Licking your face when you wake up or frantically wagging their tails in recognition when you return home from work is not all dogs do. Aside from the loyalty, companionship, and dedication that have long positioned them as man’s best friend, having a furry friend inside the house is like having your personal pest control professional, fully equipped to detect and even decrease the damage of three of the most destructive house pests: bed bugs, termites, and cockroaches.
Cute, disciplined, and armed with an incredibly accurate scent detection equipment – their nose – dogs are increasingly being considered one of the most effective detection tools for identifying existing bed bug infestations. Although there is not one specific breed that fits the ticket, active dogs who never really get tired of playing and hunting have obtained the best results in detecting bugs inside homes, hotel rooms, restaurants, hospitals, and school facilities.
Several controlled experiments have demonstrated that dogs can inspect a room for bed bugs in minutes – action that usually takes humans at least several hours – and are up to 98% accurate in locating live bugs. One crucial benefit of using bedbug-sniffing dogs is that they are able to locate bed bugs that are difficult to see or find for human inspectors. Hard-to-reach areas such as behind electrical outlets, behind baseboards, along carpet tack strips, or inside mattresses are easily inspected by dogs, which can detect not only adult bed bugs, but also viable eggs.
In Canada, termites cause more damage than tornadoes, hailstorms, windstorms, and hurricanes combined, and for years, homeowners have had barely any protection against the destructive wood and cloth eaters. But their relentless destructive activity, whether it takes place inside sill plates or foundation posts, in attics or crawlspaces, can easily be avoided with early canine detection.
Because termites usually take their meals out of sight, cleverly hiding the results of their munching, infestations can be hard to spot, and heavy ones can cause major structural damage to your home and garden. Just like with bed bugs, dogs are properly equipped to identify evidence of an active colony (specifically the methane emitted by termites as they digest wood) and then allow an experienced pest control professional to eradicate it completely. Studies have concluded that scent-detecting canines can be up to 96 percent accurate in identifying an infestation, and they are especially useful in environments with inaccessible spaces or slab foundations.
But dogs are not only effective at detecting live bugs and their eggs – sometimes they can even decrease some of the health risks associated with exposure to disease-carrying critters.
A study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and conducted by researchers from the University of California and the University of Michigan has recently shown that, when cockroach and protein allergens were introduced to mice exposed to dog-associated house dust, the inflammatory responses in the lungs, specifically allergic asthma, was significantly lower than in mice who were exposed to dust from dog-less homes. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the last from a series of several studies suggesting that children who are raised in the presence of dogs have a lower risk of developing allergies and asthma.
Aside from being able to detect pest activity and damage inside the house, many other studies have highlighted the numerous and surprising benefits that dogs bestow on humans. There is evidence that people with dogs have better physical health due to the need of caring for their dogs, feel less stressed and depressed by playing and interacting with the animal, be less anxious and feel safer around the house, and enjoy a sense of closeness and well-being. Just by introducing a pooch into their house, people have the possibility to become more active, less lonely, and have a more optimistic perspective on life. So if you aren’t already a dog owner, perhaps it’s time to consider becoming one – and enjoy the many physical, emotional, and social benefits the furry animals offer.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.