavering commitment to keeping us bed bug-free.

Let us celebrate the remarkable bed bug detection dogs and the tireless trainers who work around the clock to ensure our well-being. Together, we can overcome these tiny adversaries and enjoy a good night’s sleep, free from the worry of bed bug infestations.

Read Up On Bed Bugs

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