A Landrum man’s pest control business has taken off, thanks to his furry, four-legged sidekick.
Ryan Barrick said he’s used River, a 3-year-old English springer spaniel, as a bedbug-sniffing dog for about a year-and-a-half, and he opened the Landrum-based R & R Pest Defense last August. He said the national average success rate in using a trained dog to sniff out bedbugs is 97 percent.
Barrick said he met River while he was employed with a national pest control chain several years ago.
The dog’s former owner got bedbugs in his house, and Barrick was sent to exterminate. The former owner, who trains German shepherds as narcotics-sniffing dogs, had gotten River as a puppy intending to train her to sniff out bedbugs — but soon decided that she was better suited to work with Barrick.
“I treated his property, and then I was able to help him with aspects of bedbug detection training that differ from narcotics detection,” he said. “She’s had about 800 hours of training, and it’s on-going. Her (former owner) continues to help me train her.”
As a part of River’s continued training, Barrick said he released a small number of bedbugs into a contained space in his home and allowed her to sniff them out. She works based on a single command, much the same way narcotics and police dogs work.
While River has proven accurate, Barrick said she’s not foolproof, so he always double-checks her work before recommending treatment to a client.
“For me, it’s more for her speed in locating them. A dog’s nose is 10,000 times more sensitive than ours,” he said. “While she’s great, she’s still a tool, still a dog. I will physically confirm the presence of the bedbugs.”
Barrick said he treats both residential and commercial properties and wants people to understand that having bedbugs isn’t something to be ashamed of.
“There’s this stigma that if you get them, you’re dirty — and that’s not the case,” he said. “In my experience, it’s mostly a middle- or upper-middle-class issue. I urge people to call for help, because it’s not shameful to have them, but it is a shame to not do anything about it.”