The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a breed affectionately known as "Tollers" by their owners. They have the distinction of being the breed with the longest name recognized by the American Kennel Club. Though they come in a small package compared to other retrievers, they have a big personality and heart and an indefatigable energy supply.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Origins
As you can guess from the name, this breed originated in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Known as the "decoy dog" the breed was created to mimic the look and activity of wild foxes which can attract ducks. Once the ducks are interested in the foxes and come out into the open, they become easy prey for hunters waiting with guns ready. Thus breeders wanted to create a hunting dog with the reddish color, feathered coat and approximate size of a fox to "toll", or lure, water fowl. Once the ducks were shot, being a retriever, these dogs would then also get the ducks out of the water for their human companions.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Characteristics
The Toller is the smallest member of the retriever family, standing at about 17 to 21 inches high and weighing about 35 to 50 pounds. The Toller has an athletic yet compact frame with a broad skull, wedge-shaped head, deep chest and muscular fore and hindquarters. These dogs are built for agility and endurance out in the field.
The distinctive coat of the Toller comes in various shades of red and usually some white markings on the paws, chest, face or end of the tail. Since Tollers were bred to work in icy cold water, their dense double coat repels water. As far as grooming, they do not require a lot of work but will need regular grooming sessions to keep mats out of their top coat and remove hair from the undercoat. They are a moderately shedding breed and regular brushings can help keep their shedding from getting out of control during the spring and fall. Keeping their ears clean is also important as their floppy ears and tendency to enjoy swimming can make their ear canals susceptible to ear infections.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Temperament
The Toller has many similar traits to other retrievers. They are highly intelligent, adore people and are very energetic. Some Tollers can be initially shy with strangers though they tend to warm up quickly. They make excellent family dogs and may be a better fit for younger children than other retrievers because of their smaller and more manageable size. They do well with other dogs and can live with cats although they do have a prey drive and a tendency to chase cats and small animals.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever "Scream"
One interesting quirk about these breeds is their high-pitched "scream." It's actually a bark that they make when they are aroused. Lovers of the breed find the sound endearing but it's definitely a sound you should encounter first before deciding you want a Toller as it can be very loud and very shrill. On the plus side, while Tollers definitely are not watch dogs, they will bark to alert you to activity on your property and the sound of their scream will deter unwelcome visitors for sure!
Tolling Retriever Exercise Needs
Tollers are not for the fainthearted. You will need to dedicate at least an hour a day to giving them dedicated exercise, such as two 30-minute or more brisk walks or jogs or one walk and an intense play and training session. In addition providing them with lots of mental stimulation will keep them from getting bored and destructive. They adore swimming and are great dogs to take to nearby lakes, ponds or beaches and they'll gladly swim in your pool if you have one. These dogs were bred to hunt for long hours in cold climates so they will not do well in a home where they are not given enough to do on a daily basis.
Training a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a highly intelligent dog that can be successful in any activity you choose. They are easy to train and do best with positive reinforcement training such as clicker training. Tollers can be found competing in dog agility, scent work, competitive obedience and much more. They also are known to make great candidates for therapy dog work. They also are used as search and rescue dogs, such as with the Alyeska Patrol K9 Program in Alaska.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Health Concerns
Health wise, the Toller is a hardy dog that has some medical conditions it's known for. The average lifespan of the breed is about 12 to 14 years. If you own a Toller, you should be aware of the potential for these medical issues:
- Cleft palate is a congenital disorder where the palate in a dog's mouth does not fuse correctly, leaving a hole in the palate area.
- Collie eye anomaly is a condition that is usually found in herding dogs. It is a congenital mutation of the eye that can lead to detachment of the retina.
- Degenerative myelopathy is a disease of the spinal cord that can make walking difficult and can eventually result in paralysis.
- Distichiasis is a problem with the growth and direction of a dog's eyelashes that can create mild to severe eye irritation.
- Hypoadrencorticism, or Addison's disease, is a chronic condition affecting the adrenal glands.
- Progressive retinal atrophy is an eye condition that potentially cause blindness.
Where Can You Get a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club maintains a list of responsible and vetted breeders. You will need to fill out a simple contact form on the club's website to have a list of their breeders sent to you. You can also look for breeders through the AKC Marketplace. The average price for a purebred Toller puppy is about $1,800 though you can spend up to $2,500 or more depending on the puppy's bloodlines.
Rescuing a Toller
If you prefer to find a Toller in rescue, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club has a rescue program with information on dogs needing homes. You can also contact Toller Rescue Inc., which is based in Delaware but runs a national network of volunteers caring for Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers available for adoption. You may also find Tollers up for adoption in all-breed rescues and shelters through Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet.
Is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever the Right Dog for You?
There's a lot to love about this friendly, enthusiastic and charming companion. They're lots of fun to train, enjoy working and playing and can be lovable with their families. Tollers are a great choice for an active owner who enjoys being outdoors and who is willing to put in the time to train them and even get involved in dog activities like sports and therapy work. Just make sure you're up to the task of providing for their mental and physical needs, and you don't mind a bit of "Toller Screaming" when your pup gets excited.