Bed bug sniffing dogs: Don't fall for false positives

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
March 11, 2010 - 9:22AM

A NY Times story today quotes a Manhattan real estate lawyer who says bed bugs are "the deep dark secret of co-ops and condos."

We agree. But there's also another deep dark secret surrounding the main topic of the story: bed bug sniffing dogs.

The Times’ excellent Penelope Green follows one such dog and its handler around to several homes whose residents suspect they have bed bugs.  One mother of 7-month-old twins wells up in tears as the dog delivers four alerts—following a $5,000 heat treatment to get rid of the pests.

But it's not clear whether the dog handler actually saw any bed bugs.  That’s a critical step in sorting fact from false alarms.

"False positives are something that’s seriously wrong in the extermination industry and need to be addressed," says John Furman, the president of Boot-a-Pest, who was named the best bed bug exterminator by New York Magazine last year.  "The dog’s alert is not proof that you have bed bugs. Don’t be fooled when these companies tell you the dog finds what we can’t see—that’s nonsense."

Moreover, Furman doesn’t trust the training, practices and methods of the dogs generally.

For example, even while off duty, bed bug sniffing dogs should be fed only as a reward for sniffing bed bugs, and that requires a dedicated lifestyle commitment by the handler, graphically described in today’s Times article.  

Unfortunately for those who hire the dogs, inexperienced or uncommitted handlers—or shady ones, who count on false positives to sell extermination services—abound.

For more in-depth advice on what to know before you hire a dog to sleuth out bed bugs, we highly recommend checking out today’s post on

Related posts:

Care for some bed bugs with your thrift store find?

New clues on spread of bed bugs through apartment buildings

Most likely to have bed bugs: Poor old Swedish hipsters

Bed bug insurance? Apparently not

Bed bugged storage (Part 1):  Is your stuff safe?

Bed bugged storage (Part 2): How to protect your stuff


Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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