These spaniels have an important job: catching bed bugs

dogs who catch bed bugs
Several dogs are being trained for a very important job (Picture: Merlin Environmental)

It might be gross to think about bed bugs, but they can be a big problem – particularly in the hospitality industry.

Bed bugs live a longer than you might think, and if you stay in a hotel with an infestation you could bring those suckers home and cause your whole family to be plagued by itchy bites.

That’s why it’s so important to catch bed bugs sooner rather than later – but it can be tricky to know if the sneaky things have been entirely cleared.

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That’s why Merlin Environmental, a pest control service based in West Sussex, has trained up a litter of adorable spaniels to sniff out any lingering bugs.

Due to the multiple Covid-19 lockdowns, bed bugs were found to have lived nine to 12 months in locked and empty hotels, according to research by the company.

Founder Adam Juson, who has been in the industry for 20 years, explains that the company has a pack of spaniels already sniffing out the bed bugs, and their puppies are being trained up as we speak.

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two dogs playing
The dogs have a lot of fun when they’re not hard at work catching bed bugs (Picture: Merlin Environmental)
a dog sniffing a chair
it can take several months to train up the spaniels for bed bug hunting (Picture: Merlin Environmental)
litter of puppies with their mother
The company has seven more puppies in training now (Picture: Merlin Environmental)
Juson tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Spaniels are great at detecting bed bugs. As a gun dog breed, they are well suited to utilising their noses for the search.

‘They have amazing energy levels and fantastic drive, enabling them to search with higher accuracy. When you put this with their agility and size, they are the perfect choice for entering hotels and aircraft etc.’

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They are also small enough to access tight spaces – and they’re so cute too.

Their service reduces the risk of bed bug activity in any space by at least 90%.

‘The screens become an early warning system for the site and the canines will sniff out a single bug at any life stage and will also indicate on viable bed bug eggs,’ Adam notes. ‘This then will prevent a small first stage issue becoming an unmonitored infestation.’
dog standing in snow
The company boasts a 90% success rate using the dogs (Picture: Merlin Environmental)
dog sniffing edge of boiler
There are 16 hard-working bug catchers out there right now keeping us safe (Picture: Merlin Environmental)

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The company trains the spaniels through operant conditioning: ‘The dog receives a reward in the form of play when they exhibit the behaviour we require. In this case sit and stare at the point where bed bugs are harbouring.’

It often takes months to train the spaniels to Juson’s high bed bug hunting standards.

After the dogs are taken in to sniff out the bed bugs, and detects their presence, the company will heat the area to 50 degrees celsius – at this temperature, it is impossible for their bed bugs to survive.

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The dogs will then be brought back in to sniff out the area and make sure it truly is bed bug-free.

The company offers their services all over the UK, and is committed to using non-toxic chemicals in their pest control services, which is much more environmentally friendly than many other pest control services.

Merlin currently has 16 spaniels working for the company, and they are considered ‘star employees’.

Seven more puppies are being trained as we speak to join their elders in the hard work.

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