5 Things to Know About Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Dogs don’t get much more versatile than this. Tollers are energetic and perfect for those with active lifestyles.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever breed profile

AKC Group AKC Group
Weight Weight
37–51 lbs.
Height Height
17–21 in.
Life Expectancy Life Span
14 years

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Sporting
  • Height: 17–21 inches
  • Weight: 37–51 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 14 years

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, also known as the Toller, looks like a small Golden Retriever.

This medium-sized, muscular dog is the smallest of the retriever breeds and is known for luring ducks in cold weather and water. The deep chest insulates the dogs from the cold.

The ears are triangular and are set high on the head. The double coat is dense and water-repellant and comes in shades of red and orange. White markings are possible on the face, feet and chest as well as on other areas.

2. Where They Came From

Decoy dogs in 17th-century England served as hunting companions to lure ducks into traps or closer to the shore.

The dogs would not bark but use movement to capture the interest of the ducks. Luring or decoying game was described as “tolling,” and this word became associated with these hunting dogs.

The red decoy dog from Europe is thought to be the ancestor of the Toller, although this is not known for certain. Dogs were brought from Europe to Nova Scotia, Canada and crossed with other breeds: retrievers, collies, and possibly setters and spaniels.

The resulting breed was originally known as the Little River Duck Dog or the Yarmouth Toller. The breed was registered by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945 and became known as the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

The American Kennel Club added the breed in 2003 and assigned it to the Sporting Group.

Tollers are companion pets, retrievers, water dogs and hunting companions and may also participate in conformation, agility events, dock diving, field trials, flyball, lure coursing, obedience, rally, tracking, therapy, and search and rescue.

Alert, outgoing and affectionate. By: Bonzami Emmanuelle (Top: annaav)
Alert, outgoing and affectionate. By: Bonzami Emmanuelle (Top: annaav)

3. How Friendly Are They?

As evidenced by the breed’s purpose and talents above, Tollers are energetic and extremely versatile. They are playful, alert, outgoing, affectionate with family and good with children.

Their high intelligence makes them easy to train, and they usually bark only to signal danger.

They may be reserved with strangers but enjoy the company of other animals. They have a strong desire to retrieve and toll.

This video shows a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever performing tricks and following obedience commands:

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4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs


HIGH: This high-energy breed needs daily exercise in the form of a long walk or jog. Adding in retrieval games will help a Toller work off excess energy and fulfill their instinctive needs.

They do well in cold climates, but take caution in warmer climates because of the breed’s double coat. Tollers do fine in apartments as long as their exercise needs are met.

Grooming Needs


LOW: You’ll need to brush the double coat of your Toller often, perhaps a few times per week. Shedding is average. You can dry shampoo and bathe your pet as necessary.

You’ll want to clean the ears regularly and check for dirt and debris. This is especially important for Tollers involved in hunting or water retrieval. Also clean the teeth daily, and keep nails trimmed.

Health Problems


MEDIUM: The Toller is a healthy breed. A few common conditions include:

5. Where to Adopt One?

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are more commonly found in Canada, but they are available in other countries.

It is also quite possible for any purebred dog to end up in a shelter or rescue, so start with our adoptable dog search to see if a great Toller is available near you.

If you decide to contact breeders, get to know them, be aware of the signs of puppy mills and ensure the dog’s transportation is safe.

Additional Resources