Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Breed Group: Sporting

Temperament and Behavior

Inside or out, it doesn’t matter, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever though not hyperactive, is an extremely active dog with great endurance. They need an abundance of exercise and play time. But don’t forget their mental exercise (advanced obedience, agility, tracking, and field work) which is just as important to them. In addition to his love of the outdoors, especially swimming, he thrives on companionship with his family, including any youngsters he is raised with. A Toller may chase a cat just to see how fast it can run, but they normally get along well with most other animals with some preferring the company of other animals to their family. Don’t expect them to be as welcoming as his Golden Retriever cousin. His reaction to strangers varies from cautious to curious and although he loves to bark, he makes only passable watchdog with no more than basic abilities as a guardian. Bred to lure ducks toward a hunter by playing along the shore, the activity level and playfulness of this average size dog are easy to underestimate. A Toller will play catch for hours. They have a love for water, coupled with a great desire to retrieve and tremendous endurance, all essential for their role as a tolling retriever. Although similar in appearance, this is not a small Golden Retriever but a more discriminating, alert and energetic dog that needs more effort to channel his energy. Provided this is done, they can be kept in a small home or apartment. Some love to dig; some chew destructively, especially as puppies.

Physical Characteristics

The smallest of all the retrievers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized, muscular dog with the typical male standing 18-21 inches tall, with females only slightly smaller. The ideal weight ranges from 37 to 51 pounds. The breed’s dense coat, which comes in a variety of shades of red and orange, provides the dog the ability to retrieve from icy waters. They also do well in moderate heat. Bathing a Toller should only be done when necessary as it removes the natural oils that allow their coat to resist water. They need no more grooming than most dogs, but they shed all year long and profusely twice a year during their seasonal shed.

Trainer's Notes

With the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever’s tendency to be standoffish with strangers, they need extra attention paid to socialization to prevent them from becoming shy or suspicious. Tollers are very intelligent and easy to train. With their energy and passion for work, they excel at obedience and agility. But young Tollers are easily distracted and bored by repetition, so training must be kept light and fun. The breed has a highly developed hunting instinct; training methods that utilize this instinct are likely to work well. They make a reasonable choice for a first-time owner, especially one with an interest duck hunting or a family heavily involved in outdoor activities.

Photo © by Cal911 and available from the Public Domain
 Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever


Tollers are generally healthy, but like most breeds, are prone to certain genetic disorders. Those affecting Tollers include about 1 in 10 experiencing Hypothyroidism; about 7% suffering from Hip Dysplasia with another 4% having Elbow Dysplasia; and 3% affected by Patellar Luxation. Other, more rarely seen issues include PRA and Addison’s Disease, a life-threatening, difficult to diagnose condition that, by middle age, affects a greater percentage of females than males. The condition is typified by the adrenal glands wasting away to the point they are minimally functional, although there is a variant where seemingly healthy adrenals are simply inactive. In either case, the glands do not produce enough cortisone for the dog to properly utilize glucose and balance their levels of sodium and potassium. The lifespan of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is typically 12 to 14 years.


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever ranked 113th on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dogs. There are about 350 AKC registrations of the breed per year. Finding a puppy will likely be difficult. Expect to be put on a waiting list for a pyuppy.

Breed History

Dating back to the early 19th century, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever originates from Canada’s Little River district of Yarmouth County in Nova Scotia. The breed is thought to have been developed from a cross between retrievers, working spaniels, and possibly the Irish Setter. The breed was used to toll, lure, and retrieve waterfowl. The Toller did this by playing along the shore by retrieving a stick or ball, and engaging the curiosity of ducks offshore. Once lured to the shore and in gunshot range, the hunter was able to shoot, and the Toller was then sent out to retrieve the dead and wounded ducks. In 1945, the Canadian Kennel Club officially admitted the Toller. In July of 2003, the breed was granted full recognition into the AKC Sporting Group.

Additional Information

The National (US) Breed Club is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club.

Is A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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