One of the few dogs native to Canada, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was developed in Yarmouth County, NS in the late 1800s.  Once known as the "Little River Duck Dog" some beleive the toller has retriever, spaniel, setter, and collie blood. The NS Duck Tolling Retriever is the smallest of the retrievers and stands just 20 inches tall at the shoulder. He has a long, thick, double coat that protects him from the cold water. His coat may be red or orange and have white markings on the feet, chest, tip of tail, and/or forehead.   

Like most sporting dogs, the Toller is best suited to an active home where he will be a cherished member of the family. Strong, happy, loyal, energetic, and devoted to his people the toller may be reserved with strangers. He is not a dog who should be left alone for long periods, he is much too fond of people.

He gets along well with children and other most dogs. A responsive, intelligent, willing and fast learner, some Tollers  can nevertheless be a little headstrong. Obedience training, manners and socialization should begin early. and continue throughout his lifetime. Best in an active household, the toller requires lots of exercise which includes swimming and running. Preferably, he should live in a home with a fenced backyard with an active owner who can keep up with him, but he can fit into most accommodation provided there is an outlet for his energy. He makes a good watchdog but is too people friendly to be a guard dog.  

What is Tolling?

Tolling means "luring" or "enticing." The hunter sets up several blinds along the lakeshore or even along the river. The dog is sent out to retrieve sticks and other material the hunter throws toward the shore which involves jumping and frisking about on shore.  The Toller goes directly out and fetches the stick. Tollers are lively and animated so their flash and bounce attracts the ducks. After a number of retrieves the ducks are within gunshot range and the Toller is subsequently sent out to retrieve shot ducks.  The tolling (luring) technique was first observed in use by foxes. Hunters wanted a dog that could do the same thing. This led to the development of the Toller.  

An Article about the History of the Toller By H.A.P. Smith in the early 1900's:


What else can they do? They are perfectly capable hunting retrievers, their tolling is an additional ability. Tollers also enjoy success in Obedience, Rally Obedience, Agility, Dock Diving, Conformation, Field Tests, Hunting and Working Tests and are very versatile as they enjoy camping, hiking, skiing, horse back riding, therapy, boating, swimming, etc.

Would they make good watch/gaurd dogs? They make very good watch dogs due to their inherent suspicion of strangers. But they do not make good guard dogs and should not be used as such.

Would they make good pets? Like all retrievers, they make excellent pets, being devoted to family and children and readily trainable. They do require an active family that can ensure the Toller gets the activity as well as the attention it deserves. They are bright and will get into mischief if they are bored. 

Would they like to go boating?

Is there any truth in the Top 10 Reasons Not to Get a Toller List?

There is some truth to this list. Not all people or families are a good fit for a particular toller puppy. There is breed character and there is character within the litter. Breeders have a questionnaire and a screening process to help them with this decision to find the right puppy for the right home at the right time. Breeders also get to know the personality of each puppy while it is with the litter. Often a first time dog owner is not a good fit for a toller puppy.

What are some Books on the Breed?

'The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever' Book by 'Alison Strang  and Gail MacMillan'


Are Tollers Easy to Train?

It is very important that tollers get structured regular training classes. They are smart, smart, smart.  One puppy session and a second obedience session by the time they are two years old is recommended, as they do need the structured training and socialization with other dogs and people. They are usually very treat oriented so can easily learn through positive reinforcement training.

What is a health resource for the breed? Please explore the Toller Health Coalition Website as it will explore the general health of the breed. This is the most up to date research information that is published from a 2002 study with the toller as the target group. While the vast majority of tollers are healthy and live long lives, they aren’t exempt from some of the health issues that affect the canine population in general. 

What are some of the Medical Problems? Tollers are subject to hip dysplasia and eye problems, but no more than most other retriever breeds, and less than Golden Retrievers. All breeding stock should be OFA'd or OVC'ed and CERF'd before breeding. OFA issues a permanent number for a dog over two years of age that passes the panel of experts at OFA for it's hips. OVC will give a clearnace for a pass at 18 months of age. They will also certify other joints; it's a positive sign if the breeder has also cleared elbows or other joints.  You may find alot of the dogs in North America and other Counties have their information stored in the Toller-L data base and you may do your own research when looking into the parents. You may also ask the breeder. An example is in a link here: Tollers can have several eye problems, including PRA. Some eye problems show up late in life thus a dog used for breeding should not only be examined annually, but also after it is no longer bred. PRA may be checked for and will be the same for the life of the dog while a CERF number merely shows the year the dog was last examined and the results registered; it is "good" only for a year and should be redone regularly. Currently, problems with hypothyroidism and immune mediated problems are surfacing. Being a newer issue there are not all the pre-breeding tests that breeders would like for these. Most disorders that the toller may encounter are very treatable, but it is good to be aware of them such as immune system function disorders. Some beleive dwarfism may be surfacing. For the most part, these problems are still extremely rare. Deafness appears to be surfacing in a few lines. This is a late onset (7-8 years) form of deafness that it just beginning to be recognized and it isn't yet clear whether it is inherited or environmental but it is suspected to be environmental.