Energetic and Intelligent: The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, often referred to as the Toller, is a medium-sized gundog breed known for its intelligence, eagerness to please, and boundless energy. Originating in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, Canada, the Toller was bred primarily for hunting waterfowl, particularly ducks. Its name derives from its remarkable ability to lure unsuspecting waterfowl within gunshot range by performing a captivating dance-like routine along the shoreline.

Defining Characteristics

Tollers are distinguished by their athletic build, medium size, and striking reddish-orange coat. Their compact yet muscular bodies are well-proportioned for agility and endurance, making them adept at navigating various terrains and performing strenuous tasks. Their double coat, consisting of a dense undercoat and a coarse outer coat, provides excellent insulation against harsh weather conditions and protects them from cold water during retrievals.

Size and Physical Appearance

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized dog, with males standing at 18-21 inches tall and weighing between 45-51 pounds, while females stand at 17-20 inches tall and weigh between 35-42 pounds. They have a well-balanced and muscular body, with a deep chest and strong legs that allow them to move swiftly and gracefully. Their tails are long and feathered, giving them a regal appearance.

One of the most distinctive features of Tollers is their beautiful coat. It comes in various shades of red, ranging from golden to dark copper, with white markings on the chest, feet, and tip of the tail. Their coat is water-repellent and requires minimal grooming, with occasional brushing to remove dead hair and maintain its natural oils.

Intelligence and Trainability

Tollers are not only physically agile but also highly intelligent. They were bred to be problem-solvers and independent thinkers, making them excellent hunting companions. This intelligence also makes them quick learners and highly trainable dogs. Tollers excel in various dog sports such as agility, obedience, and tracking, and they thrive on mental stimulation and challenges.

Their eagerness to please their owners and their ability to learn quickly make them suitable for first-time dog owners. However, it’s essential to establish yourself as the pack leader and use positive reinforcement techniques to train your Toller effectively. Harsh training methods can lead to a stubborn and uncooperative dog.

Temperament and Personality

Beyond their physical attributes, Tollers are renowned for their endearing personalities. They are affectionate, loyal, and eager to please their owners, making them highly trainable companions. Tollers form strong bonds with their families and are known to be excellent with children, making them an ideal family pet.

Affectionate and Loyal

Tollers are incredibly affectionate and thrive on human companionship. They love being part of the family and will often follow their owners around the house, seeking attention and affection. They are also fiercely loyal and protective of their loved ones, making them excellent watchdogs.

Energetic and Playful

As a gundog breed, Tollers have boundless energy and require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. They excel at activities that allow them to use their natural instincts, such as retrieving, swimming, and playing fetch. Tollers are also known for their playful nature and will often engage in silly antics to entertain their owners.

Socialization and Training

Early socialization is crucial for Tollers to ensure they grow up to be well-adjusted and friendly dogs. They should be exposed to various people, animals, and environments from a young age to prevent any potential behavioral issues. Training is also essential for Tollers, as they can become destructive if left alone for extended periods. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, work best with this breed.

Health and Care

Tollers are generally healthy dogs with a life expectancy of 12-14 years. However, like all breeds, they are prone to certain health conditions that owners should be aware of. Responsible breeders will conduct health screenings on their breeding dogs to reduce the risk of passing on genetic diseases to their offspring.

Common Health Issues

The most common health issues seen in Tollers include hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and autoimmune thyroiditis. Hip and elbow dysplasia is a condition where the joints do not develop correctly, leading to pain and mobility issues. PRA is a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness, while autoimmune thyroiditis is a disorder of the immune system that affects the thyroid gland.

Grooming and Exercise

Tollers have a low-maintenance coat that only requires occasional brushing to keep it clean and healthy. They shed moderately throughout the year, with heavier shedding occurring during seasonal changes. Regular nail trimming, teeth brushing, and ear cleaning are also essential parts of their grooming routine.

As an energetic breed, Tollers require at least an hour of exercise every day to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. This can include walks, runs, swimming, or playing fetch. If they don’t receive enough exercise, they can become bored and destructive.

Nutrition and Feeding

A high-quality diet is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of your Toller. They require a balanced diet that provides them with the necessary nutrients to support their active lifestyle. It’s essential to monitor their food intake and adjust it accordingly, as Tollers can be prone to weight gain if overfed.

Is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Right for You?

Tollers are energetic, intelligent, and affectionate dogs that make excellent companions for active individuals or families. However, they may not be suitable for everyone. Before bringing a Toller into your home, consider the following factors:

Space and Exercise Requirements

As an energetic breed, Tollers require plenty of space to run and play. They are not well-suited for apartment living and do best in homes with a yard where they can expend their energy. If you live in a small space, be prepared to provide your Toller with ample exercise opportunities outside of your home.

Time and Commitment

Tollers thrive on human companionship and do not do well when left alone for extended periods. They require a significant amount of time and commitment from their owners to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. If you have a busy lifestyle that doesn’t allow for this, a Toller may not be the right breed for you.

Training and Socialization

Tollers are highly intelligent and require consistent training and socialization to prevent behavioral issues. If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort to train and socialize your Toller, they may become destructive and difficult to manage.



The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a unique and versatile breed that excels at hunting, retrieving, and being a loving family pet. Their intelligence, athleticism, and affectionate nature make them a popular choice among dog owners. However, they require a significant amount of time, attention, and exercise to thrive. If you’re up for the challenge, a Toller will reward you with endless love and companionship.

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