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Home Inspectors Have Gone to the Dogs

Sep 7, 2008
There's a new inspector making the rounds, looking for possible threats to your home. She is probably a lot shorter than you are and has more hair. She works for next to nothing - a handful of treats keep her happy. She can be the home buyer's best friend. The only issue is that her partner generally charges more than she does.

Most people are familiar with drug dogs, bomb dogs, and tracking dogs, but they may not be aware that the home inspection industry is employing canines to sniff out problems like termites, mold and air pollutants. Sniffer dogs are the latest weapon in the home and pest inspector arsenal to save you money by alerting you to possible threats to the integrity of the building you are about to invest your money in.

The advantages of a detection dog are significant. They are able to detect traces of scent behind walls, under flooring and inside blocked areas where the inspector cannot go. They work quickly, much faster than a human inspector can visually. They are also honest - if there is no scent, the dog will not alert. If there is, the dog will alert. Properly trained detection dogs will not cause damage to property or be aggressive towards strangers.

Some people with severe allergies may feel concerned that a dog will trigger them. This is a legitimate concern and can be alleviated by hiring a company that has a dog from a breed that doesn't shed (Poodle, Irish Water Spaniel, Portuguese Water Dog, etc.). Detection dogs are also kept clean, due to their work in private residences, but you can make the handler aware of your allergies and they can take steps to minimize their dog's impact on your physical well-being.

Tips on working with a scent detection dog:

- This is a working dog. Don't pet or talk to it unless the handler says you may. This is so the dog doesn't get distracted

- During the inspection, give the dog room to work. Feel free to watch as the dog sniffs about; just don't crowd it and don't talk to it.

- Don't offer the dog any food. It distracts the dog and may make it sick.

Things to ask: - What certifications does this dog have? There are a few detection dog certifications in the U.S. Possession of a certification held to be of a good standard is an indication that the dog has been properly trained.

- How is this dog around strangers? A home inspection dog should be friendly or tolerant of strangers, since they work so closely with strange homeowners and homebuyers. Not bothering the dog while it's working is one thing, but beware of the dog that is aggressive towards casual strangers. This is a sign of poor socialization and training, which is an indicator that the company might be lax about other things as well.

- What does the dog do to alert you? Different dogs use different signals to alert their handler that they have found what they were searching for. Some sit, some bark, some look for the toy that their handler uses to reward them for a successful search. There's no huge secret about a dog's alert signal, so the handler shouldn't balk at letting you know what it is.
About the Author
The Koitz Group offers elite real estate services in the greater Bethesda/Chevy Chase and Washington DC area (and they have a website that covers it all!). Visit the Koitz Group's Georgetown DC real estate guide or the Bethesda homes for sale guide, packed full of information, search tools, and links to other fine neighborhoods in the DC Metro area.
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