By Keith Coddington
The very short answer would be bed bug detection canines are all trained by associating the target odor with a reward that highly motivates the dog.
And the short answer would be:
The process is essentially the same as with other scent disciplines such as contraband detection dogs, narcotics or explosives.
For us the most difficult part of the process is finding a suitable bed bug detection dog candidate. Since we only work with toy reward canines, the dog must be absolutely obsessed with toys. The canine could have a freight train go past feet away and still be focused on a toy in your hand with a death stare. In every environment and everywhere this focus would remain the same. Once you have this you know your dog will do anything at any time to play with that toy.
You then test and teach the dog to find this toy under a variety of circumstances with many extreme distractions around. If the dog continues to hunt for the toy and never ever give up then you can continue to associating the odor with the toy. There are various ways to accomplish this task from scented toys, to scent boxes and so on.
Once the dog starts realizing every time a certain odor is around a toy appears they begin to realize the target odor = toy and play. From this point it is mostly about fine tuning the process and having the dog perform the specific tasks you require of it. For example if I was training an explosives dog I would want the dog to detect the odor at greater distances, if I was primarily searching cars for contraband I wouldn’t need to teach that dog the specific search pattern of a vehicle. Since we are talking bed bug dogs we need to teach the dog to heavily sniff furniture for the small amount of bed bug odor we need to find.
The complete answer on how to train these dogs is something that takes detection dog trainers years to develop nor should it ever stop developing. Just like humans, every detection dog has preferences, personalities, likes, dislikes and the little quirks that come with any living being. Nothing but experience and a large toolbox of different techniques and philosophies to reference can get a trainer and handler through some of the common and bizarre issues that will happen with all detection dogs at some point in time.
The most important thing is having a handler recognize these issues before the problem becomes so severe that it is past the point of no return. The more experience a detection dog trainer has the better the chances of being able to save a dog with some issues, but we have seen far too many dogs be given up on when a few easy training techniques returned the dog to full performance level.
Cimex K9 is a Phoenix, Arizona based company that has been training and offering bed bug treatment and detection services for over 4 years. Our consistent track record has provided us and the over 30 pest control companies that contract our services the highest level of service possible.
For more information please contact Cimex K9 at 888.928.4364