All About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

All About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

All About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever or the ‘Toller’ is one of the smallest breeds among all six retriever breeds. As indicated by the name, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been initially bred in the Yarmouth County of Nova Scotia, Canada. The name Toller comes from the dog’s ability to lure ducks and geese, which enables the hunters to shoot these birds at closer proximity. This luring ability was the specific purpose of the breeders in creating this wonderful breed. 

All About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed

Tollers are known for their ‘scream’ which is a shrill bark that they emit when excited. Tollers are eager to please, high energy, athletic, muscular, and compact dogs. The Toller is a good family dog and excellent hunting partner. The small size, intelligence, sense of smell, and persistence makes Tollers excellent search and rescue dogs. They excel in various sporting activities as well as working dogs in health, rescue and safety activities.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Standard

General Appearance

Many may think that the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever resembles the Golden Retriever or is the same as a Golden Retriever only smaller, but a closer look will help identify the differences. Let’s look at some of the key characteristics of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever can be described as a medium-sized, balanced, muscled, and powerful dog which can be medium to heavy in its bone density. They have a unique sad expression when they are relaxing at home. This changes due to excitement once they start working or playing into a focused and energetic expression.

All About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Standard

The head of a Toller is carried almost level with the back, and it has a heavy feathered tail, which is in constant motion when the Toller is running.

The Duck Toller is highly intelligent, pleasant natured, and is known for its endurance. There is also a tendency to be tenacious, along with being lovable as well as playful. The Toller is not known to be very accepting of strangers, but the Toller always shows love towards its family. The Duck Toller  is neither overly aggressive nor shy. Tollers are eager to play, run, swim, and be involved in fun activities.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Standard Head


The head is slightly wedge-shaped but clean cut with a broad skull, which is somewhat rounded. The muzzle tapers in a neat line from the top till the nose. The lower jaw is strong but that does not show prominently.


The eyes are well apart, medium-sized, and almost almond-shaped with Amber to brown color. The eyes of the Toller have a pleasant, friendly expression, although sometimes there seems to be a sad look.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Standard Eyes


The ears are triangular and medium-sized, but they are carried in a dropped fashion. They are set well back on the skull and high. You can find short hair on the tips of the ear, and overall the ears are well feathered behind the fold.


The nose is tapering from the bridge to the tip. The nostrils are not closed but fairly well open. The nose color usually is pink, black or similar to that of the coat.


The mouth has lips that form a gentle curve but has no heaviness in its flews. The jaws are sturdy and designed to carry a reasonably sized bird without crushing it.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Standard Ears


As with other retrievers, the neck of a Duck Toller is strongly muscled and well set with a slight arch. It is of medium length.


Tollers have well-sprung ribs and a deep chest. The back is straight but short with muscular loins and a level topline.


For the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the shoulders are muscular with the shoulder blades, which are well laid back, thereby giving the withers a seemingly sloping effect into the short back. The front legs seem as parallel columns and very straight boned. They have strong webbed feet that are tight and rounded.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Standard


The Toller’s hindquarters look muscular and broad and almost squarish in appearance. They have very muscular thighs and stifles.


The tail of a Duck Toller is heavily feathered and has a natural but very slight slope of the croup. It is broader at the base, and the last vertebra reaches at least to the hock. Usually, the tail is carried below the back unless the dog is alert, at which time the Toller carries the tail high, although it does not touch the back.


When you look at the Toller move, you get the feeling of power and notice a certain bounce in the gait.

What is the Height of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever males have a height ranging from 18-21 inches and the females have a height of 17-20 inches.

What is the Weight of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

The males usually weigh between 44 to 51 pounds and females can weigh in the range of 37 to 44 pounds.

What is the Life Span of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

The usual lifespan of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is between 10 to 14 years.

What is the Life Span of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever

What are the Colors and Markings of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

Usually, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a coat of reddish to coppery colors with minimal white markings. The colors can range anywhere between a standing crimson to possibly a dark and copper hue.

The Toller’s red-orange color coat gives it a fox-like appearance, and the coat is of medium length and water-resistant. The coat can have white markings, and the tail tends to be full and bushy. The Toller has a double coat, which includes an undercoat as well as an outer coat. The undercoat insulates the Toller against heat, cold, and water while the outer coat protects the dog as it runs through bushes, trees, and grasses.

What are the Colors and Markings of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Character


Tollers are adaptable, loving, and loyal. They are usually calm when they are not working or playing. Tollers are very alert, although they are not great as guard dogs. Still, they will be vigilant and loyal to their family and master. Smart and highly intelligent, this makes them ideal for all types of service in work such as search and rescue rehabilitation. Tollers are very adaptable and can fit into most kinds of environments. Their energy and intelligence can lead to an enjoyable and active time for the owner. They are excellent travel dogs, and they are comfortable in most settings as long as the owner is with them.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Character

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Friendly?

While the Tollers are friendly dogs and pleasant natured, they may come across as aloof and may seem not as eager to interact with strangers. They tend to reserve wagging and greeting for their family alone. You may notice aloofness and shyness in the presence of strangers, but this could be, to a great extent, resolved with some socialization.

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Good Family Dogs?

These dogs are kid-friendly and great to have in the house as a family dog. As with any other pet, the owner should make time for adequate training with the dog and instruct the kids not to pull the ears or tail and not disturb the dog while sleeping and eating. Tollers, when they are young, can be boisterous but will not harm the kids. They would instead enjoy the energetic activities of the kids and have fun along with them.

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Good Family Dogs Friendly

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Easy To Train?

Duck Tollers are highly trainable and love to please their owners. They can also be trained on demanding tasks such as search and rescue or helping people in rehabilitation. But in cases where they display stubbornness, it is essential that they are treated firmly but with gentleness. Harshness can make them even more stubborn. Focus on earning their respect, and they will be obedient to you. You will notice that the Toller can be made to learn faster if you use rewards, praise, and play effectively.

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Easy To Train

Physical Needs of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Since they are bred for outdoor activities, it is necessary to ensure that your Toller remains active every day. While Tollers are or can be trained to be calm house dogs, it is essential to have rigorous physical activity at least a few times a day. Running, fetching, swimming, etc. are delightful activities for this dog. If adequate exercise is not provided, Tollers could engage in destructive behaviors such as chewing and tearing household objects.

Isolation doesn’t suit this breed. The Toller wants to be with his or her owner and part of the family as the Toller considers itself part of the pack. Closed living spaces like apartments are fine, and Tollers do adapt, but it would be better for Tollers to be in houses that have closed yards so that they can be allowed to roam, run, and explore freely.

These dogs need space to move, run, jump, chase, etc. If you keep them confined for long, you may see them chewing things or barking excessively. Since Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are bred for physical work, they need to be given adequate exercise to dispense their energy. 

Physical Needs of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy

If you choose a Nova Scotia Duck Toller as a puppy, be warned that this breed needs a lot of your time and 100% commitment. The first responsibility is to ensure that the health of your puppy is maintained, and for this, you need to ensure that you have the time for daily exercise, training, socializing and have and the facilities to provide that to your Toller pup.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy

The next commitment is to consistently train and spend time with your puppy, especially the first few weeks as the puppy needs to be housebroken and needs to get used to his/her new surroundings. Also, enough time has to be spent helping your puppy familiarize with all of the house members, know the house rules, and to adjust.

Puppies can be a lot of work. If you are the type of person who wants to spend time with your dog and train him/her according to your needs, you will be very happy with a Toller.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy Training

Tollers love companionship and respond faster to training when they are handled gently and consistently. If your work keeps you away from home due to traveling a lot or you may not be able to spend enough time with your puppy, choose another breed or wait until you have time to spend with the puppy.

These dogs do not do well if isolated or away from their owner. When you get your puppy, there is a lot of work in terms of puppy-proofing your home.

Initially, during the chewing stage, puppies tend to swallow or to chew up any object they finds. The same goes for a Toller puppy. Training and teaching obedience is necessary for every puppy, including Toller pups. 

Keep in mind that harshness and scolding or beating does not accompany this. Harshness and beating or shouting instill fear rather than a willingness to obey. Instead, training given consistently as an activity and part of play can yield excellent results.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Cute Puppy

What is the Price of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy?

You can expect Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppies to be very expensive unless you are adopting or fostering. Usually, the average puppy price is between $1500 to $2500. But the price has been known to be up to $4000 at times.

Usually, good breeders have a waitinglist and it is very common to have to wat for 1 year or 1,5 year for a Toller puppy. That is a long time but trust me, it is worth it. You’ll have a pure bred, healthy puppy from a respectable breeder who can provide you with the health history of your pup’s parents and all other information and help you need when having a Toller pup in your life.

What is the Price of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy

Gear You’ll Need before your Puppy arrives

14 Puppy Gear Suggestions

Are You Ready to Own a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy?

Before getting a Toller, it may be useful to check your readiness as a potential Nova Scotia Duck Toller owner. So here are a few questions to ask yourself. Can you answer ‘Yes’ to the following? 

  • Can you ensure regular and daily exercise, which could include walking, running, training, and swimming to ensure the Toller’s well-being?
  • Can you commit to spending a lot of time to train and socialize your puppy?
  • Do you have ample space for a puppy in and around the house so when it grows older the Toller can run around and do activities such as playing? If not a yard, a provincial park nearby, etc. would also suffice.
  • Can you promise not to leave your dog in isolation or confined for long periods of time, instead of allowing your dog to be with you most of the time? 
  • Can you provide your Toller with healthy, good quality dog food, dog items such as a dog bed, crate, toys, grooming stuff and of course take him or her to the vet when he or she is sick?

If you answered YES to all of the above, you are ready to be a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy owner.

Are You Ready To Own a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever Puppy

Where To Buy a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy?

If you decide to get a Duck Toller as a pet, you can find one in the following methods.

Approach a breeder – Your best bet is to find a reputed breeder and try to procure your puppy from him/her. Even if there is a long waiting list, it will be worth the wait.

Rescue Centers – You may also find a Toller in Pet Rescue Centers and adopt from there. However, the chance of getting a purebred Duck Toller puppy could be slim through Pet Rescue Centers.

Online or Pet shops – You can search on the internet or enquire in pet shops however, I don’t recommend this approach because you don’t know the history of the parents or if the puppies are healthy, etc. Always go to a reputed breeder for a puppy.

Where to Buy a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy

Pure bred Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers have a range of coat colors that are allowed.  If the colors aren’t within that range and are different, lighter or darker, the dog is not a pure bred according to the breed standards.

The colors of a Toller can range from crimson to dark red, but this might not be clear when the dog is still a puppy. The coat of a Toller can change while he/she is growing up. So if you get your puppy from a breeder, you may be able to see the puppy’s parents and check for yourself if the breed is pure.

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How To Pick a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy? 

Ancestry verification is undoubtedly one aspect, but there will be all kinds of puppies with different temperaments in a litter and there can be many of them in one litter so how to choose your puppy?

One thing you could do is to ask to see the entire litter and then observe the litter so that you can notice the differences and uniqueness of each puppy. Are they inactive or uninvolved? Which ones stay away from you, and which ones come to you?

Throw in a ball or dangle a rope and see what the puppies do? You will be able to understand each one better.

How To Pick a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy

Another method you could use is to sit right amongst all the puppies on the floor and watch them closely. By doing this, you get a good view of the coats, their marking, and personalities.

A significant advantage of getting your puppy from a breeder is that they are accountable and will give you good dogs to maintain their reputation. They are also excellent sources of information and knowledge about the breed specificities. You can get help from them regarding nutrition needs, grooming issues, diseases, etc. of the puppy. This is of utmost necessity if you own a puppy for the first time.

How To Pick a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy Breeder

In our case, the breeder made the match for us. Many breeders prefer this approach because they know the puppies well and can determine which personality is the right match for you. The breeder will ask you where you live, if you have small kids, older kids or no kids, if you have enough space for a dog and if you have enough time for a puppy.

They might also ask what your future plans are for your Toller. For example, will you be training with your dog a lot, do Agility, tracking, train him/her for search & rescue, will it be a working dog or a family companion. This way, the breeder knows which puppy will make a great match for you and your circumstances.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy Checklist

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy Checklist

Before getting a puppy, here is a checklist of items you’ll need to have on hand before your puppy arrives:

Crate and/or Dog Bed. One of the most important things is a crate and bed for the puppy and also a few cozy blankets and comforters so that the puppy can snuggle into them.

Food and a water bowls. You need this right from day one to feed the puppy and familiarize them. Get a steel food bowl and water bowl so that it is durable and can’t be chewed on. Their very own bowls are also necessary so that the little puppies can differentiate their food from the family.

Dog food for puppies. When you get your puppy, you need to have proper puppy food on hand for the initial days. When you get puppy food with the right constituents and nutrients, it will ensure that deficiencies and other issues with regards to food don’t appear.

Toys for puppies. Puppies love to chew in the initial teething months, so keep some chew toys on hand. You can use this for play or throwing and fetching games. Having chew toys also may prevent household items from being chewed and torn, but this is not always possible.

Dog leash and collar. Make sure you’ll get the right size collar or harness for your small puppy which can be made bigger while your pooch is growing. Buy a new, bigger one as soon as your pup gets too big for it and the collar or harness becomes too tight. A good leash is also needed for taking your pup on walks and training your pup when outside.

Grooming kit. Put together a grooming kit that includes a brush, soft sponge, trimming scissors, some dogshampoo, and flea powder. The Toller will need regular brushing and trimming due to hair growth and shedding.

Storage containers. Ideally, a few containers should be kept exclusively for keeping dog food. Also, ensure that the food is kept high up away from the reach of the dog.

Puppy Pads. Very useful for potty training and the first nights when your pup is home.

Dog Treats for puppies. You’ll need yummy treats for training and socializing your puppy.

Gate or Fence for puppies and dogs. A gate or fence is recommended for when your pup is not allowed in some part(s) of your house or if you have a yard you can use the fence so your pup won’t run away. Safety first.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy Checklist items

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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Health & Care


The Duck Toller is undoubtedly a very active dog, so the nutritional requirements are very high, especially during the growing stages. It is essential you choose a high-quality dog food to ensure the right mix of nutrients and quality.

Most dogs have two or three feeding times per day, whatever suits your Toller. You can split the meals to ensure that the caloric needs based on age and size are met. Ensure that you give high-quality dog food ensuring a balanced nutritional diet for your dog’s requirements. The food requirements will vary with age, metabolism levels, and activity levels. Overfeeding and underfeeding are to be avoided. If you are unsure of the nutritional requirements, you can approach a vet who will provide you with a diet-chart that you can refer to.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Nutrition

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Does a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Need Grooming?

For the Toller, coat care is not very difficult as they would only need occasional brushing, and that should be sufficient. Frequent baths are not advisable. There also needs to be some trimming of the feet, heels, and ears when the fur grows too long. Throughout most of the year, you can maintain the coat by brushing it weekly, except during spring and fall, usually seasons where there is more shedding. 

Does a Nova Scotia Duck Toller Need Grooming Brushing

During these seasons, daily brushing with a Slicker Brush might help remove the loose hairs. The nails can be trimmed as and when they grow too long. Please also remember to clean and cut the footpads of your Toller.

There may be a need for more attention on top of the ear and behind the ears because hairs grow long there and can get tangled often, so it is better to keep the hair shortened around the year. The hair around and behind the ears can be plucked by hand or trimmed to remove them.

Hair also grows between the paws and around the soles of the feet, and they need to be trimmed as they get wet and carry mud along with them, so a constant checking and cleaning is required for the Duck Toller’s feet.

For more information, useful tips and a guide on how to groom a Toller I recommend you read my blog Does a Duck Tolling Retriever Need Grooming?

Also interesting to read, regarding to the coat of the Toller, is my blog Does a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Shed?

Does a Nova Scotia Duck Toller Need Grooming

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How Much Exercise Does a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Need?

This breed needs activity to stimulate their mind and lose the energy they have. A Toller cannot and should not be made to lead a sedentary life. Tollers love all kinds of activity and can develop destructive behaviors like chewing, tearing, stress and anxiety if not given adequate physical and mental exercise. This dog needs at least an hour of energetic activity per day.

How Much Exercise Does a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Need

Since training sessions are activity-oriented, you can look at giving more training, which your Toller will enjoy. This breed loves training, learning new things and has persistence and drive.

Swimming can be an excellent exercise for your Toller and could be a frequent activity that your dog can engage in. Other than that, chasing, fetching, playing with kids, and running can be enjoyable for Duck Tollers.

Don’t forget to keep your Toller’s brain busy as well. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a very intelligent breed and loves to learn new tricks and things. You can train your Toller’s brain by using for example a dog puzzle. Or hide some treats somewhere in the house or in the yard and have your Toller search for them. Teach your Toller to pick up his toys and put them in the storage box you keep them in. Get creative, there are lots of fun things to do with your Toller to stimulate his brain and keep him busy, healthy and satisfied.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever training

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Training

The breed is eager to learn new things, please its owners, and be obedient. Praise and rewards are highly appreciated by these dogs and will go to great lengths to learn and complete tasks.

Harshness, shouting and reprimands do not work. If you are training a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, be prepared to take charge but firmly and gently. Consistent, firm, gentle and repetitive training will yield a lot of rewards as a trained Toller can prove to be of great use to its owners and is a happy Toller as well.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever healthy

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Health

Routine check-ups, balanced diets, adequate grooming, and exercise are necessary for any dog and they all contribute to keeping your Toller healthy. But some of the diseases that tend to affect this breed are as follows:

Eye Problems – Primarily cataract issues that cause cloudiness of the eyes should be watched out for. Other diseases such as Collie Eye Disease or retinal problems can also be a problem for the Toller.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia – This is a skeletal issue that affects many dog breeds. This is the disproportionate growth of the hip or elbow joints that leads to pain, lameness, and even joint issues. Arthritis can develop due to this as well. A visit to the vet can help you identify if your Toller is prone to this, and early identification can lead to proper treatment and/or surgery, which can rectify this issue. 

Adrenal issues – Some of the dogs in this breed could also be prone to Addison’s Disease and could have digestion, loss of appetite, or depression. There are long term treatments that can help resolve this issue.

Nova Scotia  Duck Tolling Retriever History

It is believed that Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were bred by 19th-century hunters specifically for luring and hunting ducks and waterfowl. They are supposed to have a mix of genes from Setters, Spaniels, Retrievers, and Collies. They were called “Tollers” for the reason that they were used for tolling which is basically luring waterfowl with it’s tail so the hunter can shoot the birds. After that the Toller had to retrieve the birds back to the hunter.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever History

What is Tolling?

Tolling is a method where the dog attracts the attention of the birds. For example, in the pond or a stream with ducks or geese, the Toller will be in the water wagging it’s tail. The ducks and other birds come to check it out. Suddenly the Toller will go back to the hunter. As the ducks and geese fly up, the hunter shoots them down. 

There is a reason why Tollers are mostly red – They resemble foxes from afar!

What is Tolling

Hunters noticed that foxes have a strange effect on the waterfowl. Their antics arouses curiosity, which gets them to draw closer to the fox, and then the fox catches its prey. So the hunters decided to breed a dog that closely resembles the fox and helps them in luring the waterfowls within the gunshot range. Hence their immense value as hunting partners.

Tollers are incredibly energetic, and workaholic dogs, and they like all kinds of activities. Be it hunting, catching a ball, rescuing people, or maybe playing with other dogs. These dogs are at their most beautiful when involved in an activity. They are brilliant and sensitive to the needs of the owner, making them excellent companions for human beings, as house pets or service dogs.

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Nova Scotia Ducvk Tolling Retriever

About us

Hi, welcome to my blog about the amazing breed Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever!

My name is Eline van Stiphout and I live in The Netherlands. Together with my husband Arthur and our sweet Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Stippy, the three of us love to travel and go on outdoor adventures. 

Currently, I’m a professional, fully licensed dog walker since 2017. I gave up my stressful fulltime office job to follow my dream which is working and walking with dogs.


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