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  • Temperament: Affectionate, Intelligent, Outgoing
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 87 of 194
  • Height: 18-21 inches (male), 17-20 inches (female)
  • Weight: 35-50 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
  • Group: Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

dog stool
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever walking forward through shallow water and reeds
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever head and neck in three-quarter view amongst tall grasses
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever head and shoulders facing left
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever coat detail
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Find a Puppy: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

This medium sized, powerful, compact, balanced dog is the smallest of the retrievers. The Toller’s attitude and bearing suggest strength with a high degree of agility. He is alert, determined, and quick, with a keen desire to work and please.

Many Tollers have a slightly sad or worried expression when they are not working. The moment the slightest indication is given that retrieving is required, they set themselves for springy action with an expression of intense concentration and excitement. The heavily feathered tail is held high in constant motion while working.

HEAD

The head is clean-cut and slightly wedge shaped. The broad skull is only slightly rounded, giving the appearance of being flat when the ears are alert. The occiput is not prominent. The cheeks are flat. The length of the skull from the occiput to the stop is slightly longer than the length of the muzzle from the stop to the tip of the nose. The head must be in proportion to body size.

BODY

Neck, Backline, Body: Neck – The neck is strongly muscled and well set on, of medium length, with no indication of throatiness. Backline – Strong, level. Faults – roached or sway back. Body – The body is deep in chest, with good spring of rib, the brisket reaching to the elbow. Ribs are neither barrel shaped nor flat. The back is strong, short and straight. The loins are strong and muscular, with moderate tuck-up. Fault – slack loins.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulder should be muscular, strong, and well angulated, with the blade roughly equal in length to the upper arm. The elbows should work close to the body, cleanly and evenly. When seen from the front, the foreleg’s appearance is that of parallel columns. The pasterns are strong and slightly sloping. Fault – down in the pasterns. Feet – The feet are strongly webbed, slightly oval medium in size, and tight, with well-arched toes and thick pads. Front dewclaws may be removed. Faults – splayed or paper feet.

COAT

The Toller was bred to retrieve from icy waters and must have a water-repellent double coat of medium length and softness, and a soft dense undercoat. The coat may have a slight wave on the back, but is otherwise straight. Some winter coats may form a long loose curl at the throat. Featherings are soft and moderate in length. The hair on the muzzle is short and fine. Seasonal shedding is to be expected. Overcoated specimens are not appropriate for a working dog and should be faulted. While neatening of the feet, ears, and hocks for the show ring is permitted, the Toller should always appear natural, never barbered. Whiskers must be present.Faults – coat longer than medium length. Open coat.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are muscular, broad, and square in appearance. The croup is very slightly sloped. The rear and front angulation should be in balance. The upper and lower thighs are very muscular and equal in length. The stifles are well bent. The hocks are well let down, turning neither in nor out. Rear dewclaws must not be present. Disqualification – rear dewclaws.

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About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The little gundog with the big name is the smallest AKC retriever, standing ideally 18 or 19 inches at the shoulder. The Toller’s trademark is a coat of stunning crimson, ranging from golden red to a dark coppery color, with white markings. Strong and agile, Tollers are medium dogs: medium in size, bone, and coat length. The almond-shaped eyes project an alert expression.

Tollers are upbeat athletes who require outlets for their boundless vigor: hunting, hiking, camping, and, of course, swimming (for which they are ideally suited, down to their webbed feet). Tollers are smart, handsome, affectionate companions, but these red tornadoes can be recommended only to those with enough time and energy to keep them usefully occupied.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Find a Puppy: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Toller should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

Tollers require weekly brushing to keep their coat looking its best. During shedding season, daily brushing is often in order. Pay special attention to the coat around and under the ears, as in these areas it is finer and more likely to knot. Because Tollers should be presented as naturally as possible, minimal additional grooming is preferred, and this is generally limited to neatening the areas around the ears and feet. Special care should be taken to remove excess hair from between the pads of the feet, as this will help your Toller maintain traction on indoor surfaces. Attention should also be paid to trimming nails, preferably weekly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

EXERCISE

Most Tollers have a medium to high energy level and are not generally content unless they are able to engage in some form of physical exercise on a daily basis. A brisk, 30-minute walk and/or a couple of ball-chasing sessions per day will suffice for many Tollers, though some will need more. Because Tollers love to engage and do things with their owners, many owners participate in canine sports such as agility, flyball, or fieldwork to channel the breed’s excess energy. Engaging in these sports has the added benefit of strengthening the bond between owner and Toller.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Needs Lots of Activity

TRAINING

Temperament-wise, Tollers are often a curious mixture of stubborn and soft. At times they seem to have the brain of a Chessie and the heart of a spaniel. These characteristics can make them challenging to train, as you don’t always know whether they are “putting one on over you.” Most Tollers respond well to reward-based training. They generally want to know what’s in it for them and enjoy “learn to earn” opportunities. They like training to be fun, so short, productive sessions are best. However, it is still important to have consequences for undesirable responses. As one Toller owner put it, “You don’t want them to think they are living on a cruise ship.”

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Easy Training

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Friendly

HEALTH

Tollers are a relatively healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 12–14 years. Health concerns in the breed include Addison’s disease, which often doesn’t surface until the dog is middle-aged, the dog may have already produced offspring by the time a diagnosis is made. Efforts to develop a gene-marker test  have been unsuccessful so far. Tollers also are somewhat more prone than other breeds to develop autoimmune-related issues.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Juvenile Addison’s Disease (JADD) DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Nova Scotia Tolling Duck Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

History

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the “Decoy Dog,” is a small, energetic retriever bred by 19th-century sportsmen in the Little River District of Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth County (the “Yarmouth Toller” and “Little River Duck Dog” were once alternate breed names).

Tollers were created to employ an ingenious hunting method. They imitate the curious activity of foxes, whose color and quick movements exert a strange fascination over waterfowl. The sight of a Toller playing fetch along the shoreline arouses the curiosity of ducks offshore. The dog’s feathery tail and red coat all scream “I’m a fox!” to the gullible ducks. The birds are enticed into gunshot range, where the duck’s goose is cooked. (The breed name comes from a Middle English word, “tollen,” meaning “to lure” or “summon”—as in John Donne’s famous poem that begins, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls …”) The Toller is then sent out to retrieve the downed game and gently return it to his human partner’s hand. The only other extant breed in the world that specializes in this foxy technique is the Dutch gundog known as the Kooikerhondje, aka Dutch Decoy Spaniel.

Today, Tollers still hunt in this style, if that is what is asked of this eager and agreeable retriever. But the modern dog is a multifaceted worker who will dive into just about anything the day might bring. “Tollers wholly involve themselves in everything,” one breed expert writes. “Whether stealing from the counter, chasing a ball, breaking ice to get a bird, or curling up on the couch, everything is done 100 percent.”

When the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever gained AKC approval in 2003, it became the breed with the longest name in the AKC Stud Book. At 35 characters/spaces, it surpassed the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/petit-basset-griffon-vendeen/.

Did You Know?

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is AKC's 150th breed.
For more than a century in the Little River district of Yarmouth County in Southwestern Nova Scotia, hunters have used tolling dogs like the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is fashioned after the MicMac Indian Dog.
Tolling refers to the old hunting style of drawing ducks and other waterfowl towards the hunter in the style of a fox (alternating between baiting and hiding).
The exact breeding origins of the Toller are not known. Possibly spaniel and setter-type dogs, retriever-type dogs, and farm collie may have gone into the mix. It is likely that the breed can trace origins to the now extinct St. John's Water Dog as well as the Dutch Tolling Kooikerhondje.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) since the late 1950s; a U.S. breed specialty club has existed for years.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

This medium sized, powerful, compact, balanced dog is the smallest of the retrievers. The Toller’s attitude and bearing suggest strength with a high degree of agility. He is alert, determined, and quick, with a keen desire to work and please.

Many Tollers have a slightly sad or worried expression when they are not working. The moment the slightest indication is given that retrieving is required, they set themselves for springy action with an expression of intense concentration and excitement. The heavily feathered tail is held high in constant motion while working.

HEAD

The head is clean-cut and slightly wedge shaped. The broad skull is only slightly rounded, giving the appearance of being flat when the ears are alert. The occiput is not prominent. The cheeks are flat. The length of the skull from the occiput to the stop is slightly longer than the length of the muzzle from the stop to the tip of the nose. The head must be in proportion to body size.

BODY

Neck, Backline, Body: Neck – The neck is strongly muscled and well set on, of medium length, with no indication of throatiness. Backline – Strong, level. Faults – roached or sway back. Body – The body is deep in chest, with good spring of rib, the brisket reaching to the elbow. Ribs are neither barrel shaped nor flat. The back is strong, short and straight. The loins are strong and muscular, with moderate tuck-up. Fault – slack loins.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulder should be muscular, strong, and well angulated, with the blade roughly equal in length to the upper arm. The elbows should work close to the body, cleanly and evenly. When seen from the front, the foreleg’s appearance is that of parallel columns. The pasterns are strong and slightly sloping. Fault – down in the pasterns. Feet – The feet are strongly webbed, slightly oval medium in size, and tight, with well-arched toes and thick pads. Front dewclaws may be removed. Faults – splayed or paper feet.

COAT

The Toller was bred to retrieve from icy waters and must have a water-repellent double coat of medium length and softness, and a soft dense undercoat. The coat may have a slight wave on the back, but is otherwise straight. Some winter coats may form a long loose curl at the throat. Featherings are soft and moderate in length. The hair on the muzzle is short and fine. Seasonal shedding is to be expected. Overcoated specimens are not appropriate for a working dog and should be faulted. While neatening of the feet, ears, and hocks for the show ring is permitted, the Toller should always appear natural, never barbered. Whiskers must be present.Faults – coat longer than medium length. Open coat.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are muscular, broad, and square in appearance. The croup is very slightly sloped. The rear and front angulation should be in balance. The upper and lower thighs are very muscular and equal in length. The stifles are well bent. The hocks are well let down, turning neither in nor out. Rear dewclaws must not be present. Disqualification – rear dewclaws.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
RED Check Mark For Standard Color 140
RED GOLD Check Mark For Standard Color 152
BUFF 068

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
WHITE MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 014