nova scotia duck tolling retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

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Considering whether The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is the right fit for your family? Read on to find out more about this unusual breed.

Hailing from Canada, this medium-sized sporting dog is recognized for its athletic physique, floppy ears, and distinctive golden-red coat. Originally bred for bird hunting, this breed is renowned for its exceptional hunting technique known as “tolling.” This technique involves luring game birds towards the hunter using a combination of movements and noises.

Albeit they have a famous hunting background, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are now primarily family pets. Their affectionate and outgoing nature, coupled with their eagerness to please, makes them a breeze to train. Like so many of the retriever breeds, this breed loves the water and they are great swimmers.  Nova Scotia Duck Tollers are a natural fit for families that enjoy outdoor activities.

They need a lot of rigorous daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and content — perfect for the active family or individuals who love the great outdoors.

These are great dogs but do your research and make sure they are the right fit for your lifestyle.   The Nova Scotia Toller is not for everyone because they need lots of attention and exercise.  But for those who can provide these dogs with plenty of love and care they are fantastic pets.

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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed History

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever’s roots can be traced back to Little River Harbour in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, during the early 1800s. It was during this time that hunters sought a dog that could retrieve waterfowl and lure them towards the hunter. Hence, the breed was developed to meet these requirements. The Little River Duck Dog was the name of this retriever breed before it was recognized as a purebred by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945.


The Toller is thought to have got its genes from a variety of dog breeds, including the Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Duck Toller Dog Development

Henry Albert Patterson (a.k.a., Hap Smith) was a breeder and promoter of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever between 1885 and 1920. Smith was integral in keeping the Toller breed alive during the early years of the breed’s development. The Nova Scotia Duck Toller was almost extinct by the early 20th century, but Smith’s breeding program probably saved the breed.

Although the Toller was first used for hunting waterfowl, it has since become a popular companion dog. The Nova Scotia Toller is known for its intelligence, loyalty, and high energy. Tollers need routine exercise and mental challenges to stay sharp, on their game, and healthy.

Today, the Toller is popular in many countries as a pet and for search and rescue duties.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Characteristics


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized breed that typically stands between 17 to 21 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs anywhere from 35 to 50 pounds. Their most notable feature is their waterproof double coat, which is available in various shades of red, red gold, and dark copper, often with white markings on their chest, feet, and tail. With a wedge-shaped head, Tollers possess a black or brown nose and eyes that are almond-shaped, usually in shades of amber or brown. They have triangular ears set high on their head, while their long, feathered tail is used to attract ducks and other game birds.


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an intelligent, affectionate, and energetic breed that loves to work and play. They are known for their high-pitched “tolling” bark that they use to lure waterfowl within range of hunters. Tollers are friendly and outgoing with people and other dogs, but they can be stand-offish with strangers. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience, agility, and other dog competitions. Tollers have a strong prey drive and need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. However, like all breeds, they are prone to certain health issues, including:

  • Hip dysplasia: a genetic condition that affects the hip joint and can cause a lot of pain and debilitating arthritis.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy: a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness if left untreated.
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis: an immune system disorder that affects the thyroid gland and can cause weight gain, lethargy, and skin problems.

It’s important to buy a Toller from a reputable breeder who screens their dogs for these and other health issues. Regular veterinary check-ups, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise can help keep your Toller in good health.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Training and Exercise

Training and exercise are essential for the physical and mental well-being of your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. These dogs are intelligent and eager to please, making them easy to train. However, they also have a high energy level and require regular exercise to stay healthy and happy.

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Obedience Training

Obedience training is crucial for all dogs, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are no exception. Start training your Toller as soon as you bring them home, and be consistent with your commands and expectations. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, work well with this breed.

Teach your Toller basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. Once they have mastered these commands, you can move on to more advanced training, such as retrieving and hunting. These dogs are natural retrievers, and they excel in activities such as dock diving and flyball.

Agility Training

Agility training is an excellent way to provide mental and physical stimulation for your Toller. This breed is athletic and agile, making them perfect for this type of training. Agility training involves navigating an obstacle course, and it can help improve your dog’s balance, coordination, and confidence.

Start with basic obstacles such as jumps and tunnels, and gradually work up to more challenging courses. Keep training sessions short and fun, and always end on a positive note. Your Toller will love the opportunity to show off their skills and impress you with their agility.

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Exercise Requirements

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers require regular exercise to keep them healthy and happy. These dogs are active and love to play, so make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for them to run, swim, and retrieve. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, but more is always better.

Activities such as hiking, swimming, and playing fetch are excellent choices for this breed. They also enjoy participating in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and hunting. Make sure you provide plenty of mental stimulation as well, such as puzzle toys and challenging training sessions.

Remember to always supervise your Toller during exercise and training sessions. These dogs can be independent and stubborn at times, so it’s essential to keep them safe and focused. With proper training and exercise, your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever will be a happy and healthy companion for years to come.

Activities and Sports

There are plenty of ways you can keep your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever eager about learning new activities. These dogs are hyper-energetic and ultra-smart.  They love to work hard and play hard. 

 A few suggested activities and sports that you can do with your Toller Dog are:

  • Dock Diving–A feat that Tollers are exceptional at is dock diving. This dog only sport involves running and jumping off a dock into the water — farthest distance jumped wins. Tollers love the water and are natural jumpers, so they do really well in this fun sport. Dog Alert: It’s also a great way to keep cool and active on a hot summer day!
  • Flyball–Flyball is a team sport that needs two teams of four dogs. It’s basically a relay race between dog teams.  Each dog has to jump over and clear a series of hurdles, retrieve a ball from a box, and run back to their handler with the ball as quickly as possible.  Because Tollers are very fast and love a challenge, they tend to be really good at this sport. Hint: It’s a great way to socialize your dog and meet other dog handlers.
  • Frisbie–Everyone knows what a Frisbie is and this breed loves to snatch the flying disc by jumping mid-air and catching it with an excited toothy grin.  Try it — you and your pooch will love it!

Remember, no matter what dog activity you choose, it’s necessary that your Troller is properly trained and socialized. Be sure that your veterinarian agrees that your dog is healthy enough for a lot of exercise. With the right training and care, your Toller will be a happy and active pooch for many years to come.

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