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Bug dogs track termites, bed bugs

  • Arron, a beagle, uses his nose to find a vial of bed bugs during a training session with a scent calibration board. (Photos by Steve Bisson/ Savannah Morning News)
  • William Hudson scratches Lily, a Labrador, who can detect termites as well as bed bugs.
  • Abby, a terrier mix, searches for bed bugs during a training session for Super Sniffers K-9 Inspection.

William Hudson gave a simple command as he released a beagle named Arron into a bedroom.

“Go! Get those bugs!” he ordered as Arron ran around the room, sniffing the bed, a closet, a bureau. On his second time around, he stopped in front of a FAX machine, pointed at it with his nose and wagged his tail.

Hudson had hidden a small vial of bed bugs in the machine. And Arron had done just what Hudson wanted him to do. He had found the bed bugs by their smell.

“Good boy!” Hudson said, as he handed Arron a handful of dog treats.

Hudson is the owner of Super Sniffers K-9 Inspection, a termite and bed bug detection service based out of his home at The Landings.

His slogan: “The nose knows.”

He works in the Savannah area, Hilton Head and Jacksonville with three bug-detecting dogs. The others are Lily, a Labrador that can detect termites as well as bed bugs, and Abby, a terrier mix that, like Arron, can detect only bed bugs.

Hudson takes his specially trained dogs to homes, apartments, assisted living complexes, hospitals, hotels and an occasional school.

“We just got a call from a complex, to search 106 rooms. They shut the apartments down, moved all the residents out,” Hudson said. “It was a major infestation.”

Prices for his services run from $150 for a 2,000-square-foot home to $10 a room in a hotel or apartment building. The dogs can go through a house in about half an hour but spend only about a minute in each room in an apartment house or hotel, he said.

Though Hudson has a van that sports the name of his service, he frequently goes to his assignments “in an unmarked car,” he said. Clients don’t want the notoriety that comes with a bed bug infestation.

“Nobody wants to talk about bed bugs,” he said. “You go to a motel, and they run you off. Nobody wants to think they have bed bugs.”

James Sullivan, an account executive with Preferred Pest Control, has worked with Hudson for several years.

“I look at them as a tool to aid in early detection,” Sullivan said. “Humans have a rate of detection of about 40 per cent, but dogs have a detection rate of 90 per cent.”

Hudson learned about bug detecting dogs 15 years ago when his grandmother in Vidalia had termites.

“A guy there had a termite dog and turned him loose. The dog sat down next to a window and there the termites were,” he said.

Hudson started his own business four years ago after learning that his garage was infested with termites.

“All I do officially is find the bugs,” Hudson said. “Then a pest control company treats them. And then I come back again to make sure they are all gone.”

His dogs are expensive — about $10,000 apiece, and each of theme has received 800 hours of training at two different schools.

Lily was trained at the Florida Canine Academy in Tampa Bay, Fla.. Iron Heart High Performance Dogs out of Ottowa, Kan., trained Abby and Arron.

After the dogs were trained, “I had to train with them for two weeks so the dog and I become accustomed to each other,” Hudson said.

And for all their experience, Hudson still works with the dogs on “search patterns” several hours every day to keep them in prime bug-detection condition.

“I want the dogs to search everywhere — in bags with clothing. I hide bugs inside a headboard, in cabinets, in the TV,” Hudson said. “I want the dog to think the bugs are everywhere.”

Added Hudson, “when I do buildings, I let all three dogs in a room. I want to make sure it’s 100 per cent detection. There’s nothing better than information from three dogs.

“And I make sure I visually can find the bugs. A dog never gets rewarded until I see the bugs.”

But when he does, “I’m just a dog food vending machine. And they want to keep finding the bugs. They’ll sit right in front of (an infestation) and point at it. They’ll do it over and over again. They know it’s party time when they get fed.

“They think it’s a game.”

More Info

Breakout Box: 

Contact information

Super Sniffers K-9 Inspections

3 Little Lane, Savannah

912-631-8299

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