Bed Bug Sniffing Dog Worth His Weight in Kibble for Property Managers
Lil Bro is not your average pooch. The brown terrier mix with big ears is actually a bit of a publicity hound.
Since his arrival at Brothers Services, the highly trained mutt has nosed around at numerous apartment complexes searching for bed bugs. Along the way, the bed bug sniffing dog has been on major news networks in the area, in national magazines, and local newspapers.
Brothers Services, located in Grant, Minnesota, near the Twin Cities, was the first in the state to use a canine to detect bed bugs , which have become a nuisance to multifamily property owners in recent years.
Lil Bro’s proven track record at uncovering infestations have silenced critics and paid dividends for the company, which specializes in pest control, remediation, and general services for the apartment industry. The company’s website touts Lil Bro with a 98 percent success rate.
“One of the things that kind of strengthened our position and our respectability as a company was there were a number of larger pest control companies up here that brushed off [bed bug sniffing dog] as a gimmick,” said co-owner Clay Kendhammer, who also runs a product supply company, Brothers Manufacturing, with brother Tom. “And they all now have a bed bug sniffing dog. You really kind of cement yourself in as kind of an expert on this, and we have had a lot of press because of Lil Bro.”
The company purchased Lil Bro about three years ago and has invested $15,000 in training and handling. The four year-old dog, which was rescued from an animal shelter and trained at J & K Canine Academy in High Springs, Florida, has a busy weekly schedule that consists of four hours a day on the job and another two to four hours training.
Kendhammer says he’s never known Lil Bro to fail at detecting an infestation and that he usually gets the scent within minutes of entering an apartment. Lil Bro aggressively sniffs baseboards, carpet, furniture – anything at ground level where bed bugs can hide – and signals a “hit” by scratching at the source. Lil Bro is rewarded with a snack.
Depending on the apartment, the detection process can take anywhere from seven to 45 minutes, Kendhammer said. Once bed bugs are found, Brothers Services treats the infested area with fire and ice – liquid carbon dioxide and steam. A heating trailer is used to eradicate bugs from moveable objects.
Ongoing training, Kendhammer says, has been key to Lil Bro’s success while keeping the dog honest.
Training sessions consist of Lil Bro and his handler, Joey Schwartz, searching rooms that have been implanted with bed bugs concealed in a vile.
“We are constantly setting up situations for him where [the handler] is walking into rooms where he doesn’t know where the bed bugs are,” Kendhammer says. “Neither one of them knows where the bed bugs are, and that process keeps the dog from giving false positives and expecting a treat.”
Because he is a working dog, Lil Bro isn’t treated like a family pet and stays in a kennel when not on the job. He is allowed to mingle with other dogs but his diet is carefully monitored so that he doesn’t lose his edge.
“You have to look at him as a pretty significant investment,” Kendhammer said, “so we spend a lot in making sure that day to day he‘s well cared for. We do have an insurance policy.”
Bed bug sniffing dogs are worth their kibble because they can find infestations that otherwise would go undetected, says Tom Kendhammer. Typically, bed bugs aren’t discovered until they are seen by a resident or property staff member, and by that time a bed bug infestation may already be out of hand.
A few times, Brothers Services has had to prove to doubting property owners that dogs can get the job done.
Lil Bro was put to the test three times at one high-rise apartment complex by one skeptical property owner who kept claiming the dog was lucky each time he found an infestation. After Lil Bro found 19 infestations in 24 randomly-chosen units, the owner ordered a full inspection of the property. Lil Bro found infestations in 74 percent of the building.
“Without a dog, you would never know that,” Tom Kendhammer said.
Have you ever used a bed bug sniffing dog to inspect your apartment units? After seeing Lil Bro in action, would you consider using one? Share your thoughts.