Intelligent, loyal, and easy to please, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is a lovely, popular breed from Canada’s Maritime province of Nova Scotia. Often mistaken for golden retrievers, tollers are more physically and mentally active than their beloved cousins and make for an excellent companion for active, outdoor enthusiasts and families. Tollers were bred to be gundogs used in hunting waterfowl, but they’ll feel right at home with just the right owner.
Tollers are a medium-sized breed that closely resembles golden retrievers at first sight, although tollers are the smallest breed of retrievers. From afar, their distinctive red and white colours may give them the appearance of a fox.
Their tall and strong posture is matched by their equally powerful, energetic gait, which tends to follow a single path with their heads hanging low whilst engaging in predatory chasing and running.
Most tollers have a coat that ranges in colour from crimson to golden red with white markings, which sets them apart from other retrievers. Their rugged double coat is weather-resistant and adapted for swimming and the cold climates of their native Canada. Their fur is straight and medium-length.
Other features include a deep chest, sturdy legs, and webbed feet.
Toller retrievers are similar in many regards to other retriever breeds, but they are the smallest of all retrievers.
How big do toller dogs get?
Height: 48-51 cm for males, 45-48 cm for females.
Weight: 20-23 kg for males, 17-20 kg for females.
Lovers of the great outdoors, toller retrievers are amongst the most active and energetic breeds perfectly suited for equally active owners and their families. Tollers are loving, intelligent, and fairly affectionate, and they thrive in their natural element, which is in large, open outdoor areas whether hunting for waterfowl or playing energetically.
The temperament of tollers is generally well-behaved and eager to please, but always ready for rigorous exercise outdoors. If you play for an hour, he’ll want to play for two. This means that prospective toller owners should try to raise them in a rural environment, preferably in a larger home with access to a nearby park or river whereby the toller can play to his heart’s content. They can be adapted to small homes and apartments, but this is not ideal.
Are toller dogs intelligent? Somewhat.
Are toller dogs affectionate? Somewhat.
Do toller dogs have high or low energy levels? High energy.
Are toller dogs loyal? Yes.
Are toller dogs playful? Yes.
Are toller dogs aggressive? No, but they can be boisterous as puppies.
Are toller dogs easy to train? Yes, very.
Are toller dogs good guard dogs? No, but they are excellent watchdogs.
In terms of socialisation, toller retrievers are wonderful companions to have around the home and around family members. They get on very well with children and other dogs, and they are fairly well-behaved around strangers as well. Around small pets and cats, they are prone to chase as is in their nature, so plenty of training and socialisation from a young age is essential. They have been known to play a little rough and rowdy as puppies, so supervision around young children is always a good idea.
Do toller dogs get along with other pets? No, they have a high prey drive and will chase.
Do toller dogs get along with other dogs? Yes, most of the time.
Are toller dogs good with kids? Yes, very.
Are toller dogs good with strangers? Yes, most of the time.
For outdoor enthusiasts and active owners, tollers are the perfect companion. They are suitable for first-time owners, provided that they are cared for and trained well as puppies into adulthood.
Furthermore, toller retrievers are fairly adaptable and can be raised in smaller homes, although they really do prefer large, open estates where they can roam and play until the sun goes down.
They tend to shed a lot, and they also have a distinctive shriek that can cause some problems in confined spaces such as apartments. They don’t drool very much and can tolerate cold climates, and to some extent, the heat as well.
Are toller dogs good for first-time owners? Not really.
Are toller dogs hypoallergenic? No.
Are toller dogs prone to drooling? No.
Are toller dogs a good breed for apartment living? Not really, but they can adapt.
Do toller dogs shed a lot? Yes.
Do toller dogs bark a lot? Yes, sometimes.
Can toller dogs be left alone at home? Not for long periods.
Can toller dogs handle the heat? Yes.
Can toller dogs handle cold temperatures? Yes, very well.
Are toller dogs sensitive to loud noises? Yes.
Although tolling retrievers are quite robust and hardy, they are prone to quite a few potential health problems as they grow from puppies into adults. Their health is generally poorer than most other breeds, so proper care should always be given to their feeding, they should be kept active, and regular visits to the veterinarian are essential to diagnose any problems early on.
Some health problems that tollers are prone to include:
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): often starting out as partial blindness during the night, progressive retinal atrophy can develop into full blindness. This affects about 7 per cent of all tollers;
Addison's disease: this long-term endocrine disorder has many symptoms such as vomiting, increased urination, and more. It is 10 times more likely for tollers than the general population;
Aseptic meningitis: also called steroid-responsive meningitis, symptoms of neck pain, lethargy, and fever are fairly common to the Norwegian breed of toller;
Hip dysplasia: an unhealthy gait, posture, and lameness of one or more legs are fairly common in tollers.
How long do toller dogs live? - 10-14 years
Extensive exercise and play time are a must for toller retrievers, especially as adults. Puppies shouldn’t be overexerted, but plenty of healthy exercise is still needed to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
Fully adult tollers require no less than two hours of exercise every day. This could include a brisk morning walk for an hour, followed by another hour of walking and playing in the afternoon or evening. They play well in large, outdoor areas and will quickly come to appreciate efforts to play with them. In fact, they’ll most likely tire out their owners before tiring out themselves.
Although they tend to get along well with other dog breeds, they do have a natural prey instinct for waterfowl (ducks, swans) and will not hesitate to play and chase. Having your toller on a lead is important in public spaces, but a large yard with a fence would be ideal for taking the lead off and letting them roam free.
How much exercise does a toller dog need? - At least 2 hours per day
Do toller dogs like water play? Yes, they are amongst the best swimmers. It’s in their name!
As an active and energetic breed that loves to play, toller retrievers must be fed a high-quality diet consisting of plenty of whole proteins and all of the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain them. For puppies, take care and follow a feeding routine as set out by your breeder and adjust for his size and eating habits.
As tollers age, they become less picky about their diet, but overeating remains a problem that should be avoided.
Below are some rough estimates for how much your puppy/adult toller requires, but keep in mind that every dog is unique and thus a personal dietary plan should be prepared.
Are toller dogs prone to weight gain? Yes, especially older dogs.
How much should I feed a toller puppy? About 150-200g per day, in three sessions.
How much should I feed an adult toller dog? About 200-330g per day, in total.
Maintaining a toller isn’t as demanding as with most other breeds, despite their heavy shedding in the spring and autumn months. Some grooming and inspections for potential health problems will go a long way towards keeping your toller happy and healthy.
In terms of isolation and emotional care, toller retrievers can tolerate some time left alone at home, but this should not be habitual.
- Grooming: once per week, brush and comb the toller’s double coat to remove dead hairs. Untie any knotting around the feet and ears where hair grows in thicker. Check the ears for possible infections.
- Emotional care: tollers can be left alone for a few hours with nobody home, but a family member should try to always be home to keep them social and happy.
The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever’s name gives away much of its origins, or at least what is known with some degree of certainty. They originated in Nova Scotia, Canada sometime in the late 19th century and were bred from golden retrievers and one of many potential other breeds for the purpose of hunting waterfowl.
As such, these gundogs proved immensely useful in hunting ducks in eastern Canada during much of the early 20th century, and in 1945 they were registered formally in the Canadian Kennel Club.
Referred to by many nicknames, the toller retriever has earned its place in the hearts and minds of many in its native Canada as it has here in the UK.
Tollers were first introduced to the UK in 1988.
‘To toll’ means to run, jump, and/or play along a shoreline in order to draw waterfowl nearer from their curiosity.
Since 2007, it has been illegal to dock the tails of tollers in the UK.
Always ensure that you’re purchasing your toller puppy from reputable breeders that follow Kennel Club guidelines and breed in an ethical manner. Read our buying guide to learn more about the risks and responsibilities that come with buying a puppy. If you would like to purchase a toller, our breeders are reputable and reliable.
How much does a toller cost to buy? - About £200-£550.
How much does a toller cost to feed? - An adult toller costs about £0.75-£0.90 per day to feed.
How much does insurance for a toller cost? - About £20-£45 per month.
Sensible alternatives to purchasing a new wheaten puppy include rescue and adoption.
Additional resources can be found via toller registries and associations such as: