Working Dog Spotlight: The Dog That Sniffs Out Pests at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

By: Leah McCormackUpdated:

Working Dog Spotlight: The Dog That Sniffs Out Pests at the Museum of Fine Arts...

If you have come across working dogs in your town, whether they are certified emotional support animals, service dogs or trained police dogs, you know that these fur babies have serious work to do.

You might see working dogs or other animals in training on airplanes, at businesses, in police cruisers and even in hospitals. They each have a specific daily duty they are in charge of, like reducing human anxiety, safely guiding their owners around, assisting in police investigations or lifting the spirits of patients.

However, not many can say they have met a museum pest-sniffer dog. Riley, a 4-month-old Weimaraner puppy, has officially become one of the first canines to be hired as a museum employee. His job? To safeguard collections, exhibits and galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Riley working at the MFA Boston

Photo Courtesy of MFA Boston

His Call of Duty

Riley will spend the next several months in training and having lessons on how to perfect his smelling, so he can detect lurking pests. His breed, the Weimaraner, is known for its stellar sense of smell. Now, the famed MFA Boston is enlisting that talent for pest detection in order to protect and safeguard famous pieces of art. He will spend his workdays in the museum, out of the public eye, sifting through new collections and making sure there are no bugs or other pests that can damage the art.

MFA Boston is Paving the Way

Boston is known for establishing world-renowned educational institutions and healthcare facilities, so it is no surprise that they are instituting a new way to protect ancient works of art. Currently, Riley is one of the first known sniffer dogs to take on this challenge in a museum setting. What better place to be a working dog than in a historic museum open since July 4th, 1876? He will be protecting and scanning through the museum’s 450,000 art pieces.

The Fragility of Art

Museums and curators are constantly trying to preserve and protect artwork from being compromised. Moths, termites and other pests can often find their way onto canvases, watercolor paintings, wood sculptures and tapestries. Textiles and woods are a few of the most common materials targeted by pests in museum settings.

Riley will be taught to use his nose to tell museum staffers when pests are found and the artwork needs to be checked. His nose will be a savior for preservationists and historians, as the pests detected are often not visible to the human eye. Being a fine art sniffer dog is right up Riley’s alley, as his breed is not only known for their great sense of smell, but also their love of having a job.

Riley on duty as a sniffer dog

Photo Courtesy of MFA Boston

The Right Dog for the Job

As one of the first museums to employ and train a working dog for this important art preservation task, the institution sees Riley as a valuable asset.

Katie Getchell, Chief Brand Officer and Deputy Director of the MFA Boston told us, “Objects are frequently coming in and out of the building, and by their very nature, those objects made of wood or textiles can come in with bugs. This is an industry-wide concern, which can be addressed in many different ways. Having Riley as part of our Protective Services and Conservation teams creates an additional layer of protection. Weimaraners are very intelligent and have an incredible sense of smell. Riley’s duties as a scent dog at the MFA are well suited to his breed!”

Riley at the MFA Boston

Photo Courtesy of MFA Boston

The Start of Something Great

The establishment did its research on which breed was best and most fit for the role. The team wanted a breed that would enjoy the task at hand, allowing both the canine and museum to benefit. Riley has a long road of training ahead of him, but with the desire to put his nose to work, his natural instincts are up for the task. We cannot wait to hear the progress this working dog makes and just how many legendary works of art he saves along the way.

Riley's handshake at the museum of fine arts Boston

Photo Courtesy of MFA Boston

Leah McCormack is a New England native and dog lover. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with her bachelor’s degree and started her animal care business, Winni Pups. Her published articles and features can be found in The Boston Globe, The EveryGirl, The Improper Bostonian, Mane Addicts, WGSN and Chewy!

Feature image: Courtesy of MFA Boston


By: Leah McCormackUpdated: