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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (known as a Toller) is a medium-sized dog that often gets mistaken for a small Golden Retriever. Like the Golden Retriever, Tollers have a medium-length golden to deep red coat and are energetic and eager to please. This breed was developed at the beginning of the 19th century in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, and is thought to be a mix of setters, spaniels, retrievers, and collies. Today, Tollers are an official part of the retriever family, and even though they are the smallest retriever, they have big personalities and are full of vigor.

Breed Overview


18 – 21 inches (male), 17 – 20 (female)


35 – 50 pounds


12 – 14 years


Red, red gold, dark copper, white markings

Suitable for:

Active families with or without children


Energetic, eager to please, playful, affectionate, intelligent

These foxy-looking canines were originally bred to lure waterfowl for hunters, which is called “tolling.” This is also how they got their name. Tollers have no fear of water and can easily retrieve ducks and other waterfowl from lakes or streams. With their slightly webbed feet and water-repellent double coat, they are protected from icy waters. Not all Tollers are used for duck hunting today; however, all Tollers have an intense drive to retrieve. An endless game of fetch is a Toller’s idea of a perfect day! Read on to learn more about this loyal and affectionate dog.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppies

nova scotia duck tolling retriever puppy portrait outdoors in winter
Image By: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Welcoming a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever into your home might be an experience of a lifetime. These puppies are friendly, energetic, and will create strong bonds with their new family. They do require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to avoid boredom. These pups don’t enjoy being alone so if you’re someone that will have to leave your dog at home for more than a couple of hours, this is not the dog for you.

If you’re able to offer your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever the time commitment they need, they will become a loving member of your family. They’re easily trainable and make great pets for active families.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are intelligent, active, and curious dogs. These dogs are the happiest when they have places to roam around or have activities to do. This is why a Toller should live in an environment where they can remain active. This breed is also adaptable to its surroundings. Changes in the scenery, weather, noise level, or daily schedule will not negatively affect them.

Tollers are very intelligent dogs. If they get bored, they might destroy furniture or other things around the house. Tollers are working jobs and thrive when they have something to do. Plus, this breed is very energetic. You should keep toys around the house so the Toller can play with something if they cannot go outside with their owner.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Yes, Tollers are affectionate and loving dogs. They are also great with children of all ages. Like with any dog, children should be supervised when playing with the pet. If children pull on the dog’s tail or ears too hard, they might get a bit snappy. Tollers will thrive being a part of an active family. Families who like hiking, camping, or going to the playground or park will do well with a Toller.
These dogs can also make somewhat decent guard dogs. Tollers are in the middle when it comes to their level of protectiveness and openness to strangers. They also mainly bark when they are alert or suspicious of something.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever sitting on rock
Image By: dezy, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Tollers can get along with other dogs in the household if they have been socialized early. Tollers have a great deal of energy, so they can make a great playmate for other active dogs. However, since they have a strong retrieving and hunting drive, they could become aggressive towards cats. The best way to get your Toller used to other animals is to start socializing young, preferably as puppies. Once your Toller gets socialized, they could become one of the most popular dogs in the neighborhood!


Things to Know When Owning a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Because Tollers have a lot of energy, they will do better with high-quality food. Dry food is fine as long as it is high in animal-based protein. Check the list of ingredients of the dog food to ensure that meat is listed as the first ingredient. Tollers will do best having two meals during the day – one in the morning and the late afternoon or evening.

Exercise 🐕

Tollers are balls of energy! At a minimum, Tollers need an hour of exercise each day. However, if your schedule can accommodate for more exercise and playtime, your Toller will not object! Have a combination of walking or jogging and playing fetch with a stick or a ball. The Toller will love the variety in outdoor activities. If you live near a pond or a lake, your Toller will love to go for a swim.

Training 🎾

Tollers love to make their owners happy, so this makes them highly trainable, even for new dog owners. Their high level of trainability has made them excellent hunting companions over the decades. Since Tollers have a strong desire to please their owners, they are ideal for search and rescue training, therapy dogs, and agility activities.

Grooming ✂️

Tollers have a medium-length topcoat with a thick undercoat. This feature helps keep the Toller protected when they seek out waterfowl in icy waters. However, this means the Toller needs some brushing to help reduce shedding. Brushing your Toller twice a month will help keep the fur off your furniture. Tollers are not heavy droolers, either.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Overall, Tollers are quite hardy and healthy dogs. The issues that they are more prone to are usually caused by improper breeding. If a dog is bred only for how they do in dog shows and competitions, and their overall health is not properly tested, a dog can pass on genetic health issues to their offspring.

Minor Conditions
  • Caninne Hip Dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Serious Conditions
  • Addison’s Disease

Serious Conditions: Addison’s disease is caused by decreased hormone production in the cortex of the adrenal gland. While the signs of Addison’s disease are vague, dogs can experience diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and increased urination. Addison’s disease is not common in Tollers but can cause them discomfort.

Minor Conditions: Tollers can be prone to canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). CHD is when the hip joints are loose. This can result in your dog having difficulty moving. PRA affects the dog’s sight and can eventually lead to blindness.

If you are buying from a breeder, it is important to see if the Toller’s parents have had tests to check for hereditary diseases. A proper and reputable breeder should provide you with specific documents about your puppy.

Male vs Female

There is very little difference between a male and a female Toller. As with many dog breeds, the female Toller is slightly shorter than the male. However, there is no difference in their temperament, intelligence, or trainability level.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

1. Tollers have a unique bark, known as the “Toller scream.”

Tollers are not known for their loud or aggressive barks. Instead, the Toller scream is a high-pitched howl that owners refer to as their singing voice. Even though this vocalization is called a scream, Tollers make this sound when they are excited.

2. They are one of the only two decoy dog breeds.

Decoy dogs draw a predator’s attention away from their owner. This usually happens when a decoy dog comes across a coyote and wants to protect its owner. The Toller is one of the two dog breeds that are used for that purpose.

3. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has the longest name of all the AKC dog breeds.

Out of all 197 American Kennel Club registered dog breeds, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has the longest name with five words and 34 characters. It is easy to understand why they are often just called Tollers!



A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever can make an incredible pet for an individual or a multi-person family. Due to the high level of energy and intelligence displayed in this breed, the family must be able to provide the Toller with daily exercise and playtime. People who are not at home for most of the day or live in an area that prevents the Toller from getting exercise should not get this breed of dog. Tollers will have a happy and healthy life with an owner who can provide them with plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and, of course, affection.

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Featured Image Credit: Sonja-Kalee, Pixabay

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