Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Temperament: Affectionate, Intelligent, Outgoing

  • Height: 18-21 inches (male), 17-20 inches (female)
  • Weight: 35-50 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
  • Group: Sporting Group 

 the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is intelligent, affectionate, and eager to please. Play fetch with a tireless Toller until your right arm falls off, and he will ask you to throw left-handed.


This medium sized, powerful, compact, balanced dog is the smallest of the retrievers. The Toller’s attitude and bearing suggest strength with a high degree of agility. He is alert, determined, and quick, with a keen desire to work and please.

Many Tollers have a slightly sad or worried expression when they are not working. The moment the slightest indication is given that retrieving is required, they set themselves for springy action with an expression of intense concentration and excitement. The heavily feathered tail is held high in constant motion while working.

About the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The little gundog with the big name is the smallest AKC retriever, standing ideally 18 or 19 inches at the shoulder. The Toller’s trademark is a coat of stunning crimson, ranging from golden red to a dark coppery color, with white markings. Strong and agile, Tollers are medium dogs: medium in size, bone, and coat length. The almond-shaped eyes project an alert expression.

Tollers are upbeat athletes who require outlets for their boundless vigor: hunting, hiking, camping, and, of course, swimming (for which they are ideally suited, down to their webbed feet). Tollers are smart, handsome, affectionate companions, but these red tornadoes can be recommended only to those with enough time and energy to keep them usefully occupied.

NUTRITION The Toller should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING Tollers require weekly brushing to keep their coat looking its best. During shedding season, daily brushing is often in order. Pay special attention to the coat around and under the ears, as in these areas it is finer and more likely to knot. Because Tollers should be presented as naturally as possible, minimal additional grooming is preferred, and this is generally limited to neatening the areas around the ears and feet. Special care should be taken to remove excess hair from between the pads of the feet, as this will help your Toller maintain traction on indoor surfaces. Attention should also be paid to trimming nails, preferably weekly.

EXERCISE Most Tollers have a medium to high energy level and are not generally content unless they are able to engage in some form of physical exercise on a daily basis. A brisk, 30-minute walk and/or a couple of ball-chasing sessions per day will suffice for many Tollers, though some will need more. Because Tollers love to engage and do things with their owners, many owners participate in canine sports such as agility, flyball, or fieldwork to channel the breed’s excess energy. Engaging in these sports has the added benefit of strengthening the bond between owner and Toller.

TRAINING Temperament-wise, Tollers are often a curious mixture of stubborn and soft. At times they seem to have the brain of a Chessie and the heart of a spaniel. These characteristics can make them challenging to train, as you don’t always know whether they are “putting one on over you.” Most Tollers respond well to reward-based training. They generally want to know what’s in it for them and enjoy “learn to earn” opportunities. They like training to be fun, so short, productive sessions are best. However, it is still important to have consequences for undesirable responses. As one Toller owner put it, “You don’t want them to think they are living on a cruise ship.”

HEALTH Tollers are a relatively healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 12–14 years. Health concerns in the breed include Addison’s disease, which often doesn’t surface until the dog is middle-aged, the dog may have already produced offspring by the time a diagnosis is made. Efforts to develop a gene-marker test  have been unsuccessful so far. Tollers also are somewhat more prone than other breeds to develop autoimmune-related issues.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Juvenile Addison’s Disease (JADD) DNA Test

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