Working Wednesday: The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Toller) is the rarest retriever breed out of them all and were only introduced to the British field in 1988. They are foxy looking dogs that are red in colour usually with 4 white socks, a white chest and white tip of their tail. They can often be mistaken for a Golden Retriever, although slightly smaller.


This breed was developed at Little River Harbour in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia - which is where they get the part of their name 'Nova Scotia' from. The breed was first seen at the beginning of the 19th Century but were originally referred to as 'Little River Duck Dog' before being recognised by the Canadian Kennel Club as a pure bred dog in 1945 as the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

The exact origin of the Toller is unclear, however it is though that the ancestry includes the Brittany, Irish Setter, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, and a small type of Collie. All the cross-breeding produced a foxy looking type with all of the desired working abilities.

Working Tollers

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a very unique way of working which most people do not realise they are actually working. They are named for their ability to to lure or "toll" any waterfowl within range of the handler, their vigorous tail usually achieves this. The handler will stay hidden and sends the dog to play, run and jump along the waters edge which grabs the birds attention, and their curiosity makes them want to follow the dog. Tollers also have a great natural retrieving instinct so they can retrieve any dropped birds back to the handler. They certainly live up to the their name as a retriever in water they are great due to having naturally webbed feet and a thick, waterproof double coat with their large tail acting as a propeller, enabling him to swim powerfully.

Toller Fun Facts:

  • Rather than barking they 'scream' when they get excited

  • They are very independent dogs and like to do things their own way however, are eager to please so can be easily trained in the right hands.

  • His handsome red coat is easily cared for and doesn't need much grooming.

  • Between 17-21 inches, they are the smallest of retriever breeds.

  • They also excel in other fields such as obedience, agility, tracking and showing.

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