OGDEN -- Bedbugs do bite.
Because of that, Hunter, a uniquely trained 2-year-old bedbug-sniffing beagle, is finding steady work in the Top of Utah.
No one would know it at a glance -- the truck Hunter rides in to appointments has no markings to indicate the dog is a bedbug hunter. But the 20-pound pooch is not an exterminator.
"(Hunter) has been trained to alert on the scent of live bedbugs and viable eggs," dog handler Travis Cain said of his workmate. Cain and Hunter work for Cimex K9 Inspection and Detection of Ogden.
The two don't eradicate the bugs but rather identify areas that need to be debugged.
Hunter received his training at the J & K Canine Academy in High Springs, Fla.
There, Hunter had a track record of alerting on live bedbugs or viable eggs with a 98 percent accuracy rate, even if it was a single bug or single egg, Cain said.
The miniscule bugs, which can reach an adult size of 5 millimeters in length -- "about the size of an apple seed" -- can be difficult to see with the naked eye, Cain said.
"We primarily deal with apartment complexes and hotels, but we do movie theaters, homes and offices," said Cain, who has dog-handling experience as a former member of a search-and-rescue team.
"A lot of people tend to think (bedbugs) are in low-income housing, but we have been to (high-end) hotels and million-dollar homes. They can be anywhere."
Another myth is that Utah's tough winters will interrupt the bug's reproductive cycle, Cain said.
"Bedbugs don't slow down a whole lot during the winter. They are pretty consistent through the year," he said of their egg laying.
"We'll travel the whole Wasatch Front," Cimex K9 Inspection and Detection office assistant Salina Funk said of Hunter and Cain.
Because bedbugs are common in the Top of Utah, and because the bugs are well-traveled with the ability to hitch rides on people's coats and bags, Funk said, the company has been making service calls to residences and businesses alike.
"Anywhere," Funk said describing where the bugs can be found.
But Hunter, for a $100 service call, is up to the task.
"A beagle is a scent-hound dog. Beagles (as bedbug sniffers) definitely have a lot of genetic advantages," Cain said of why they selected Hunter, a name academy officials gave the canine during his six-month training.
Cain said he has worked with dogs since he was a boy, but he finds his most recent pairing to be the most interesting.
"It's different," he said of working side by side with a bedbug-sniffing canine.
"(Hunter) is definitely the one doing the work."