Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever picture


The toller, as he is usually known, is a water dog, developed on the shores of Southern Nova Scotia. The breed has old unknown origins, probably from a mix of European ship dogs and local dogs. It was first registered as a true breed in Canada in 1945, where it is also known as the Little River duck dog.

It specialises by tolling (an old word for luring or enticing) ducks to the shoreline, resembling a fox playing on the shore to attract the ducks to come and mob it. The ducks are then shot and the toller retrieves them from the water.

The breed arrived in Britain in 1988, and is growing in popularity.


The smallest retriever with the longest name! The toller is medium sized and boned, active, agile and clever. Water loving, with a quick drying coat, they excel at agility, obedience, fly ball, dock jumping, etc as well as gun-dog work. They have been employed for search & rescue, hearing dogs for the deaf, wildfowl decoy and many other uses, as well as being excellent general family companions. Some are noisy when excited…the toller scream! Usually very biddable, tollers can sometimes outwit their owners, and will often work things out for themselves. This is not a dog to leave alone for long periods! It needs stimulation. Often sensitive, with a sense of humour, tollers need early basic training and enjoy mind stretching games as they are often bored by repetition. They usually blend well with older children and other animals, if properly introduced.

They come in various shades of red with lighter featherings. Some are whole coloured, while some have white on the blaze, chest, feet or tip of the tail. They have flesh coloured or black noses.


Tollers are generally a healthy breed. They can be suffer with inherited diseases such as PRA/CEA and hip dysplasia.

It is essential that health screening tests for these conditions have been carried out on breeding stock with satisfactory results before mating.

A few tollers are also known to suffer from auto-immune diseases including MUA (Meningitis of Unknown Aetiology), which nearly always occurs in youngsters under 2 years old. The cause of this is still unknown. Recent ongoing research (Nov 09) is leaning towards an inherited predisposition, perhaps triggered by environmental factors. No test is available for this condition yet.

Internationally, there have been isolated cases of elbow dysplasia, thyroid and heart problems; presently not common in UK tollers. Please refer to either of the UK breed clubs websites for more information.