The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Everything You Need to Know

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, also known as the “Decoy Dog,” is a small retriever-type of dog with impeccable and unusual hunting skills paired with a friendly personality. 

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, including its history, physical traits, temperament, and health.

History and Origin of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or simply Toller, is a relatively rare breed that originated in Canada in the early 19th century. It was developed by hunters who wanted a dog that could lure and retrieve waterfowl in the frigid waters of Nova Scotia.

The Breed’s Canadian Roots

The Toller’s ancestors include a mix of Retrievers, Spaniels, and Setters that were brought to Canada by European settlers. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over several generations to create the Toller.

The breeders aimed to create a dog that was small enough to be agile in the water but also strong enough to retrieve large waterfowl. They also wanted a dog with a thick coat to protect them from the cold waters of Nova Scotia.

Over time, the Toller became a beloved hunting companion for many hunters in the region. They were known for their excellent retrieving skills and their ability to toll, which made them invaluable to hunters.

Development of the Toller’s Unique Hunting Style

One of Toller’s most distinctive hunting skills is its ability to “toll,” which involves running and jumping along the shoreline to attract curious waterfowl within shooting range.

This unique hunting style was developed by hunters in Nova Scotia who noticed that ducks were more likely to approach a playful dog than a stationary one. Tollers are also excellent swimmers.

In addition to their tolling and retrieving skills, Tollers also have an excellent sense of smell. This makes them great at tracking wounded waterfowl, which is an important skill for any hunting dog.

Recognition by Kennel Clubs

The breed was officially recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945 and by the American Kennel Club in 2003. Today, Tollers are still used as hunting companions, but they are also popular as family pets and in dog sports such as agility and obedience competitions.

Despite its popularity, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever remains a relatively rare breed. However, its unique hunting skills and friendly, outgoing personality have made it a favorite among those who know and love the breed.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Size and Weight

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever weighs between 35 and 50 pounds. Males stand 18 to 21 inches tall at the shoulder, and females around 17 to 20 inches tall. 

Tollers are capable of running for miles and swimming long distances, making them a great choice for active families who enjoy spending time outdoors.

Coat and Colors

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever’s coat is thick and water-repellent, allowing it to hunt in cold water without getting chilled to the bone. The coat comes in red, buff, or red gold with white markings.

Distinctive Features

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a buoyant tail, which it uses to attract ducks while hunting. Breed members also have webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers. In addition to their functional features, Tollers have a fox-like appearance with a wedge-shaped head and pointed ears.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Intelligence and Trainability

As a breed that was developed for hunting, Tollers are intelligent and easily trainable. Breed members have a strong desire to please their owners and are quick learners, making them great companions in a variety of settings. 

Positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, work well with the breed. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers excel in obedience, agility, and hunting competitions, showcasing their intelligence and trainability. 

Energy Levels and Exercise Needs

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an energetic breed that loves to run, swim, and play. It is also a great hiking companion, as it has the stamina and endurance to keep up with its owners.

Without adequate exercise, Tollers can become bored and destructive. It’s essential to provide them with physical and mental stimulation. Interactive toys, like puzzle feeders and chew toys, are essential.

Socialization and Friendliness

Tollers are friendly and social dogs that get along well with children and other pets. They have a playful and affectionate nature, making them loyal and cherished family members.

It’s important to socialize Tollers from a young age to ensure they become well-adjusted and well-behaved adults. Socialization involves exposing Tollers to different people, animals, and environments.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Common health problems in the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers include: 

  • Hip Dysplasia: An orthopedic condition when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, causing arthritis, pain, and lameness
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Known as PRA, it is an irreversible degeneration of the retinal structures impairing the dog’s vision 
  • Juvenile Addison’s Disease: A lack of adrenal gland hormones resulting in lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Cleft Palate and Syndactyly: An inherited disorder in which the dog’s upper lip is deformed and its fingers are fused (webbed)

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers require preventative care to stay healthy. This includes regular vaccinations and parasite control (deworming and flea & tick prevention). Regular veterinary checkups are also essential for maintaining the dog’s health and longevity.

Expected Lifespan

The average lifespan of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers is between 12 and 14 years. With proper care, many Tollers live long and healthy lives, providing their families with years of love, companionship, and enjoyment.


From its Canadian roots and distinctive hunting skills to its friendly and loyal personality, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers is an excellent choice for active owners.

Now that you know everything there is about the unique and fascinating Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, you can make an informed decision if it is the right dog for you. 

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