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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever - SaveARescue.org

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

  • Breed Group : SPORTING
  • Origin : Canada
  • Average Height : 17" - 21"
  • Average Weight : 35 - 52 lbs.
  • Life Span : 14 - 16 years

Photo Courtesy of : Toller Rescue

  • Size

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  • Energy

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  • Intelligence

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  • Ease of Training

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  • Hypo-Allergenic

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  • Shedding

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  • Good with Kids

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  • Good with Other Pets

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  • Guard Dog

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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Rescue Organizations

  • The breed was developed in the community of Little River Harbour in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, around the beginning of the 19th century to toll waterfowl and as an all purpose hunting dog. The breed was originally known as the Little River Duck Dog or the Yarmouth Toller. Its exact origins are not known but it appears that possibly spaniel and setter Pointer-type dogs, retriever-type dogs, and rabbit hounds were used to develop the breed. Farm collies also went into the mix as many became herding dogs as well as hunting dogs and family pets.

    The Toller was officially admitted to the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945. Declared the provincial dog of Nova Scotia in 1995, the breed is the only Canadian breed recognized in this way.

    The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever originates from Canada. Tolling Red Decoy Dogs probably accompanied their masters from Great Britain to Nova Scotia. They were crossed with retrievers and working spaniels. It was developed to toll (lure) ducks in the manner of the fox. The clever manner in which foxes work together to obtain a duck dinner has been observed over the centuries.

    The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever is the creation of skillful Canadian hunters.

    The Toller's rather unusual job is to lure ducks and geese within shotgun range, and to retrieve them from the water after they have been hit. From his concealed blind near the shore, the hunter tosses a stick parallel to the shore, and with great liveliness, but without barking, the Toller retrieves it. It may take a dozen or more throws before the ducks or geese become curious and approach the shore. When the overly inquisitive ducks are within shooting range, the hunter calls his dog back to the blind, stands up to put the birds to flight, and shoots.

    The Toller then acts as an efficient retriever. Indians utilized this mesmerizing practice by stringing a fox skin across a length of shore and yanking it quickly back and forth, simulating the movement of the fox.

    The breed used to be called the Little River Duck Dog or Yarmouth Toller, but when the Canadian Kennel Club began registering it in the late 1950s, the present name was established. FCI gave it full international recognition in 1982. There are a fair number of Tollers and breed specialty clubs in the USA.

    The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever dog is assumed to be the product of a cross-breeding between the red European decoy dog and farm collies, setters, retriever dogs, or spaniels. Originally bred in Yarmouth County, which is located at the southern tip of Nova Scotia, it was officially recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1915.

    The ancestors to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever were first used by European hunters to lure ducks to the shore. These dogs would wag their tails, drawing the attention of the ducks. As the birds came to shore, the hunters shot them and the dogs helped by retrieving the kill.

    The breed would later be brought to the New World, used everywhere from the Chesapeake Bay to the Canadian Maritimes. Because most were bred in Nova Scotia, the name of Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was given to them. However, they have been also known as the Yarmouth Tollers or Little River Duck Dogs.

    Hunters began to use the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever in the 1960s.

    The first American club for the breed, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club, was founded in 1984.
  • Temperament

    The temperament of the Toller is one that makes for a good companion when out in the field. They are alert but steady, not to mention ever patient. This also makes them an ideal family dog as well. Households with children do best with a dog that is patient and on the alert for anything suspicious. Tollers are not especially useful as a guard dog and will do much better instead as an attentive watch dog. They can be quite wary of new elements in their environment, giving a good bark or two just as an alert. They are also naturally playful and eager to please. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a good family dog, ready to play with kids and run and romp with the family. Generally not an overly enthusiastic dog the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a pleasant and gentle personality that can become very engage and attentive when they are hunting.

    The nature of this breed will always come through and there should be no attempt to ignore or suppress these instinctual habits. Those who choose to use the dog in the vein for which it was bred will find they can start training their water loving Toller quite young using simple retrieving exercises. With the help of a professional trainer, one can have their dog ready to go and out in the field in no time. When given the chance, one should never pass up the opportunity to watch these magnificent animals at work.

    The Toller is always eager to get out and has an inherent enthusiasm for performing its hunting duties. It is not unheard of for the Toller to give a look of complete disdain or sigh when a hunter misses a shot, delaying their opportunity to get out and retrieve.

    Health Problems

    The Toller is essentially a robust breed that can share many of the same common complaints as any other dog, such as hip dysplasia or Heartworms. However, regular vet checkups can help to lessen or keep these problems at bay.


    Since the Toller is a dog bred for retrieving game out of the iciest of water, what appear to be long feathered tresses on the outside is actually a dense layered, water resistant double coat. Upon closer examination, one will see the soft topcoat gives way to a dense undercoat where natural oils from the dog's body become trapped. This is what creates the coat's water resistant capability and the Toller's ability to safely swim in sub freezing water. It is because of this dense undercoat that frequent shampooing is staunchly looked down upon when it comes to this type of breed.

    ashing away these natural oils will all but destroy the Toller's ability to protect itself in coldertemperatures. Instead, a regular dry shampooing is recommended with a wet bath used only when necessary. Regular grooming with a stiff bristled brush will help keep the coat in its optimum condition. Although the breed tends to shed no more and no less than any other dog, regular grooming will always help minimize the amount of hair a dog deposits about the household.


    The Toller is one that is observant, agile and ready for action. They are also a dog that loves water and will not hesitate to at least indulge in getting their paws wet when given the chance. While they will do just fine if a daily walk gets rained out, long periods of inactivity are not recommended for this breed. One of the best exercises for the Toller is a simple game of fetch. It not only will provide for the much needed interaction between the owner and his or her canine companion, it validates and gives an outlet for the Toller's strong natural instinct of retrieving.

    Regular exercise for the Toller that includes being walked or run through parks, along beaches and in more crowded environments will also help to socialize the breed with new people and places. In addition the Toller is a natural retriever, so making exercise, training and fun time combine into one longer session is an ideal to provide physical and mental exercise for the dog.

    The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is not necessarily a good self-exerciser and is more likely to find a comfortable spot in the yard to relax when let outside on their own. A companion dog can help with the Toller getting some exercise when outside on their own. They will also do great with a family of active children that enjoy involving their pet in their games and activities.

    The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a lot of stamina and endurance and can make excellent jogging or hiking companions. There natural love of water and being outdoors makes them wonderful camping dogs as well.


    When it comes to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, training tends to have the same issues as it does with all retrievers. At young ages, Tollers tend to be easily distracted. For training sessions before the age of two years, the only required elements should be that of brevity and fun. Training periods that turn into drills will result in boredom for this breed, likely turning things into a dreadful ordeal for both the dog and its owner. From the age of two years on up, there is a development in maturity that allows the Toller to take in and process information more efficiently. This is when many begin true hunting maneuver training for their dog. In cases where Tollers are used for the retrieval of waterfowl, they will also need to be broken in and conditioned as pups to the loud report of a shotgun blast. This is often done using a gun breaking tape or cap guns, immediately followed by positive reinforcements using rewards and praise.

    Socializing, housebreaking and respect training programs that are commonly taught with other dogs work well for Tollers. Because they are known to be quite independent in mind and energetic when they are younger, it may take extra effort to help them remember to not jump on guests or walk respectfully on a leash. With this breed, consistency will always be the name of the game.

    One must make it an area of commitment if the true endeavor is to see results and help their companion live a happier, healthier existence. As with all breeds, training a Toller to do the things it was not meant for can be disastrous. Activities and training that run parallel to its strong hunting instincts are more likely to result in success.
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