The Furry Critter Network

Tolling Retriever Breed Description

Back to Canine Breed Menu


Breed Organization

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA)

Native Country

Other Names
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Little River Duck Dog, Yarmouth Toller, Little Red Duck Dog, Toller, Tolling Red Decoy Dog

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-14 Years

Litter Size
Average 3-6 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC Sporting

General Description

Tollers are often mistaken for small Golden Retrievers, but the Toller is more active, both physically and mentally. According to the breed standards, the Toller is athletic, muscular, compact, medium to heavy boned, balanced and powerful. The chest is deep. Conformation judges require Tollers to be capable of tolling and physical faults that inhibit working ability are heavily penalized. They should be of moderate build. The legs are sturdy and solid and they have webbed feet.

Tollers can be any shade of red ranging from a golden red through dark coppery red with lighter featherings on the underside of the tail, pantaloons, and body. The lighter shades of golden red are deeply pigmented and rich in colour. The Toller should not be buff, brown, or beige, though some buff and sable Tollers do appear in breeding lines.

It is common for a Toller to have at least one of the following white markings: tip of tail, feet (not extending above the pasterns) and chest. Lack of white is not a fault; Tollers can be born without white markings. Dogs with white on the shoulders, around ears, back of neck, across back or flanks, or with silvery, grey or black areas in coat are disqualified from conformation shows.

The Toller was bred to retrieve from icy waters and must have a water-repellent double coat of medium length and softness and a soft dense undercoat. The coat may have a slight wave on the back but is otherwise straight. Some winter coats may form a long loose curl at the throat. Featherings are soft and moderate in length, the tail is well feathered and held jauntily when the dog is excited or moving. The hair on the muzzle is short and fine. Seasonal shedding is to be expected

Breed Standard

Head: Broad. Slightly domed skull. Pronounced stop. Brown nose.
Ears: Set on high, triangular.
Eyes: Almond-shaped, widely spaced, amber or brown.
Body: Strong. Deep chest.
Tail: Well-feathered.
Hair: Medium in length, somewhat wavy, slightly oily, waterproof. Undercoat. Feathering on the backs of the legs.
Coat: Rust with white markings on the chest, feet, tip of the tail, and sometimes the foreface.
Size: Dog: 49 to 55 cm. (19-21.5 in).Bitch: 43 to 49 cm. (17-19.5 in).
Weight: Approx. 25 kg (55 kg).


The breed was developed in the community of Little River Harbour in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, around the beginning of the 19th century to toll waterfowl. The breed was originally known as the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever or the Yarmouth Toller. Its exact origins are not known but it appears that some possibly spaniel and setter-type dogs, retriever-type dogs, and farm collie may have gone into the mix. It may share origins with the smaller Kooikerhondje, which has a similar method of work.

The Toller was officially admitted to the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945. Declared the provincial dog of Nova Scotia in 1955, the breed gained national recognition in 1980, when two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were awarded Best in Show at championship events that included many breeds. On June 11, 2001, it was approved for admission into the Miscellaneous Class of the American Kennel Club and was granted full recognition into the Sporting Group on July 1, 2003.


Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are known to be very intelligent, alert, high-energy dogs. They tend to be very affectionate and outgoing animals with family members and are known for being very patient with children. Some dogs may be reserved in new situations but shyness in adult dogs is considered a flaw.

Duck Tollers are working animals and are happiest when they have a job to do. Tollers are excellent hunting companions. Their keen sense of smell, intelligence, working drive, and small size, also make them perfect search and rescue dogs.

Physical stimulation should be provided for these dogs each day since they may become destructive when they are not exercised enough or left alone for too long. The breed standard states that the dog should have a strong retrieving drive, intense birdiness, endurance and a love for water.

Tollers do not have an aggressive bark. Some have a unique sounding bark known as the "Toller scream", a high-pitched, howl-like sound which is often referred to as their "singing". They do not use this in violent situations, however; for these they have a harsh growl. The Toller scream is used to express excitement.

He needs space and exercise for his well-being, as well as regular brushing and combing.


The Toller is known to excel in various sporting and obedience activities, and health and safety related jobs. The breeds' high energy and intelligence makes them perfect candidates for difficult jobs that require tremendous dedication and skill. Tollers enjoy working and being outside, therefore, it is no surprise that they excel at various sport and job related activities.

The breed is categorized as a "sporting" dog under the CKC and AKA organizations making tollers ideal dogs for various physical activities. Other kennel clubs such as the AKNC and UKC categorize tollers as a "gundog" which depicts their drive, mental intelligence, and intuitive hunting sense. Kennel clubs throughout the world recognize Tollers as an athletic, intelligent, and a driven breed that has the innate ability to excel in any of the following activities: dog agility, dock jumping, disc catching, flyball, lure coursing, obedience, search and rescue, therapy dog, and hunting.


This is a healthy working breed that is increasing in popularity. With its limited gene pool, a corresponding increase in some health dangers has occurred. Besides some thyroid and autoimmune problems, progressive retinal atrophy is starting to show up.

Back to Canine Breed Menu

Featured Rescues

"Don't Shop ... Please Adopt"

laptop pro


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world.

Our organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence, and with programs that extend our anti-cruelty mission across the country, we are recognized as a national animal welfare organization. We are a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and are proud to boast more than 2 million supporters across the country.

The ASPCA’s mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

laptop pro


If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)

laptop pro

Rescue Me

Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network

Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.