- At 17 to 21 inches tall at the shoulder, the NSDTR is the smallest of the Retrievers.
- True to his heritage, the NSDTR loves playing in water.
- Fewer than 500 Tollers are registered with the American Kennel Club annually.
AKC group: Sporting Group
UKC group: Gun Dog
Average lifespan: 11 – 14 years
Average size: 37 – 52 pounds
Coat appearance: Soft, medium-length; straight, water-resistant double coat
Coloration: Gold, red, reddish-orange and copper; possible white markings on body
Other identifiers: Muscular body similar to a Golden Retriever; light-colored eyes and nose; triangular high-set ears; and long tail
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 some possibly spaniel and setter Pointer
-type dogs, retriever-type dogs, and rabbit hounds. 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 gained national recognition in 1980, when two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were awarded Best in Show at championship events that included many breeds. On June 11, 2001, it was approved for admission into the Miscellaneous Class of the American Kennel Club and was granted full recognition into the Sporting Group on July 1, 2003.
Use in hunting
Tollers are named for their ability to entice or lure waterfowl within gunshot range, called “tolling“. The hunter stays hidden in a blind and sends the dog out to romp and play near the water, usually by tossing a ball or stick to be retrieved. The dog’s appearance is similar to that of a fox. Its unusual activity and white markings pique the curiosity of ducks and geese, who swim over to investigate.
When the birds are close, the hunter calls the dog back to the blind, then rises, putting the birds to flight, allowing him a shot. The Toller then retrieves any downed birds. They are particularly suited for retrieving in cold water climates because of their water-repellent double coat.
The Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever has a most interesting way of luring ducks within a hunter’s range. They will frolic along the water’s edge, hopping in and out of the water, chasing sticks and balls that the hunters throw from their blinds. Eventually, the water fowl will become curious, and move toward the happy dog, right into the hunter’s trap. These retrievers have a never-ending reserve of energy, making them a great companion for hunters and active families. They are easy going, happy dogs who love to play and are excellent around kids.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, which has an average lifespan of 11 to 13 years, is not prone to any major health concerns; however it may suffer from minor issues such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). To identify these issues, a veterinarian may recommend hip and eye exams for the dog.
A worldwide study of the Tollers’ registration history in 17 countries shows that about 90% of the genetic diversity present in the founding population has been lost. Tollers born between 1999–2008 have an effective founder size of 9.8, realized effective population size of 18 and an average inbreeding coefficient of 0.26. Breeders are working to prevent losing heterozygosity and to maintain sufficient genetic variations, but high kinship value means the breed is not able to maintain a steady level of inbreeding in the long term.
The grooming requirements for the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is fairly easy: a weekly combing. It is important that the dog receives plenty of exercise and access to water, if possible, as it loves to swim. It also enjoys retrieving objects.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever prefers to live indoors with its human companions, but it is adaptable to various climatic conditions and can survive outdoors.
The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. This breed does well in cold climates.
Always wanting to please their owners, Tollers are relatively easy to train. Positive training methods that include loads of praise and lots of treats work best for this breed. They are highly sensitive to harsh words and discipline so a calm and patient trainer is needed. Consistency in training is essential for the Toller to succeed in obedience.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers do well in many forms of canine competition. Of course, they excel in obedience trials but they also do well on agility courses. Agility is a great way to bond with the Toller as well as let him get the exercise he needs to stay healthy.
Trollers need a lot of vigorous activity to maintain health and happiness, and the biggest mistake people make with this breed is not exercising them enough. Simple walks around the block are not going to cut it for Trollers. They need time to run several hours a day, as they were bred for endurance. They had to be able to spend long hours working in the field, so their stamina is high. Those with active lifestyles will find their Troller makes an excellent jogging companion, can keep up with bike riders, and will never tire of hiking, especially if there is water nearby.
Fetching is the Troller’s favorite activity and they will fetch sticks and balls for as long as you are willing to toss them. They prefer you toss the sticks and balls into a lake or pond, as they are water dogs who love to swim. If you do not properly exercise your Troller, be prepared for destruction. These dogs will chew, chew, and chew some more when they are bored and have pent up energy to burn off, and you aren’t likely to approve of the items they decide to chew in your absence.
The Toller is a wash-and-go dog. His medium-length water-repellent double coat requires only weekly brushing to remove loose hair and prevent mats or tangles. Brush him daily during spring and fall, when he sheds heavily. As with most dogs, there is a certain amount of shedding year-round. Bathe him only as needed, which shouldn’t be more than a few times a year unless he rolls in something stinky.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails regularly, usually every week or two. Keep the ears clean and dry, and brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Children And Other Pets
Tollers love kids and make good playmates for active older children who’ll play ball with them, teach them tricks, and otherwise keep them occupied. They may be too rambunctious for very young children.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Tollers enjoy the company of other dogs and get along just fine with cats, especially if they’re raised with them.
Is this breed right for you?
An intelligent and affectionate breed, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever requires a lot of activity, and not just playing. The breed enjoys retrieving and obedience training, which is advised to avoid behavioral problems. Loving, it gets along well with children and other animals, but it will need a lot of socialization to maintain its happiness. Energetic, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever does OK with apartment life if it is given daily walks, but it does best with a large yard with a body of water to roam, swim and play fetch in. Since it is an average shedder, it is easy to groom but should be given a regular dry shampoo bath to maintain the natural oils in its coat.
Did You Know?
The Toller’s red or orange coat gives him a foxlike appearance and has even given rise to the idea that he’s the result of a fox-Retriever cross, but that’s a genetic impossibility.
A dream day in the life
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever would adore to wake up with a nice pat down and session with its owner. Running outside to romp around in the yard, it’ll run inside for an affectionate hour of playtime with the kid. After its long daily walk, this breed will go for a swim in the backyard pool or be happy with a game of fetch. In the evening, it’ll settle in with its family, running outside to burn off energy whenever it feels the need.