Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Bred to Attract and Retrieve Waterfowl on the Hunt, This Obedient Dog Absolutely Loves Children

Developed to toll, lure and retrieve waterfowl, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is recognized today not just for its hunting expertise, but also for its congenial personality and love for children. While some dog breeds are described as “child-friendly,” this is one breed that actually prefers children over adults, especially if the adults are strangers. An intelligent breed with great enthusiasm about the "hunt," the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a wonderful pet for large families and individuals alike.


The word "tolling" in the name of the breed means to "lure game as a decoy." Essentially, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever attracts the curiosity of waterfowl through a playful interaction between owner and dog to lure ducks or other fowl into shooting range. This could entail retrieval of a ball or stick, activity which may suggest the presence of food to the unsuspecting birds. Although there is no definitive documentation of this dog’s origin in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, Canada, many believe it has been in existence since the 17th century when the dogs were used as hunting companions in Europe and eastern North America. Most surmise that this red decoy dog was developed from other breeds like farm Collies, Setters, Spaniels and other types of Retrievers.

For a time, the breed was hardly seen outside of Nova Scotia; however, today it can be found throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. In the 1960s, Tollers were introduced to the U.S., but serious breeders didn’t become interested in the dogs until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Declared the provincial dog of Nova Scotia in 1955, it gained great notoriety nationally when two were awarded Best in Show at various championship events in 1980. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was granted full recognition into the Sporting Group by the AKC on July 1, 2003.


Medium in size, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever will attain a height of about 17 to 20 inches for females, 18 to 21 inches for males. Adult females will typically weigh about 35 to 45 pounds, males 40 to 50 pounds.

With a springy, energetic gait, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is typically colored in various shades of red embellished by white markings. Its compact frame is characterized by slender legs and webbed feet which aid the dog in swimming. A wedge-shaped head includes high, triangular-shaped ears, almond-shaped eyes which are usually black, and a tapering muzzle. The tail is generally carried in a downward manner, except when the dog is alert, excited, and concentrating on the job at hand. During these times, the heavily-feathered tail tends to be constantly in motion. Although the facial expression is often a bit sad, that all changes when involved in its work!


Extremely patient with children, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is affectionate and outgoing, not shy at all, but a bit reserved in new or unfamiliar situations. Full of vitality, smart and perceptive, this is a breed that is agile and obedient, and therefore excels at competition.

Happiest when performing an important function in hunting and retrieving, these dogs thrive on work. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers love water and birding, and have extremely high endurance. Although this dog may be a bit leery of strangers, it is not aggressive but rather somewhat curious. Overall, this is a very friendly breed that gets along well with both children and other pets.

Proper Environment

Unlike many breeds that cannot tolerate extreme heat or excessively cold temperatures, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever can live in any climate, whether hot and humid or downright frigid. This breed makes a good pet whether you live in the desert, deep south, or west coast – or in areas that experience harsh winters.

If you live in an apartment, in a suburban or rural area, or in a city, this dog will be content as long as it gets properly exercised. This breed will relax indoors, as long as it has plenty of time outside for running, playing and mental stimulation. Of course, farm life is ideal for these happy little hunters.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever’s Health

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a breed that enjoys better health than most other dogs. Many of the genetic problems seen in other retriever breeds are not usually present in this one. Eye problems and hip dysplasia are two problems that have been seen in these dogs, but not frequently. PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) affects approximately 7% of Tollers, and is a type of PRA known as progressive rod-cone degeneration.

Decreased appetite, weakness, shivering, an increase in drinking/urination and vomiting may be signs of Addison's disease, which has been shown in a health survey to affect about 1% of Tollers. On average, the life span of this breed is about 12 to 14 years.


Like most dog breeds, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever should be bathed only when necessary and dried thoroughly after bathing. Brushing 2 to 3 times per week is usually sufficient to maintain your dog's healthy-looking coat, other than during spring and fall when it will shed heavily. During these shedding periods, it is advised that you brush your pet daily to remove loose hair.

Trim hair around ears, eyes, and paws regularly, and clean the ears and eyes to avoid infection. Also keep nails trimmed; a good signal that it's time for clipping is when you hear nails clicking on the floor.

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