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Meet New York City's bedbug-sniffing dogs

The canines can detect an infestation with 98 percent accuracy — and 110 percent cuteness.

Even if you weren't born here, you arguably might be a New Yorker if you are adept at “platforming,” are on a first-name basis with your corner bodega staff and can survive the inevitable bedbug infestation.

Few things are as invasive, disgusting and heebie-jeebie inducing as dealing with bedbugs. But thanks to companies like Bell Environmental and M&M Pest Control, there’s at least a cute – and effective – silver bullet to fight the problem, as both employ bedbug-sniffing dogs.

And no, it’s not a marketing ploy. A University of Florida study found that dogs are 98 percent accurate in detecting the parasitic insects, which is good news, as bedbug season is in full swing.

“Certified canine inspection is a lot more accurate than if someone comes in and looks,” said Stephanie Kollgaard, senior customer service rep at M&M Pest Control in Long Island City. “That’s because the canines can detect the scent of the viable bedbug eggs and the actual bedbugs in areas where a person might not think to look or might easily miss, like inside electrical outlets.”

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M&M employs five canines, all beagle mixes like 9-year-old Dexter, who has worked exclusively with handler Herbie Yan for the past seven years. Both went through extensive certificate training through the J&K Canine Academy in Florida, and they continue to do so on an informal daily and formal twice-monthly basis.

“I love working with canines, I grew up with dogs. Dexter is very affectionate – he’s a very easy dog to work with,” said Yan, who takes Dexter home with him every night.

When Dexter detects bedbugs, he’ll scratch, then sit and wait for Yan to do a visual confirmation. For his good sniffing, Dexter will be rewarded with a treat. His favorite? “Anything that’s food,” Yan said with a laugh.

WHERE’S ROSCOE?

No conversation about bedbug-sniffing dogs would be complete without Roscoe, who is known throughout the New York metro region thanks to his “Where’s Roscoe?” TV commercials for Bell Environmental.

The Fairfield, New Jersey-based company has employed canines since around 2009, director Jennifer Erdogan said. Roscoe was its first sniffer dog, and the 9-year-old rescue is one the company’s four beagles. They also employ a beagle-hound mix and a Jack Russell. The six dogs sometimes go home with their handler but mostly reside in the company’s kennel.

The dogs are certified annually through the World Detector Dog Organization and have twice-yearly training sessions with the Alabama-based Forensic and Scientific Training Investigations Center. 

Motivation is key when it comes to picking a dog to train for bedbug sniffing, Erdogan said, but “any long-snouted dog would be an effective detection dog.” Sorry, smushy-nosed pugs and Frenchies, this job’s not for you.

While dogs can get bit by bedbugs, “humans are their preferred host,” Erdogan explained, especially since dogs usually wear repellant products like Frontline. “Bedbugs don’t have the mouthparts to embed themselves like ticks do, and they don’t have claw-like structures on their legs to hold onto hair, so they don’t like all that hair.”

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR ROSCOE, WHO’S ALWAYS ‘WORKIN’

Are you the alpha dog among Bell Environmental's canines?

I think I’ve mellowed, but I was the first…

Do you have a best work buddy on the team?

I get along with the girls pretty well!

What’s your favorite part of the job?

I’m in it for the reward.

What’s your favorite treat?

We have these really cool sausage treats.

How do you spend your days off?

I hang out, play in our dog run and sit in the sun.

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