Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
One of the few dogs native to Canada, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was developed in Yarmouth County, NS in the late 1800s. Once known as the "Little River Duck Dog" some believe the toller has retriever, spaniel, setter, and collie blood. The NS Duck Tolling Retriever is the smallest of the retrievers and stands just 17 to 19 inches (females) or 18 to 21 inches (males) tall at the shoulder. He has a long, thick, double coat that protects him from the cold water. His coat may be red or orange and have white markings on the feet, chest, tip of tail, and/or forehead.
Like most sporting dogs, the Toller is best suited to an active home where he will be a cherished member of the family. Strong, happy, loyal, energetic, and devoted to his people the toller may be reserved with strangers. He is not a dog who should be left alone for long periods of time as he is much too fond of people.
He gets along well with children and most other dogs. A responsive, intelligent, willing and fast learner, some Tollers can nevertheless be a little headstrong. Obedience training, manners and socialization should begin early. and continue throughout his lifetime. Best in an active household, the toller requires lots of exercise which includes swimming and running. Preferably, he should live in a home with a fenced backyard with an active owner who can keep up with him, but he can fit into most accommodation provided there is an outlet for his energy.
What does Toller Mean?
Tolling means "luring" or "enticing"; the hunter sets up several blinds along the lakeshore or even along the river and the dog is sent out to retrieve sticks and other material the hunter throws toward the shore which involves jumping and frisking about on shore. The Toller goes directly out and fetches the stick. Tollers are lively and animated so their flash and bounce attracts the ducks. After a number of retrieves the ducks are within gunshot range and the Toller is subsequently sent out to retrieve shot ducks. The tolling (luring) technique was first observed in use by foxes. Hunters wanted a dog that could do the same thing. This led to the development of the Toller.
What else can tollers do?
The Toller is a versatile breed of dog and can be found excelling in many venues. The following is a list of some activities that tollers enjoy. Please see our activity pages for more information, as well as the links below. Some things they enjoy are Conformation Shows, Hunting Tests, Working Certificate Tests, Agility, Chase Ability Tests, Hunting, Obedience & Rally-O Trials, Dock Diving, Fly Ball, camping, jogging, hiking, swimming and working in therapy. They like to be along as companions with their human horse-back riding, snow shoeing, skiing, and boating. They make very good watch dogs due to their inherent suspicion of strangers. But they do not make good guard dogs and should not be used as such. Like all retrievers, they make excellent pets, being devoted to family and children and readily trainable. They do require an active family that can ensure the Toller gets the activity as well as the attention it deserves. They are bright and will get into mischief if they are bored.
There is some truth to ‘the top 10 Reasons to’ and ‘the top 10 Reasons not to’ get a toller lists. Not all people or families are a good fit for a particular toller. As with any breed there is breed character and there is character within the litter. Breeders have a questionnaire and a screening process to help them with this decision to find the right puppy for the right home at the right time.
It is very important that tollers get structured regular training classes. They are smart, smart, smart. One puppy session and a second obedience session by the time they are two years old is recommended, as they do need the structured training and socialization with other dogs and people. They are usually very treat oriented so can easily learn through positive reinforcement training. The problem with an untrained dog is that nobody wants the dog around when guests come, at the dinner table or on a walk. The toller (as with any dog (or more so)) is a social animal and he/she needs to be trained so they can interact with the family on a regular basis. The toller enjoys going out with the owner handler. The toller needs mental stimulation, physical exercise and socialization.
Toller Health & Longevity
While the vast majority of tollers are healthy and live long lives, they are not exempt from some of the health issues that affect the canine population in general.
What are some of the Medical Problems that Tollers are subject to? Hip dysplasia and eye problems may be found in the breed but no more than most other retriever breeds. All breeding stock should be OFA'd or similar before breeding. OFA issues a permanent number for a dog over two years of age that passes the panel of experts at OFA for the hips. They will also certify other joints. Tollers can have several eye problems, including PRA. Some eye problems show up late in life thus a dog used for breeding should not only be examined around every 12 to 18 months, but also after it is no longer bred. PRA may be checked for and will be the same for the life of the dog while a CERF number merely shows the year the dog was last examined and the results registered. Problems with hypothyroidism and immune mediated problems have surfaced. Most disorders that the toller may encounter are treatable. Deafness may be in a few lines but is usually a late onset (7-8+ years) form. There has been a recent DNA test developed for screening for Chondrodystrophy status in breeding Tollers.
Please see the health link on the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever of Canada Website in the links section below. Jamie Klein, Chair of the Health and Genetics Committee has updated the articles and information regarding health issues and testing for breeding Tollers, in October of 2018.
Excellent Information Links:
On the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of Canada Website:
On the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of USA Website:
An Article about the History of the Toller By H.A.P. Smith in the early 1900's:
An Article about the Toller:
FDA 2018 Animal Advisory:
Article on Grain Free Food:
Article on Boating:
Book on the NSDTR: