≡ Menu

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever… Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or Toller, as he is also called, is undoubtedly a good-looking dog breed. But we’ve got to tell you, these guys are much more than a “pretty face” because, on top of their good looks, they’re also quite intelligent!  This makes them relatively easy to train even though they tend to have a mind of their own.  They’re also one of the most energetic of all Retriever Breeds. He can run and run all day long without getting tired. He loves playing with the kids and is a great dog to live with.


He is somewhat demanding and requires a lot of exercise, playtime, fun, and games. Otherwise, he can get bored, and when he gets bored, he can become destructive.  This is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss what it might be like to own one of these handsome critters so that if you’re ever allowed to adopt one, you’ll know for sure if it will be a good idea.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Fast Facts

Country of Origin: Canada

Original Purpose:  Duck tolling and water retrieval

Height: 17 to 21 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 35 to 50 pounds

Dog Breed Classification:  Sporting Group

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Origin of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Dog Breed

What’s with the super long name – Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever? Well, he was bred in Yarmouth County of the Little River district of the Southwest Nova Scotia province of Canada, where his main job was to retrieve ducks during duck hunting.  So, we guess we could be thankful that he isn’t called the Yarmouth County of the Little River district of the Southwest Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever… right?

And while…

We’re not HUGE fans of their current name; we do feel that it has a better “ring” to it than what they were once called, which was the Little River Duck Dog (which is arguably a more accessible name to remember, but for some reason it just makes us think of a YUCK dog).  This could be why this name was changed to Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever later in 1945 by the Canadian Kennel Club, which you must admit has a certain heft. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of Canada was formed shortly after.

He is also called the Yarmouth Toller or just Toller. We call him by his nickname Toller here in this article.

But what’s with the word Tolling?

Tolling refers to this dog being bred to attract ducks before retrieving them. So he used to dance on the river bank, which the ducks and waterfowl had to watch.

So, as the birds came closer to get a better view, the cunning little rascal set them up to be hunted.

How was he bred?

The hunters of Yarmouth Country bred the Toller by crossing several breeds such as the Micmac Indian dogs, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Farm Collie, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, and the Irish Setter.  This resulted in a mid-sized red-haired dog that was smart and independent.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 2003 as a part of the Sporting Group.

Physical Characteristics

The Toller is a mid-sized, somewhat smallish dog that stands up to 21 inches in height at the shoulder level. He weighs 35 to 50 pounds. He has a longish body instead of a tallish one. His elevation-to-length ratio is 9:10.  The Toller is the smallest of all retriever breeds. He is a very energetic dog, active and surprisingly powerful, considering his size. He has a wedge-shaped head and tapered muzzle. His jaws are strong, and his teeth are sharp. He has triangular-shaped drop ears. He has expressive eyes that are of the same color as his coat.

His coat is…

Of medium length, wavy, and covered with a lot of fur. His double coat is water-repellent and thick enough to protect him from the harsh weather conditions of Canada, especially from the icy cold water.  And his skin is red – of different shades of red. Feathers cover his ears, legs, and tail, usually the same color as the coat.

Temperament and Personality

The Tolling Dog is a happy breed, constantly bouncing around and very confident. This intelligent animal knows what it wants and is not afraid to get it.  He has a playful personality and likes children. He is loyal to his human family but a little wary around strangers. He is always alert and sharp, but he is no guard dog.

The Toller also…

He has an intense expression on his face when focusing on something or on the hunt. Otherwise, when he is relaxed, he has a somewhat sad look, so don’t ask us why!  But it’s probably because he has a strong prey drive – because of how he was bred. He will certainly not be best friends with a cat or other small animals. He will want to chase and attack them.

This dog is remarkably…

Intelligent and easy to train. He is also a bit of a show-off. He has to respect you first before following your commands. That’s why it is essential to be assertive with the Tolling Retriever and use positive reinforcement techniques.

Potential  Health Problems

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is one of the healthiest dog breeds. He has a high life expectancy of 10 to 12 years and rarely gets sick. However, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers can suffer from inherited and immune-mediated health problems.

And while many of these conditions may not be life-threatening, they can become quite expensive, particularly if they become recurring issues.  This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Alyssa April 12, 2020, 3:53 pm

    I have a 12 year old mix at home, she is a duck tolling retriever-ridgeback mix and she is so humble and mellow! She’s always been like this, even as a younger dog. However when she gets energetic or wants something she has NO problem making it apparent. Extremely intelligent and easy to train pup, and great with kids. Love her to pieces!

  • johanna November 11, 2020, 9:43 am


    • indulgeyourpet November 11, 2020, 10:24 am


      Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Nobody here at IndulgeYourPet has had the pleasure of owning one of these guys so we rely on folks like yourself to provide us with information like this.



  • Adriana December 13, 2020, 8:34 am

    I have a mixed breed of this type and he is almost 6 and is very active and healthy. Knock on wood, we have yet to have any outrageous vet bills. He is 40 pounds, he has a dark nose and lining around his eyes, is super agile (loves to run and will run HARD), and LOVES kids and other dogs. He isn’t pet or food motivated sometimes, which shows his slight stubborn tendency, but all in all, a very good listener with proper training.

Leave a Comment