Breed Profile – Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever


For our latest breed profile, we take a look at a Canadian gundog breed. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an enthusiastic, friendly dog that is increasingly popular in the UK.

History of Breed: Developed in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, in the 19th century, this breed has an interesting part to play in hunting waterfowl. Hunters throw sticks for the dog, which it retrieves in silence but with a great show of waving its tail. This activity attracts birds towards the guns and the dog retrieves the shot game. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever also goes by the names of Toller, Yarmouth Toller, Little River Duck Dog and Little Red Duck Dog. Its playful temperament has increased its popularity as a family pet, but this high energy dog still needs to ‘work’.

nova scotia retriever at agility comp

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years.

Size: Medium dog with a height range of 45-53cm and a weight range of 17-23kg.

Features: The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has an athletic look overall, tending to be slightly longer than it is tall. It is often mistaken for a small Golden Retriever. However it should have a slightly wedge-shaped, fox-like head, rather than the blocky head of the Golden Retriever. Similar in colour of coat also, in addition the Toller will usually have white markings on the tip of the tail, feet, chest and blaze. The coat has a double-layer and is weather resistant with feathering to the throat, behind the ears, back of thighs and forelegs. The tail has a lot of feathering and curves over the back when alert, to allow for ‘tolling’. Like most dogs bred to spend time in water, The Toller has webbed feet.

Energy Levels/Exercise Required: As with all gundog breeds, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a high energy, intelligent dog. It requires plenty of outdoor exercise, particularly activities that exercise its natural instincts to retrieve and provide mental stimulation. A working dog needs a dog food that provides all of its energy and nutritional requirements for a busy day. Dr John Titanium has a balance of vitamins and minerals to support a healthy dog. It also contains New Zealand green-lipped mussel extract to maintain joint health. All of which are essential for a highly active working breed such as this.

Potential Health Issues: Although the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is generally a hardy breed, it can suffer from some genetic health problems thanks to a relatively small gene pool. Hip dysplasia and eye problems are most common. Epilepsy, thyroid problems, Addison’s disease and aseptic meningitis can also affect Tollers.

Temperament: An intelligent breed, the Toller responds well to obedience training. It is a sociable dog as long as it is well socialised early in puppyhood. Although the breed tends to be wary of strangers, they are friendly and deeply trusting of people they know. They are playful without being noisy.

Family Dog/Child Friendly: The combination of high energy and good temperament make the Toller a great family dog, particularly for families that enjoy plenty of outdoor exercise. Their wariness of strangers makes them loyal companions.

Likes: Games that exercise natural instinct, outdoor exercise.

Dislikes: Lack of attention and exercise. Strangers.