Andy Falco Jimenez from Falco K-9 Academy planted a vial of live bedbugs in a cabinet at a hotel in Brea. It's was a training exercise for "Bo," a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever.
"We use the same system we would train a bomb dog to find bedbugs," said Falco.
Within seconds Bo sniffed out the bedbugs and sat to alert his trainer of the location. His reward was a toy. Bo is one of nearly 30 bed-bug sniffing dogs trained in the past year at the academy in Brea. Most of the dogs are rescued from shelters.
"They're more successful than humans because dogs have a great olfactory system," said Falco. "Their nose is a million times stronger than humans."
The tiny blood-sucking insects can hide in small, warm places. Some have been found inside DVD players.
"The biggest place is hotels," said Falco. "We have dogs that have searched homeless shelters, we have them doing it in people's homes, cruise ships."
The dogs undergo 4 to 6 weeks of training. After that they can find live bedbugs in the smallest places, like in the crevice of a light switch. Health officials said the incidence of bedbugs in public places is on the rise.
"Everyone's heard of bedbugs and assume it's because the hotel is dirty, but it's not," said General Manager Karla Vargas from The Chase Suite Hotel in Brea. "It's usually travelers who bring it to the hotel, and it can happen to the best of the best."
There hasn't been any sign of bedbugs at The Chase Suite Hotel. Vargas said employees do daily room-checks for the insects. Falco's dogs also conduct searches as a preventative approach.
Handlers get a specially trained dog and a training program for more than $10,000.