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Man’s best friend used in fight against bed bugs

PHOENIX — They say dogs are man’s best friend, and here’s one more reason they are: They may help get rid of bed bugs.

Exterminators all over the country are using trained dogs to search for the pesky little critters. The dogs use their snout to smell the bugs’ scent and then point them out to pest control employees. They are being used in homes, hotel rooms and other places.

Phoenix-based Burns Exterminating starting using dogs in 2009 and now have 13 on the job.

“Dogs are trained in government facilities to sniff out drugs, bombs, and things like that. We train ours to sniff out bed bugs,” said Sage Garvey, director of technical operations.

All of the dogs Burns uses were rescued from animal shelters. They are “on call” 24 hours a day and walk about 15 miles a day looking for bugs. Once a dog has detected them in a room, an exterminator then uses his chemicals and equipment to get rid of the pests. He said that the dogs are well fed and cared for and are checked out by a veterinarian at least once a month.

Garvey said that it’s more about a dog’s snout — not its breed — that make it a good bed bug dog.

“You need a dog that uses its snout to find different things,” said Garvey. “We’re looking for dogs that constantly have their nose on the floor or constantly sniffing the air and trying to figure out what’s going on.”

He said that dogs have a much keener sense of smell than humans.

“For example, when we smell a pepperoni pizza, we smell the whole thing. When they smell a pepperoni pizza, they smell the sauce, the bread and the pepperoni,” Garvey said. “They’re really just tuned in. It’s a hunting instinct that’s in them from birth.”

There is some debate on how well the dogs work at sniffing out bed bugs. While Garvey insisted that his dogs are 97 percent effective, a 2011 Rutgers University study puts that dogs only effectively find bed bugs about 43 percent of the time.