About Tollers

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was originally known as the Little River Duck Dog and originated in the Little River district of Nova Scotia Canada.

The history of the Toller in those early years is still somewhat unclear but history notes that as early as the 17th Century ‘small ginger coloured dogs’ were used as decoy dogs in Europe to help lure waterfowl into nets. Historic records first describe such a dog in Nova Scotia in the early 19th Century. It is not known if the Toller originated from these dogs or was developed from a combination of other breeds to imitate what was seen in early Europe.

The term ‘Tolling’ in the breed name descends from the phrase to toll (or lure) and retrieve waterfowl. A tolling dog runs, jumps and plays along the shoreline in full view of a flock of ducks, occasionally disappearing from sight and then quickly reappearing, aided by the hunter, who throws toys and balls for the dogs. The dog’s playful actions arouse the curiosity of the ducks swimming offshore and they are lured within gunshot range. The Toller is subsequently sent out to retrieve the shot birds from land or water.


The Toller is an intelligent, medium-sized, powerful, compact, balanced, well-muscled dog. They show a high degree of agility, alertness and determination. It is often expressed that Tollers can have a slightly sad expression when at rest, then as soon as they go to work their appearance changes in an instant to one of intense concentration and excitement.

When being worked a Toller has a speedy, rushing action with their head carried out almost level with their back and their heavily feathered tail held high and swishing.

To keep the Toller agile and happy they must be stimulated both mentally and physically or they may turn into quite a delinquent dog – be warned, but having said that the Toller comes with an ‘off’ switch so providing they have been sufficiently stimulated they are very happy to chill for hours – usually in the roaching position.

Breed Standard

Taken from the Kennel Club website – updated in 2003

General Appearance

Medium sized, compact. Powerful, well muscled. A heavily feathered tail, constantly moving.


Jumps and plays to lure waterfowl into decoy. Retrieves dead and wounded birds. Strong swimmer.


Kind, confident, intelligent, easy to train. Playful.

Head and Skull

Clean cut skull, slightly wedge shaped. Broad, slightly rounded. Occiput not prominent. Cheeks flat. Moderate stop. Muzzle tapers from stop to nose. Nostrils well developed. Nose flesh coloured or black.


Medium size, almond-shaped, set well apart. Friendly, alert expression. Brown to amber, blending with coat colour. Eye rims flesh coloured or black.


Triangular, dropped ear of medium size. Set high and well back on skull. Base held very slightly erect. Well feathered at back of fold, hair shorter at rounded tips.


Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Teeth sound and strong. Softness of mouth essential. Lips tight fitting, flesh coloured or black.


Medium length, strongly muscled, well set on, no indication of throatiness.


Shoulders well laid back, muscular, medium length. Elbows close to body. Forelegs straight and strong. Pasterns strong, slightly sloping.


Deep chested, ribs well sprung, brisket reaches to elbow. Back short, level topline. Loins strong and muscular. Moderate tuck up.


Well muscled. Stifles well bent, hocks well let down turning neither in nor out.


Medium size, round, tight. Toes well arched and strongly webbed. Pads thick, blending with coat colour.


Set on, slightly sloping towards croup. Broad at base, well feathered; reaching the hock. Carried below level of back at rest; when alert, curves over, not touching back.


Impression of power, springy, jaunty with good reach of forelegs and strong rear drive; parallel movement fore and aft. Single tracks at speed; head carried almost level with back.


Straight, repellent, double coat of medium length and softness with a softer, dense undercoat. Slight wave on back allowed. Feathering at throat, behind ears and at back of thighs. Forelegs moderately feathered.


All shades of red or orange with lighter featherings and underside of tail. White markings usual in at least one of the following places: tip of tail, feet not extending beyond the pasterns, chest and blaze. Lack of white not to be penalised. Any black in coat, buff colour or buff and white highly undesirable.


Ideal height: dogs: 48-51 cm (19-20 ins); bitches: 45-48 cm (18-19 ins).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.



Toller Diversity

Tollers are working dogs, active, intelligent and driven. Individual dogs show varying degrees of these characteristics but the breed is essentially fast and smart. They are good natured dogs and interested in life and all its opportunities, so it is important to find activities that suit your life style and the needs of your Toller. Below are a few of the popular Toller activities available, others include Scentwork, Heelwork to Music and Rally – there really is something for everyone.


Being gundog retrievers, Tollers are natural hunting dogs on land or in the water. They have webbed feet and are excellent swimmers. There are plenty of ways to participate in this activity with your Toller, including Gundog training using dummy retrieves, field trials and full hunting tests.


Tollers tend to love and excel in agility. They enjoy both the mental and physical challenge of agility and move like lightning around the course – participating in agility with your Toller, for fun or in competition, is definitely a hobby for those who are fit!


Obedience uses the Toller’s natural intelligence to great effect. Tollers take to the training quickly and the biggest problem is the handler keeping up!


Flyball is a team based sport which incorporates the Toller’s natural instinct to retrieve and utilises speed – but beware all that excitement can induce the “Toller Scream”


Showing a Toller in conformation is in some ways, a lot less strenuous than other activities, yet it still relies upon the Toller’s natural intelligence and flair so the handler and dog are one.

Why Not Get A Toller ?

Ten Reasons To Own or Not Own a Toller

Based upon and reproduced by kind permission of the NSDTR club of USA

10. Shedding and Mess
Tollers shed their coat seasonally and they are dogs who like to swim, roll and wallow. They are not the dog for the fastidious or the allergic.

9. Watch your Cat
Many Tollers do just fine in households with cats or other animals. They do have a strong prey drive howvever. If you don’t want your cat chased, this may not be the dog for you.

8. They are not Guard Dogs
Tollers are generally wary of strangers, but if you want a dog as protection look elsewhere. While they are excellent natural watchdogs with a bark more than enough to scare away a burglar, these dogs are not cut out to protect.

7. The ‘Scream!’
Many Tollers have a penetrating scream which they produce to indicate excitement and eagerness. To the uninitiated this can sound like the dog is being fed into the wood chipper. It is high pitched, frantic and ear piercing! Not all Tollers scream, but many do, so if you live where dog noise will get you in trouble or you just don’t like dogs who make a noise then this is not the breed for you.

6. Drive
Tollers are part of the Gundog group and are traditionally bred to be working dogs. They have a frantic drive to work and will retrieve until your arm is ready to fall off. Tendonitis in Toller owners is not unusual. This may be cute now but after the 400th throw you may change your mind!

5. Not everyone’s best Friend
If you are looking for a dog to be everyone’s best friend, the Toller may not be for you. Tollers are gentle and kind and many can be quite outgoing but they don’t have the Labrador ‘Hello you ae my best friend’ attitude. Tollers will greet strangers happily but generally reserve true enthusiasm for their family and special people.

4. Did you Say NO?
If you give a Toller an inch they will take a mile and come back for another. Tollers are generally too smart to engage in dominance battles. Instead they sense your weaknesses and will exploit them. If you are unable to be firm about your house rules you will find that the ruler of your house has four legs and is red! However that might suit you – if you are not in charge they will be!

3. Just do what I tell you
Tollers love to work but they are not always easy to train as other breeds. They need to engage in their activity or they get bored and stop paying attention. They also try to second guess you by thinking for themselves. Patience, inventiveness and flexibility are key. If you are unsure about your ability to train, a Toller might not be for you.

2. Smart, Smart, Smart
It cannot be stressed enough that this is a dog with brains to spare. These dogs, even the ’just pet’ ones MUST be given at least basic obedience training and many Toller owners are active in several dog activities just to keep their Tollers occupied or you will find they can become downright obnoxious around the house.

1. Vroom!
This is an energetic dog who needs plenty of stimulation and exercise . If you are looking for a dog who is content with nothing more than a pleasant walk in the evening then look elsewhere. A Toller with excess energy will find another outlet for their drive and the results are seldom pleasant!

These are not little Golden Retrievers or Red Collies