Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Ultimate Guide: Pictures, Characteristics, & Facts

The name Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or Toller, originated from the Middle English word “tollen,” which means “to entice.” That said, this breed was used to lure and retrieve waterfowls, earning him the reputation of being a hardworking gun dog. That’s history. At present, Tollers are also loved for being loving companions, as well as effective guard dogs.


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever comes from the Little River district of Nova Scotia which is part of Canada’s Atlantic coast. It is considered a rare breed that’s originally known as the Little River Duck Dogs before being renamed in 1945 by the Canadian Kennel Club to Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

Called Toller by its fans, this breed is originally created to lure and retrieve waterfowls alongside hunters.

The breed was first introduced in the U.S. in the 1960s where they didn’t get much attention. In 1984, the breed garnered fans and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club USA was established. In 2001, they were recognized by the American Kennel Club under the Miscellaneous Class before being categorized into Sporting Group in 2003.

Today, the Toller ranks 110th over 155 breeds recognized by the AKC.


The Toller has a red or orange double coat that is medium in length, giving him a fox-like appearance. In fact, there’s even a tale that claims that Toller is a cross between fox and retriever, which is genetically impossible.

The coat is water-repellent, with white spots on the face, chest, feet, and tail tip. The eye rims, nose, and lips usually blend with the coat color, and the tail should be thick and bushy. Hunters prefer white tail tips since it allows them to keep the dog in sight during hunting.


Typically, male Tollers stand at 18 to 21 inches (45.7-53.3 cm) at the shoulder, with an ideal size of 19 inches (48.2 cm). Meanwhile, female Tollers stand at 17 to 20 inches (43.1-50.8 cm), with an ideal size of 18 inches (45.7 cm). Their weight is usually in proportion to their height, which varies from 35 to lbs (15.8-22.6 kg).

Life Span

On average, the Toller enjoys a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. Keep in mind that there are factors that may affect your dog’s lifespan, such as his diet, lifestyle, and exercise. To ensure that your dog lives a long and healthy life, give him the proper care that he needs, such as regular visits to the veterinarian.


Despite having a medium-length coat, the Toller usually requires low maintenance. To remove dead hair, brush his coat weekly throughout the year. However, during the shedding season, which is spring and fall, daily brushing is recommended.

Bathe him only when necessary, such as when he gets dirty. Nails should be kept short. Brushing his teeth twice or thrice a week would keep bacteria buildup, though daily brushing is ideal to prevent bad breath.

Another thing to remember is that during Toller’s puppyhood, about three to four months, his ears may be crooked, or go wonky. To bring his ears in the correct position, it may need to be taped. If you are unsure how to do this, your Toller’s breeder or veterinarian can help you out.


The Toller is known for being a versatile dog with a loving personality and easy-to-care coat – basically, all you want for a canine companion. Although the smallest of all retriever dogs, the Toller share most of their traits, such as being a smart, joyful, and hardworking dog.

However, this dog can sometimes be strong-willed and are not as eager to please compared to Golden Retriever or Labrador. That’s why it is important to start training at an early age, otherwise, they will assume the role of a leader in the household.


The Toller is known for being a smart, curious, and vigilant dog. His high level of intelligence allows him to learn tricks and commands quickly, although he can also be stubborn at times. The Toller is for an experienced owner who knows how to make use of his intelligence.


Because of their ability to lure and retrieve waterfowls, Tollers are best suited to live along with weekend hunters, They also enjoy living with an active family who loves to hike, and can participate in the show ring and canine sports, such as obedience, agility, flyball, and Frisbee.


The Toller has a moderate amount of activity level. It is recommended to at least give him two 30-minute walks per day, or a combination of a 30-minute walk and 30-minute playtime. He would also love to be included in a one to two-hour hike. In addition, this dog also loves to swim!

Be reminded that if they are not properly exercised, Tollers will expel their energies in undesirable ways, such as excessive barking, chewing, and digging.


When training, Toller needs a firm and consistent owner who can keep training sessions fun and creative. They are intelligent and highly energetic, so make sure you know how to make use of their strengths. They also tend to be independent, thus it is important for them to know that you are the leader by setting rules that they must follow.

Also, never use anger, force, or intimidation to train your Toller. No, harsh punishments won’t do any good. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques, such as food rewards, praises, and playtimes.

Good With Family

Tollers like kids, especially older children who can play with them. As always, it is essential to supervise any interaction between children and dogs to avoid getting into trouble.

When it comes to other animals, Tollers can get along well with them, especially when raised together. However, they may see smaller animals as prey, so it is best to be on the lookout.

In addition, this fun-loving and lively dog has a sense of humor. With them, there are no bad days! However, when inactive, they will happily lie down and behave, though it does not mean that they don’t need physical exercise.

Around strangers, they can be reserved and standoffish. If they see you comfortable towards someone, they will be, as well.

Apartment Living

Tollers are highly adaptable breeds. They easily adjust from one environment to another and can do well in apartments so long as their daily exercise needs are met.

However, this breed has a loud, high pitch scream. You may hear this whenever he’s excited, frustrated, or when he sees birds or squirrels lurking around. That said, they are not for homes with noise restrictions.

Their strong prey drive also gives them the tendency to chase off small animals they see on the road. If you have a yard, make sure it is securely fenced.

They are good guard dogs and will alert you if something suspicious is happening, or when someone is approaching your home.

Separation Anxiety

As mentioned, Tollers are very adaptable. They love to travel and would easily adjust to new places. This, and their capability to easily create deep bonds with their families also mean that they are susceptible to developing separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.

Health Issues

In general, Tollers are healthy breeds, but due to a limited gene pool, they may suffer from certain health conditions. The appearance of a red coat and flesh-colored nose means that the Toller has a higher chance of getting the immune-mediated disease.

Some health conditions you may want to look out for are Hip Dysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Collie Eye Anomaly, and deafness.


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