Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dogs Can Find What?

 I've been watching "Hotel Impossible" reruns. If you've never seen the show, a hotelier goes to a hotel that is trouble, redoes the lobby and a room to show what can be done, helps set up a plan of improvement and heads off.  For the last couple episodes, the hotelier has had to bring in the dogs because all the reviews mentioned bedbugs. 

Since 2011, certain dog breeds, particularly beagles who have an excellent sense of smell.  These dogs are trained to recognize the pheromones emitted by bed bugs to find them. This allows the dogs to find bed bugs that are hidden in mattresses, walls, and other locations.  

It is said that a well trained dog can find as little as one bed bug and be able to differentiate between living bugs and viable eggs and evidence from old infestations such as carcasses, empty egg shells, caste skins, and fecal spotting.  Dogs do have a limitation in that if bed bugs are above their heads and the air is flowing upwards, they may not smell the creatures.  On the other hand, they are better at identifying bed bugs in outlets, behind a baseboard, or eggs in carpet strips.  They can find bed bugs in piles of clothing, toys, or inside bed springs or furniture making an inspectors job easier.

He's used these dogs before on the show but there was an episode involving a hotel in Orlando Florida where they brought in dogs to find bed bugs and one other item.As they began renovating a room, they  found some black mold so the hotelier arranged for a dog to come in and look for mold.  They knew there was some but until the dog went through, they didn't know it was pretty much throughout the whole facility, to the point it was dangerous to the people who stayed there.  Mold sniffing dogs undergo over 600 hours of very specific training and must be re-certified annually. 

This is rather impressive because there are up to 18 different types of mold found in homes.  In the case of the hotel, there was a lot of black mold which can be quite toxic.  There are arguments agains the reliability of using dogs but they do offer advantages especially when identifying hidden mold.  Traditionally, mold is found via air sampling looking for spores but it isn't always as accurate as it could be due to air flow.  The test finds there is mold but inspectors have to identify it's physical location. In addition, thermal scanners or moisture meters can be used to find places which are ideal for mold growth but if the conditions disappear, mold doesn't.

On the other hand, mold sniffing dogs can take their handler straight to the mold infections even if it is not visible so they can tear the area apart rather than trying different locations.  In addition, dogs can cover more territory as they sniff for mold which is an advantage over the traditional methods in larger buildings.  Furthermore, they are able to find mold because they are looking for both active and inactive spores rather than conditions.  

Unfortunately, due to the height of the dog, there are areas, such as ceilings they cannot easily reach to sniff.  They are trained to identify 18 common types of mold out of the over 100 types that are potentially toxic. Dogs are not able to give quantitive data on amounts of mold present at any location.  Furthermore, dogs are not always cheap to use because the cost involved in training them has to recouped.

In addition, home inspectors are beginning to use mold sniffing dogs as part of the home inspection.  The dog is used to find locations with mold so the inspector can investigate and take samples to determine the type of mold and how extensive the infection is.  Some argue that an experienced inspector will find the mold without using a dog but others argue that the signs have to be there.  

So let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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