Bedbugs Give Dog New Lease on Life

03 December, 2009

Bed bugs are usually associated with pain, itching and fumigation. But for Roxy, a 7 month old German shepherd who was days away from being euthanized at a Maryland animal shelter, bedbugs literally saved her life.

Roxy had been at the shelter for several months when Steve Hawkins found her. He saw potential in Roxy that no one else had. He saw beyond the affectionate, well-behaved dog who could become part of a family. Steve saw something extra in Roxy -- an intelligent dog who could be trained to find what no one wants to find in their bedroom or hotel room – bedbugs.

A Sales Representative for Ehrlich Pest Control in New York City, Steve adopted Roxy and brought her to live with him. The two spent a few months getting to know each other before attending a school in Florida that trains bedbug dogs and their handlers.

Several months later, Roxy is a now a full-fledged Bedbug Inspector for Ehrlich Pest Control (and a much-loved new part of Steve’s family). She and Steve canvas New York and the surrounding area helping businesses who want to be proactive about bedbugs. Right now, most of Roxy’s work is commercial – hotels, motels, condos and apartments – but she is also doing some residential work as well.

Ehrlich Bedbug Dog - Roxy

Over the past several years, bedbugs have made quite a resurgence in the US. Reasons vary from less effective pesticides to increased overseas travel. Recognizing the potential problem, reputable hotels and motels are being proactive and making bedbug inspections part of their routine pest control programs.

According to Ehrlich’s Technical Trainer Matt Lawless, a bedbug dog like Roxy makes inspecting facilities with hundreds of rooms faster and more accurate. “Like many other pests, bedbugs are very secretive. They hide in mattress seams, alarm clocks, upholstered furniture and electrical outlets. While I would need to visually inspect every area of the room for bedbugs, Roxy can simply smell them without pulling back sheets and turning furniture over. She can do in 5 minutes what it takes me 30 to do.”

A dog’s sense of smell is much more acute than that of a human. In fact, dogs can discriminate odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can. Steve does refresher training every day with Roxy, exposing her to bedbug scent and rewarding her for recognizing it. She will either stand still or lie down when she finds bedbugs. That’s when Steve gets involved to do a visual inspection.

When asked how accurate Roxy has been so far, Steve is enthusiastic. “She’s done really well. Certainly, nothing is 100%. To do her job well, she’s got to be rested. If I sense she’s tired, we stop. It’s not fair to her or our customers. The only problem we’ve really encountered thus far is that she may find an old infestation because the smell is the same to her. But at least I can check it out.”

Besides speed and efficiency, Steve says that Roxy helps to break down barriers. “She’s a really sweet dog who doesn’t ever bark or growl. Some people are skeptical at first, but she usually wins them over. Of course we need to be discreet if we are at a commercial customer’s, but people usually want to pet her and say hi. Even though she’s working, she’s like any other dog – she loves the attention.”

Roxy’s service is offered to customers in the NY area as part of Ehrlich’s commercial sales process. “A bedbug dog gives our customers peace of mind,” says Jed Schemmel, Ehrlich Regional Manager. “When you are renting a room to someone, the last thing you want is to send them home with bedbugs. Having Roxy come in 2 or 3 times a year provides assurance they won’t do that. She’s sort of an early warning system who can alert us to problems while they’re small and more easily treatable.”

“She’s just so happy to help,” says Hawkins.

About Ehrlich
Ehrlich Pest Control provides commercial and residential pest control, termite control, bird control, bioremediation and vegetation management throughout the East Coast. The company employs 1600 coworkers. Ehrlich and Presto-X Pest Control in the Midwest comprise Rentokil North American Pest Control. Rentokil is the world’s largest commercial pest control firm.

Lynn Gerlach - Corporate Communications
Ehrlich Pest Control, 610-372-9750, x 29907