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by: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club
original by Peggy O'Connell & Laurie Geyer, edited by Amanda Crane.


Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are not small Golden Retrievers. Tollers are intelligent, outgoing, and affectionate, but they are not for everyone. More than many breeds, Tollers like to stay busy and they are a mental and physical commitment. If you think they may be right for you, read on to discover why a “Little Red Retrieving Machine” may or may not be for you.

10 reasons a Toller may be the right breed for you

10. That beautiful red coat

Karat red coat duck tolling retriever

The perfect dog for red-head enthusiasts! Their natural drip-dry coat, is low maintenance. Rinse them off and they are ready to go.


9. They are easily motivated.

Motivated duck tolling retriever

Food, toys, anything that moves can be used to engage the Toller. Many are eager to please. All are goal oriented.


8. They can be a decent watchdog.

Debbie Gaddie duck tolling retriever

Keen watch-dog abilities – their bark may be more than enough to scare away a burglar. Then thankfully, they are not barky at other times.


7. They're great communicators.

6 Week Lou duck tolling retriever

Tollers will let you know what they want. There is no ambiguity. They have the ability to communicate in many ways with us humans – with their eyes, vocalizations, and body language.


6. They are natural hunters.

Fransam duck tolling retriever

Tollers were bred to hunt and most are born with a good nose and the instinct to find and retrieve birds. Some Tollers also have the instinct to toll naturally – dance on the shore like a fox and lure in waterfowl. Once trained, the Toller can be a great asset to your hunting party.


5. They're great sporting companions.

Nosework duck tolling retriever

Tollers love to work with people that love to work with them. They will be your best friend in the field, agility ring, obedience ring, etc.


4. Their joie de vivre.

Therapy Dog Baxter duck tolling retriever

World's best mood-lifter! Tollers are exploding with life and enthusiasm. If you have a Toller to toss a toy at you, and then do a flying pounce and come bouncing back for another toss, you just have to share their joy.


3. They're generally healthy.

Healthy duck tolling retriever

Tollers are generally healthy dogs. There are tests that can be done for their known health problems. Because the community is so small, most Toller breeders work hard with each other to breed healthy puppies.


2. They're versatile.

Ripper Jack in the Box

The Toller is happy to be wherever their people are – whether that is in the conformation ring, hunting, watching a movie, etc. They are able to go from couch potato to bounding retriever in mere seconds. They like new experiences and are easy to take traveling.


1. Highly intelligent

Krista Wendland duck tolling retriever

Tollers learn wicked fast and they remember things that are important to them. They will never cease to amaze you. When your Toller looks into your eyes, you can see their intelligence and you know they love you (or maybe they are hungry, or want outside, or you’ve hidden the ball again….) There is never a dull moment with a Toller.


10 reasons a Toller might not be right for you

10. The shedding and the mess.

Krista Wendland duck tolling retriever

Tollers do blow their coat seasonally, and they are dogs who like to swim and roll and wallow. They are not a dog for the fastidious or the allergic.


9. Their prey drive

Roseanne duck tolling retriever

If you don’t want your cat chased, this may not be the dog for you. The chasing will be all in fun, but it is likely to happen.

8. They're not guard dogs.

Debbie Gaddie duck tolling retriever

Tollers are generally wary of strangers and will not stand up to them. They will not guard you or your house.


7. The “scream.”

Debbie Gaddie duck tolling retriever

Tollers have a penetrating scream that they produce to indicate excitement and eagerness. To the uninitiated, this can sound like the dog is being fed into a wood chipper; it is high pitched, frantic, and loud.


6. Their drive.

Lauren Crawford

Tollers are a hunting breed, and are bred to be working dogs. They have a fanatical drive to work, and will retrieve until your arm is ready to fall off.


5. They're not everyone’s best friend. 

Notto duck tolling retriever

Most Tollers will greet strangers, but generally reserve true enthusiasm for their family and special people.


4. Did you say no?

Keryl Ashback duck tolling retriever

Tollers are generally too smart to engage in out and out dominance battles. Instead they sense power vacuums, and exploit them. If you are unable to be firm (kind, but firm) about the rules of your household, and to enforce them consistently, you will find that the ruler of your house has four legs and is red.


3. They're emotionally sensitive.

duck tolling retriever

Tollers are physically and emotionally sensitive. You have to be careful with how much pressure you apply in training.


2. They're very smart.

Nosework duck tolling retriever

This is a dog with brains to spare. They need to be challenged and engaged by their work, or they get bored and stop paying attention. Keeping all that intelligence focused and busy is a big challenge. All Toller owners must be willing to do basic obedience training. Most are involved in advanced training activities: hunting/field, agility, flyball, tracking, etc.


1. They are high maintenance.

Notto Havea duck tolling retriever

The Toller is an energetic dog, and needs plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. A bored Toller with excess energy will find another outlet for their drive, and the results are often destructive. If you don’t have time to give this breed at least an hour of exercise a day, every day, with plenty of swimming and fetching, look elsewhere.


If after reading all of this information you still feel the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is for you and your family – then go onto the next step: finding the right breeder and puppy for you, and make sure to ask questions!

With special help from Jennifer Hollis, public education coordinator for the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club


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