N.S. dog trained to sniff out bedbugs

Dottie, a pointer/border collie mix, is the only dog in Nova Scotia trained to pick up the scent of bedbugs, the tiny pests that have been steadily crawling back into Canadian homes, hotels and shelters.

A Bedford, N.S., man has a new weapon in the fight against bedbugs — his dog.

Dottie, a pointer/border collie mix, spent hundreds of hours training in Florida to be able to detect bedbugs' pheromone scent. ((CBC))

Dottie, a young pointer/border collie mix, is thought to be the only dog in Nova Scotia trained to pick up the scent of bedbugs, the tiny pests that have been steadily crawling back into Canadian homes, hotels and shelters.

"She is able to use her nose to pick up on the pheromone scent that bedbugs give off," said Brian Barton, the owner of Bedbug Detectives.

Barton, who has been in the pest control business for many years, said that eight years ago he used to receive a few calls a year about bedbug infestations. Lately, he said he's been fielding a few calls a day.

"I have noticed that the bedbugs in Halifax have been increasing for the last seven to eight years and they haven't peaked yet — it's still increasing on a regular basis."

Bedbugs have re-emerged in North America, thanks to international travellers who carry the pests in clothing and luggage and to the reduced use of strong pesticides.

A recently released international survey of pest control companies suggests the world is on the verge of a bedbug pandemic. The survey, conducted by the University of Kentucky and released last week, found that the nearly 1,000 companies surveyed had experienced an 81 per cent increase in bedbug calls since 2000.

Special certification

Dottie has undergone hundreds of hours of training at the Florida Canine Academy to hone her skills and attain her certification. Dogs with similar skills are already at work in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

She can go through an average house in about 30 to 45 minutes, Barton said. Once Dottie finds the source of the bedbug problem, Barton offers the homeowner advice on how to tackle it.

He recommends vacuuming, steaming and a chemical treatment, but is not in the business of extermination himself.

"Anybody I've talked to, I tell them vacuum, vacuum and vacuum some more. Too much is never enough in dealing with these guys."

Although bedbugs cannot fly, they invade by hiding in small crevices in furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes or other objects that are moved into homes. The insects are able to travel between apartments by crawling along pipes, electrical wiring, cracks in walls and other openings. They are most commonly found in beds and bedroom furniture.