Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Traits & Facts

Last Updated on January 8, 2023 by Becky Roberts

Quick Summary: The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is also called Toller. They’re a highly active dog that requires an equally active family. In fact, they need to be kept busy for at least an hour each day. If you don’t give your Toller the exercise they need, you’ll have an extremely unhappy retriever that can become an aggressive and unruly pet. So make sure you buy them toys that they can enjoy all day. It is said that the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a fairly healthy breed of dog that can live about 12 to 14 years.

Are you considering inviting a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever into your home? Perhaps you’re unsure what they’ll bring to you and your life. If that’s the case, this guide to breeds is an essential read. Let’s go over everything you must learn about this amazing dog and the kind of family and home they require.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, more affectionately called Tollers by their admirers, are smart, outgoing, and loving dogs. They may be rare dogs, but they are incredibly adept at assisting their owners in duck hunting. They are also great family pets and can get along with all kinds of people, including dogs and children.

The fox-like breed has more exercise requirements than the average dog, and those who are seeking a companion for their activities will be in for a treat. If you’re looking for an animal that can be a lap dog, you’ve found the right place.

Let’s get all the information you require to determine if this dog is the right one for you.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Breed History and Background

Humans created breeding programs to emulate the hunting habits of the fox during the 18th century. Micmac Native Indians of Canada observed how the Foxes would play at the water’s edge, enticing the ducks to observe them. When they were completely engaged in their activities, the other pack members would take them to eat. They combined their dogs with various breeds of retrievers and developed the Toller we all know and cherish today.

After creating a winning mix and a winning mix, the dogs were taught to move at the water’s edge while their masters were huddled. When they were ready, their master would summon their dogs to return and take the bird to shoot. Like any good retriever, the Toller will head towards the back to take the quarry of their master and return to the master without crushing the delicate bird.

There is only one other breed of dog that has this hunting style – the like-looking Dutch Kooikerhondje. “Toller” comes from the older English term “Tollen,” which means to lure or entice. The full name of the dog earns them one of the most long names within the American Kennel Club (AKC) Studbook. They also have a title, which is the AKC’s most compact retriever dog.

Within the Little River District of Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth Country, they are sometimes known as the “Little River Duck Dog” and the “Yarmouth Toller.” These dogs are common in the area, but out in the open, they’re pretty uncommon. The AKC usually places them between their 80th-90th position as the most adored breed of dog in America from a list of 200 breeds of dogs.

Size and Appearance

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized breed of dog. They typically weigh between 35 to 50 pounds. They are approximately 17 to 21 inches in height, from the paws to the withers. With their gorgeous coats, they can hold their weight with a strong and small frame.

If they are not retrieving or engaged when they are in motion, they sport an anxious or sad expression. However, this disappears once they hear the word “walk.” They have triangular ears that drop down and tiny almond-shaped eyes. Their tail is long and very feathered. If you’re looking to display your Toller at the show rings, there are some requirements regarding appearance that your dog must be able to meet. They are listed within the Toller breed standard.

Coat and Colors

It is coated with a double layer to protect it against harsh Canadian elements and cold water. It’s moderate in size and comfortable to feel. Some Tollers have some slight waves along their upper line, however, on the body, their hair stays straight. The Winter coat has a little more feathering on the chest.

The coat color of the Toller is always an intense, pigmented red that ranges from gold to dark coppery red. The feathering fur is typically lighter than the remainder of their body. Most Tollers have white marks, which are usually on their feet, the tail tips, the chest, or the blaze (center of the muzzle that extends towards the face). There are certain rules for coats and colors for success in the show rings. These are also included within the standard for breeds.

Temperament and Personality Traits

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the fact that Nova Scotia’s Duck Tolling Retriever is an extremely active dog that requires an equally active family. They love being the center of the spotlight. If you’re looking for dogs that chase balls at any given moment, the Toller has your back.

They’re also extremely loving for a tough-working dog. After you’ve satisfied their needs for exercise, they’ll be content to cuddle on the couch without any convincing. It’s not uncommon to see the belly of a Toller up with their tongue out, eagerly awaiting their well-deserved belly rubs. You must be equally passionate about getting together with him.

Tollers initially are wary of those they haven’t had the pleasure of meeting. However, they do follow the instructions of their masters. If you meet them, they’ll greet you because they’re playful dogs who are always seeking new playmates. They are outgoing and fun and bring happiness to families even in the most difficult days.

They are fierce canines and are not ideal for people looking for an easygoing dog. They are 100% committed to every aspect of their lives – even emptying the trash bins. The AKC stipulates that if your right hand were injured while playing with the ball, a ferocious Toller would expect you to play with the left hand. However, they’re not too raunchy in the house, which makes them perfect as pet companions for families.

They are known for their shrill sound, in the sense that you could describe it as a bark, similar to how the fox laughs. They emit this sound when they’re excited. They don’t set this alarm for visitors who are coming in, however, unless they’re thrilled to meet them. This is why they’re lousy guard dogs and can irritate neighbors. In a quiet area, it might be a good idea to avoid the Toller.

Nutritional Requirements

Tollers typically consume around two cups of nutritious dog food per day. The amount of food they consume varies for each dog according to their size, age, metabolism, and energy levels. Make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging and adjust the guidelines to your pet’s needs.

The breed has an appetite that is healthy and loves to consume food, much like their Lab cousin. If you suspect that your dog is gaining too much weight, change them to a diet that helps with weight loss and cut down on their treats consumption. Excess weight can cause further health issues, so it is essential to ensure that your dog is fit and healthy.

The Toller has a large chest for tiny dogs, which makes them vulnerable to gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). GDV is a serious condition, commonly referred to as Bloat. The cause is unknown, however, eating immediately before or after exercise can increase the chance of developing it. Therefore, feeding smaller portions of food is highly advised. It is essential to be familiar with the signs and immediately seek out vet care when you notice these signs.

Grooming Requirements

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a medium-length, soft coat that sheds during the season. They may not be the hairiest of pets, but you have to be prepared for lots of hairy dogs within your home. Dogs who work in colder climates are more likely to blow their coats out when they go between cold and warm seasons. If you’re not an avid fan of dog hair, then it might be best if you find another dog.

To control their shed, it is recommended to clean them at least every week for a period of time throughout the year. It is necessary to extend the number of days at the time of shedding. Pay particular focus on areas that have feathering fur, like the neck, and ears, as well as under the belly and arms. These are the areas where the tangling happens the most. Doggy detangling sprays can help with this.

Bathe your Toller whenever they require it, however, not more than each four-week period. Make use of a dog-specific shampoo instead of human shampoos that may occasionally cause irritation to the skin of your dog. If you decide to display your Toller on the show rings, it is recommended that they be displayed in the most natural way possible instead of being excessively cut.

Exercise Requirements

It is believed that the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an extremely active dog that needs to be kept active for at least an hour each day. Even more, if you can manage it. There are many dog-related sporting occasions organized nationwide, so why not give it a go with your Tollers?

A walk around the block isn’t enough for this dog. Tollers require intense physical exercise, whether through hunting or endless playing, or running. Try mixing up your destinations to feed their appetites and stimulate their brains with a change in scenery. Playing with dogs or playing fetch in the park are excellent methods to burn off energy, even if you’re not an avid hunter.

Since the Toller is a prey drive, particularly for birds and other flying creatures, it is important to watch them within the park. Some owners prefer not to let their dogs loose in areas that are not controlled, particularly in areas with water in the vicinity. The Toller is a lover of water and is a great swimmer, so make sure to purchase an extended training lead to allow them to play in the pond, while still giving you the control.

If you don’t give your Toller the exercise he needs, you’ll have an extremely unhappy retriever in your arms. An uninterested Toller can be an aggressive and unruly pet. Make sure you buy toys they can enjoy all day too. Balls to chase, as well as top-quality squeaky toys that look like ducks can keep them entertained and will satisfy their hunter’s instinct.

Space and Living Conditions

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has no living requirements if they are healthy and exercised. Their size is small, which makes them suited to living in apartments that aren’t suitable for other retriever breeds. If you do not have access to outdoor space, you have to provide them with regular walks to avoid boredom and the symptoms of cabin fever. Your yard must be secured to ensure that they don’t wander off looking for birds.

Despite their playfulness, they are not too boisterous, making them the perfect canine companions for children of all ages. They are extremely kind to children and this is just one of the many qualities that Toller lovers love. They also have a great relationship when they are with dogs of other breeds, particularly those who are not Tollers. There aren’t many that don’t chase smaller animals, which is why they aren’t the best companions for other animals, aside from dogs.

As with the majority of dogs that have been closely associated with humans for many centuries, they aren’t happy being left on their own for too long. While they’re not as sensitive to being abandoned as other breeds, they like human companionship throughout the day. Families who spend long hours away from home may reconsider their decision to get this dog.

Training and Socialization

They love pleasing their masters, which means they tend to follow what they are instructed to do. But, they’re not as simple to train as other Retrievers like the Golden Retriever and Labrador, which are close relatives. They possess an uncontrollable streak, and they could be on the occasional “off-day,” – but who wouldn’t?

Tollers are most responsive when they receive positive reinforcement training instead of being yelled at. They generally get driven by anything, which includes sweet treats, praise, and toys.

The process of socializing your dog is one to be taken seriously if you wish to see your dog grow into a polite adult. The crucial time for socialization spans between 3 and 12 weeks which means that your breeder starts the training, and it’s your responsibility to keep it going. Mix them up with other human beings and dogs, loud sounds, and experiences as often as you can.

With the squeal of Toller’s exuberant scream in mind, it’s a good idea to introduce them to how to use the quiet command as soon as you bring your dog home. This will stop the noise that is annoying and helps avoid potential disputes with neighbors. If you do a little research and lots of practice, your smart Toller will be able to understand your commands within a matter of minutes.

Health Issues

It is believed that the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a fairly healthy breed of dog. They live between 12-14 years, on average. If you are working with a breeder, be sure to discuss health issues with them and request a medical certification if it is relevant.

Eye Conditions

The two most frequent eye problems within the Toller bloodline are progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Collie eye anomalies. PRA is a degenerative condition of the retina that can eventually lead to total vision loss. Collie eye anomalies are an inherited mutation in the gene responsible for how the eyes develop. This causes a variety of eye defects. It may be minor or severe and, in the latter case, could lead to complete vision loss.

Hip Dysplasia

It is believed that the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a breed that is at the risk to develop hip dysplasia. It is caused due to the poor hip inheritance of their parents, and rapid and uneven growth of the skeletal system when they are puppies, and other causes. The symptoms include abnormal movements as well as stiffness and general discomfort. Surgery is usually needed to improve the quality of life.


It is believed that the Toller is characterized by a greater percentage of hearing loss in their breed than other breeds of dogs. Deafness may be bilateral or unilateral (one or both ears). The ownership of a dog that is deaf isn’t easy and requires additional training to ensure a healthy life. Responsible breeders check their dogs for deafness with the BAER test, so make sure you ask for these certifications when purchasing a puppy.

Cardiac Concerns

The Toller breed is susceptible to various heart issues. However, a condition known as Pulmonic Stenosis is the most prevalent. Pulmonic stenosis is a condition that occurs when the circulation of blood between the heart and the lungs is limited. The heart is forced to perform more than it should which can lead to heart failure. The symptoms include breathing difficulties, coughing, slow growth, and fainting.

Juvenile Addison’s Disease

The disease occurs when adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones that regulate levels of blood. The typical diagnosis for this condition is 5 months old, however, it is possible to diagnose the disease from just eight weeks. The symptoms include fatigue, weakness, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever as Family Pets

The general rule for this breed can be described as:

  • A medium-sized dog that is capable of adapting to the majority of family homes.
  • A lot of energy to burn, So they should be surrounded by an active family that can provide them with at least an hour of intense workout every day.
  • Lots of fun and always eager for a game with humans.
  • These dogs are relatively calm in the home, which makes them balanced family pets.
  • They are known for their high prey drive for birds, they can’t resist the lure of small animals.
  • A water lover who enjoys excursions to local lakes and even their own pool to splash around into.
  • Love and affectionate with their loved ones. They are gentle and accepting of children of all ages.
  • Socialized well, they enjoy the companionship of dogs from other breeds and especially other Tollers.
  • They are easy to train due to their dedication and desire to be pleasing.
  • The dog is prone to a loud-sounding squeaky bark when they cannot keep their excitement.

Puppy Prices/Costs

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is one of the rare breeds of dogs that are not found in America. You might be placed on a waitlist to buy a puppy. However, there are some reliable breeders in America. The AKC’s Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever breeders page is an excellent starting point for your research into breeders.

The starting cost for an equivocal Toller puppy generally starts at $1,500. The price of a puppy is contingent on a variety of factors such as the location of the breeder as well as the breeder’s experience and reputation, and the pup’s pedigree. If you are looking for a puppy with a hunting lineage that has won awards, you can expect to pay much higher than this amount typically, which is higher than $3000.

It is essential to partner with an ethical breeder who will screen your dogs to identify the top prevalent health issues. Additionally, they’ll provide their puppies with the love and attention they deserve and require. Breeders who aren’t responsible and puppy mills tend to be more focused on profits than the well-being of their pups, so please stay clear of them at all costs by conducting your own investigation.

It is also important to factor in the extra costs associated with buying puppies in your budget. Puppies require all the latest equipment, including cribs, beds, fencing, and toys to protect their property. Then, you have to feed them, buy health insurance, and much more.

The Toller isn’t the most expensive breed of dog in the world. However, in their entire lives, the cost of dogs can be hundreds of thousands. This is why you should be aware of it.

Breeders, Rescues, and Shelters

If you’d prefer to adopt the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever rather than purchasing a puppy, you can also opt to save one. Most of the time, it is cheaper to adopt an older dog than to buy a puppy.

Another alternative is to go to the local shelter for rescue. If you don’t see Tollers there, make sure to talk to the staff members who may know of a Toller living in the area. You can also connect to the American Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club, which has a rescue program for Tollers who are in need of a permanent home.


Tollers are devoted to their work and give 100% of themselves. They enjoy being around other dogs and are gentle and patient regarding children. There’s nothing to dislike about this lovable Fido.

However, there are a couple of things about this dog that may not be suitable for you and your lifestyle. For instance, their exuberant needs for energy and their high-pitched screaming. If you can get beyond their quirks, you are bound to meet a great companion within the Toller. Like their ducks, the Toller will draw you into a lifetime of fun through their cute and fun behavior.

Becky Roberts

Becky Roberts

One of Becky's favourite things to do every morning is to browse the top pet-related forums, looking for issues and questions that people have. She then shortlists the most common ones, and turns them into blog posts for Fuzzy Rescue. She's had over 4 cats and 2 dogs over the past decade, so she does know a thing or 2 about raising/training, and more importantly, loving them. She's the only one on our team that doesn't like coffee, but it seems to us she really doesn't need more energy :). We're very fortunate to have her on board as she does most of the heavy listing for the site, outputting an insane amount of content each month. Read More

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