In a lot of ways, Scout is just like dogs that sniff out other substances, such as drugs or explosives.
“He just has a different target,” said Jessica Wadsworth, Scout’s handler in the Moyer Indoor Outdoor Pest Control division.
For Scout, that target is bed bugs.
Whether it’s live ones or even viable eggs, it’s a lot more efficient process to have a dog such as Scout on the job than a person, Wadsworth said.
“They’re 98 percent accurate versus a human at 35 percent accuracy,” she said.
That means Scout can cover more than 100 hotel rooms in a day if needed, check out a theater in the overnight hours or search anywhere much quicker than a person could.
And, since people have to rely on their eyes, having a person do the search is more likely to include uprooting a room in which bed bugs are hidden deep within a mattress or behind baseboards.
“It involves a much more invasive search because we can’t smell them,” Wadsworth said.
Both Wadsworth and Andy Wedman, Pest Control supervisor and Scout’s back-up handler, went to Florida to train with Scout before the $12,000 dog was brought to work at Moyer Indoor Outdoor in Souderton. The two also had to get National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association certification, which is renewed periodically.
“He’s about a year old. He was rescued from a shelter and put to work, got a new lease on life,” Wadsworth said.
The training is based on rewarding the dog with food when it finds whatever is being searched for, she said.
“They use beagles a lot because they are extremely food driven,” Wadsworth said, “and they love to sniff.”
Scout, who lives with Wadsworth, her husband and their two other dogs, is friendly, Wadsworth said.
“He’s a real happy guy. He loves kids,” she said.
His life isn’t all play, though.
“We train seven days a week,” Wadsworth said.
Bed bugs can be hidden anywhere, including in homes, hotels, movie theaters, public transportation and offices.
“It can be a five-star hotel,” Wadsworth said. “They are crafty.”
A female bed bug can lay five eggs every two weeks, adding up to as many as 500 new bud bugs produced over the mother’s lifetime.
Even if there is no sign of bed bugs, some people prefer to be proactive and have check-ups done, such as by those returning after a vacation, Diana Bernecker, marketing and advertising coordinator, said.
“Even before they go in their home, we can inspect their luggage,” she said.
Although this is the first time Moyer has had a dog that inspects for bed bugs, the company previously had Ladybug, who did termite inspections, Bernecker said. Ladybug retired a few years ago and has since passed away.
The name “Scout” was chosen from people who gave their suggestions online.
“We had about 300 entries in the contest,” Bernecker said.
A handful of people put in “Scout,” she said.
The dog’s name goes along with his job of entering an area and searching it, Keith Wood, marketing director, said.
“’Scout’ was a good fit,” he said.
When bed bugs are found in a building or room, it is treated three separate times, with Scout returning a month after the third treatment to make a final inspection and give the all clear, Wedman said.
Scout is one of the Pepedogs from J&K Canine Academy, which means he’s part of a uniform program, Wedman said.
“All the dogs are trained alike,” he said. “All the dogs work alike and the results are the same.”
Along with his work for Moyer, Scout can also be subcontracted out to other pest control companies to help them search for bed bugs, Wedman said.
Despite his training in other areas, though, there’s at least one aspect of dog training that has been deliberately neglected for Scout – obedience training.
“He has a wild and free spirit,” Wadsworth said.
Which is a good trait, she said, because he has to be able to scamper anywhere, including across a conference table or anywhere his nose leads.
“We don’t do obedience training for the simple fact we don’t want him to have boundaries,” Wadsworth said.