The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever or “Toller” for short, was only registered by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945, although it’s origination dates back to the 1860’s. No one knows for sure exactly what breeds are in the Tollers’ background, however, most breeders agree that the Flat-Coated Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter, Golden Retriever, Brittany Spaniel and Collies may all have played a part in their history. The idea was to develop a dog that resembled the Red Fox, had strong retrieving and hunting instincts and was small, playful and intelligent.

The most unique feature of the Toller is his ability to toll or lure ducks. Tolling is not something that can be taught but is inbred much like pointing would be. To effectively use a tolling dog, the hunter will be well hidden in a blind, close to the water and downwind from the birds. A stick is then thrown for the Toller to retrieve and at such a point that he is easiliy visible by the birds. When sent for the retrieve he does it in a very quick and animated fashion, enthusiastically waving his bushy tail, thus attracting the ducks’ attention. The Toller is aware of the ducks’ movement but should never overtly acknowledge them. The curious ducks will swim closer and closer and when they are within range the hunter will call back his dog, flush the birds and then shoot. Then the Toller assumes his second role as a retriever and is sent for the dead birds. These eager Retrievers also make excellent upland bird dogs and some are used for hunting rabbits.

The Toller is the smallest of the retrieving breeds, males averaging approximately 45-50 pounds and about 19-20 inches at the shoulder. This breed has a rich, luxuriant double coat of medium length which comes in various shades of red or orange and is usually accompanied by at least one of the accepted white markings. The Toller is a bright, active and playful dog. They thrive on family life and especially enjoy children. With proper obedience training most are well behaved and calm in the house, but really come to life when taken out for retrieving practice. These dogs need lots of exercise but since they are retrieving fools this is easily taken care of. Tollers are very loving and loyal to their families but are not as “gushy” with strangers as many Golden Retrievers might be.

Tollers excel at obedience trials but most prefer the more active sport of agility, flyball, and retrieving. They are easy to train but get bored with repetition so training must be done with a light hand and a fun approach. If you are having fun they will always be willing to join in the game.