Riley The Weimaraner Just Became The First Ever Museum Security Dog, And It’s Pretty Adorable
You have to admit that puppies have plenty going for them. Not only are they adorable and extremely fluffy, they’re also capable of bringing a smile to your face on even the worst of days. Due to both their playful nature and adorable aesthetics, you really can’t go wrong with owning a young dog.
Did you know that puppies, much like other baby animals, are always born without vision, hearing or even teeth? It takes a few weeks for these factors to start creeping up. For example, they can generally start to make use of their noses around three weeks old. Before that, however, they’re about as deaf as your grandmother.
It only makes sense that puppies and babies get along. After all, they’re just cuter, tinier versions of humans and dogs. It turns out, according to a study published in January of 2017, puppies like the way adults talk to babies, as well. So-called “baby talk”, usually nonsensical words in a high-pitched voice, produces a stronger reaction in dogs than any other kind of stimulation.
One of the reasons puppies are so widely beloved is that they’re able to form vital connections with humans. Not many animals are as friendly or easygoing as puppies, meaning that you’ll generally have a much better time getting to know them than the average animal, domestic or not. Many puppies are naturally inclined to make friends with any human they come across.
You may have seen a few puppies whose physical features are decidedly disproportional – maybe their paws are much larger than the rest of their body, or their noses push out way farther than they look like they should. This is due to the fact that a dog’s physical development rate varies by breed and, sometimes, even individual animals.
Puppies sure are cute, but they don’t make for excellent guard dogs. If you want an animal that’s going to be alert to anything and everything that goes on around the house while you’re not there, you’ll have to wait until it’s older. Even young bulldogs or mastiffs are more likely to be aloof rather than intimidating.
That hasn’t stopped people from trying to put puppies in guard dog positions in the past, but there’s nothing wrong with cuteness for cuteness’ sake. The most recent institution to put puppies on the payroll is Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The little guy’s name is Riley, and he’s incredibly adorable.
Now, most art museums tend to stick to a pretty harsh “no pets” policy, even for support animals, so it’s rare to see an exception as notable as this. I suppose Riley (just look at him!!!) proved to be the perfect candidate for a job. I wouldn’t want anyone else guarding my priceless art, unless, of course, he decides to get cheeky and stick his leg out.
Riley is a 12-week-old Weimaraner puppy, and while he isn’t being trained to dispatch world-class cat burglars (no pun intended) he is set to play an important role in the structure of the museum. You see, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has been under fire from bugs that enter the museum and then feed on the art, destroying it.
Most people probably haven’t heard of the Weimaraner breed, but there’s a specific reason Riley was chosen for this task. According to museum PR managed Ashley Bleimes, it has to do with their immaculate sniffing abilities. “Weimaraners are very intelligent and have an incredible sense of smell,” she explained.
“Riley’s duties as a scent dog at the MFA are well suited to his breed!” Some dogs are just better at some things than others, and it doesn’t take much to see that Riley is a very good dog. He’s also performing important work for the museum. Termites and other such insects have been known to ruin entire collections of art, so keeping them out of the museum is a priority.
Riley currently isn’t trained to be a service dog – he’s just a regular pup as of now, but the museum is going to give him special training to be able to recognize and sniff out the harmful moths that make their homes in the museum. Katie Getchell, the museum’s chief brand officer and deputy director, is excited to see what he can do.
“We have lots of things that bring, by their very nature, bugs or pests with them,” she said. “If he can be trained to sit down in front of an object that he smells a bug in, that we can’t smell or see, then we could take that object, inspect it, and figure out what’s going on – that would be remarkable in terms of preserving objects.”
Large museums like Boston’s routinely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in order to keep their collections safe and looking good, so having Riley on their side will be efficient as well as effective. While the museum tries to deal with the bug problem before guests even arrive, sometimes it’s impossible to keep pests out.
Riley isn’t just a skilled dog, either. He’s incredibly adorable and is sure to be a hit with museum staff as well as guests. He looks more like a basset hound than a frightening guard dog, but that’s completely fine with me. As long as he can perform his duties for the museum well, I imagine he’ll have all the pets and treats he needs.
“Pests are an ongoing concern for museums,” Getchell said. “ It’s exciting to think about this as a new way to address the problem.” Whether it’s for hunting or a search party, using dogs to help find a person, animal or object has been popular for a while now, but canines have never been used to protect a museum setting like this before.
Riley’s owner, Nicki Luongo, works as a director for the museum’s protective services department. It was her idea to use Riley’s heightened sense of smell to detect the museum’s moths and she intends to administer the smell training herself. Getchell believes that Riley is the first dog to ever be used by a museum in this capacity.
“If it is something that works, it’s something that other museums, or other libraries, or other places that collect materials that are susceptible to any kind of an infestation like that could use as another line of defense, that would be an amazing outcome,” Getchell explained. Of course, Riley still needs a bit of training before he’s ready. In order to get ready for his new job, over the next year, Luongo is expected to put her through a helpful learning regimen that will test his obedience, stamina and overall sense of perception. Riley’s a good pick, too, considering that Weimaraners are some of the most popular species of drug and bomb-sniffing dogs.
They tend to stand between 23 and 27 inches in height and weigh between 55 and 90 pounds, so they’re not small by any means. They’re close relatives of the English pointer, the German short-haired pointer, and the great Dane, and this combination of factors is what makes their senses so useful.
Their short-hair coats are often a fine mix of brown and grey or silver, depending on how you look at them. They’re known to be friendly creatures but are liable to get angry or protective of their owners if the situation calls for it. They’re most often used to hunt big game animals like boar, deer, and bears.
“Anything that is determined on the ability of sense of smell could be done with them,” said Sue Thomas, a professional dog breeder working for Camelot Weimaraner. With 40 years in the field, it’s safe to say she’s the Weimaraner expert. “I think they’re smart, and I think they’re very trainable.”
Anybody looking for a good, obedient dog should look into buying or adopting one of these fine creatures. Not only are they a treat to train, but they stay that way, even at their rowdiest. They also make great companions and generally just do a good job of brightening your day. You won’t just be able to go to Boston and see Riley, however.
Instead of patrolling the museum, Riley is going to be behind-the-scenes, sniffing out their large collection of displayed items for any kind of bugs. Hopefully they’ll bring him out to meet some of the guests at some point, but for now, we should just all congratulate this courageous Weimaraner for stepping up to the plate for the good of the museum.