The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, also known as a Toller, is one of the few canine breeds that originates from Canada (they are 11 recognized Canadian breeds in total). It is a sporting dog that was bred to aid duck hunters and is the smallest of the retrievers, weighing in around 35-50 lbs. They are red and white in colour, closely resembling a fox. They have a water-repellent double-coat which regulates their temperature in the summer and keeps them toasty warm in the winter. They shed moderately and blow their coats a couple of times a year, but with weekly brushing, their coats are easily manageable. One of the interesting things about this breed, as far as their appearance is concerned, is that there is a wide variation in colour – from light orange to a deep red coat, a liver coloured or black nose, as well as the amount of white found on their paws, chest and tails.
Tollers are extremely active dogs that require a lot of stimulation, both physically and mentally. It is not enough to take them for a walk around the block, they need a good run every day, and also to engage in play time with puzzles and games to help keep them sane. They can otherwise become bored and very destructive. They are also highly alert and quite smart (sometimes too smart for their own good!), so they learn very quickly and excel at dog sports. They also love the water!
While Tollers can sometimes be cautious around strangers, they are very sociable with other dogs. It is important to socialize them well at an early age and expose them to lots of stimuli. It should be noted that they do have a high prey drive, so any small animals (ie. cats) that they are not raised around have the potential to become fun things to chase. The only other trait that is a big consideration with this breed is the so-called “Toller Scream.” When playful and excited, they tend to let out high-pitched yelping noises that can be somewhat piercing to our human ears.
While they are a genetically diverse and therefore hardy breed, there are a few health concerns that should be noted when it comes to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Some can suffer from hip dysplasia, which is a fairly common concern among any highly active breed. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is another health concern – luckily, most breeders will test to see if their dogs are carriers and, if they are, a responsible breeder will not use that dog for future litters. There is also a genetic mutation that has come to light in recent years that is currently being studied by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s College of Veterinary Medicine called Degenerative Encephalopathy (DE), which is a brain disease that is often symptomatic when the dog is sleeping. Luckily, all of these issues are not very common and, again, a responsible breeder will test for and avoid using dogs that are affected for breeding.
Overall, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an excellent choice for a canine companion. I chose a Toller as my first-ever dog because I liked how active they are, their intelligence and willingness to learn, and I also liked that they were a smaller/compact breed. And, of course, they are the cutest dogs that ever lived, not that I’m bias or anything… My boy Rennik is now coming up to his 2nd birthday and it is like he has been with me my entire life. He is a wonderful addition to our family and I love him more everyday!