Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Toller): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever smiling outside

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There is something special about the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Originally called Little River Duck Dogs, these water-loving, sport-loving, family-loving pups look like your standard Retrievers—if a bit smaller in size—but bring with them a personality that you’d be hard pressed to find standard in other, similar breeds. As for whether that personality is one that brings joy to your life or stress, it all depends on what you’re looking for in a family dog and what lifestyle you can offer these feisty furballs. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (often shortened simply to Tollers, for obvious reasons) are a sporting breed with a streak of intelligence and affection and an affinity for self-assured independence. Give a Toller what he or she needs though, including plenty of exercise and attention, and you’ll have a loyal, affectionate companion—plus a go-to partner for hikes, bike rides, and all the long walks your legs can take. 

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 18-21 inches (males); 17-20 inches (females)

Weight: 35 to 50 pounds

Coat: Short to medium, usually straight

Coat Color: Copper, crimson, golden crimson

Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium-High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium-High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium-High
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever breed comes from Yarmouth County in Nova Scotia, a Canadian coastal province located slightly northwest of Maine. Originally bred in the 19th century by hunters, Tollers have long been lauded for their ingenuity when it comes to hunting. Much like a fox, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever employs quick movements that attract the attention of prey and lure them out into the open. And because they’re Retrievers of course, Tollers are also valuable to hunters for their willingness to enter the water and bring in downed waterfowl.

Tollers remained a secret of Nova Scotia hunters for years, though they were eventually recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945 (an occasion marked by the official renaming of the breed from Little River Duck Dogs to their current long-winded moniker). In the 1960s, Tollers made their way down to the states, though they weren’t officially recognized by the AKC until the mid-1980s. There is much to be praised about modern Tollers, who, while they continue to look and act like foxes, have adapted well to life off the hunting grounds—though many are still active in the sport. Today, Tollers are happy to live the life of a family dog, provided they still have an outlet for their notorious Retriever drive. 

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Care

Like most dogs, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever requires daily exercise to be at their best. One or two long walks or a fenced in back yard are key, though Tollers also enjoy being active in sports like agility and flyball. Ultimately, a specific Toller’s exercise needs depends on his or her individual preferences, with some Tollers being content to relax on the couch for most of the day as long as they get a good walk in at some point, and others requiring much more stimulation and activity.

Training a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever can be a challenge. While they are certainly eager to please their humans, Tollers have a stubbornness and independent streak that can stand in the way of effective training—though it is certainly possible. Experts recommend short training sessions combined with plenty of consistent, positive reinforcement. And since some Tollers are prone to a bit of mischief, even if you’re not engaging in active training the breed does require some basic obedience training to curb wily behaviors.

As for grooming, caring for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is similar to the requirements of other Retrievers. This includes regular brushing, with an increase in frequency during their shedding season. And as with all dogs, a routine schedule of teeth brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning is also recommended. 

Toller puppy outside smiling and looking up.
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Toller puppy running in grass.
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Toller laying down inside on wood floor by windows.
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Common Health Problems

All pure bred dogs may be prone to certain genetic illnesses. While Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are regarded as generally healthy dogs, be aware of the following ailments which are known to affect the breed:

Some of these illnesses, such as Addison’s Disease and deafness, don’t tend to appear in the breed until middle age, meaning it’s possible for a Toller with these genetic defects to be bred before the diseases are detected (and unfortunately, gene marker tests for the breed are not yet available).

If purchasing a Toller puppy, ask whether any illnesses have been detected in the line. A good breeder will not knowingly breed a dog who will propagate these ailments. And while it is not possible to prevent all instances of the health conditions above or other health conditions, proper care should be taken to mitigate the risk. 

Diet and Nutrition

The nutritional needs of Tollers is the same as it is for most dogs, with the breed doing best on a high-quality diet with plenty of protein. Do accommodate certain dietary needs if necessary, such as if your Toller is a puppy or senior. Feel free to give your Toller plenty of healthy treats (remember: they respond well to positive reinforcement!), and talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or notice that your dog is gaining too much weight. 

Pros

  • Low-maintenance

  • Dog and child friendly

  • Love engaging in sports and activities

Cons

  • Not ideal for apartment living

  • Sheds a decent amount

  • Not a great fit for a household with cats

Where to Adopt or Buy a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

We always recommend looking at adoption first. Start your search via sites like Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, and Overstock Pet Adoptions, and check out designated Toller breed rescues like NSDTRC (USA) Rescue Program and Toller Rescue, Inc. If you do choose to purchase through a breeder, be sure to do your research and only work with someone who is reputable and takes excellent care of their dogs.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

There is a perfect dog out there for everybody. Continue researching our dog profiles to learn about other popular breeds and how to care for them, or just go to a shelter and see who you connect with.

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