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What Does the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Temperament Tell us About This Breed?

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever temperament is a winner, and, as you might expect, she is fantastic at retrieving. In fact, her name actually tells you this twice.

In addition to being a “retriever,” the word “tolling” means she tricks waterfowl by playing with her toys by the shore, distracting them long enough for the hunter to shoot them.

The Toller (as she's called) then retrieves the dead ducks and brings them back to her master.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Playing in Snow |DogTemperament.com

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Temperament and Personality

Despite sounding like a vicious hunter, the Toller temperament is actually a smart, loving, and outgoing one.

She's One Smart Cookie

When it comes to intelligence, the Toller has her Retriever relatives beat. The Toller is, in fact, the smartest of all Retriever breeds.

She's a Hard Worker

The Toller loves to work. A hardworking Toller is a happy Toller.

She's Great with Kids

This Little River Duck Dog loves children and enjoys playing ball with them or using her pulling skills to pull them around in their wagon.

She Can Be “Mouthy”

The Toller is much like other Retrievers in that she loves to explore the world with her mouth. You must train her that it is inappropriate to chew on things that are not toys, including your own hands. Give her enough of a variety of toys that she doesn’t seek out things elsewhere to chew on.

She Can Be Aloof with Strangers

The Toller’s interactions with strangers vary greatly, depending on the dog. Some Tollers are curious about people they don’t know, while others remain reserved until they get to know you better.

Early and frequent socialization should nip these potentially undesirable qualities in the bud. And nip them you should – ignoring a dog’s aloofness with strangers can cause them to expound on it as they get older.

They may become timid or outright fearful of strangers, or perhaps even develop aggression as an overreactive defense mechanism.

She's Alright with Other Dogs

The Toller does well with other dogs, so long as you socialize her at an early age.

However, if she gets a whiff of smaller “prey” that might be nearby, including cats or squirrels, she may pursue them. But, if she chases the family’s cat, she does not mean to do him any harm. She’s simply enjoying the thrill of the chase.

To best combat this, you need to keep her in a fenced-in yard, or on a leash when out for walks.

The Toller “Scream”

Something to note about the Little River Duck Dog is her shrill yelp, which is actually more like a scream. In fact, experts call it the “Toller Scream.”

She “screams” when she's excited or frustrated. Even the sight of a bird in flight can cause her to “scream!”

This may mean she is not an ideal pet for individuals living in apartments or neighborhoods with a low noise tolerance. Her scream is not, however, a sign that she's in danger or even senses it. The Toller is a hunter by nature, not a guard dog.

Additional Names for the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Additional names for this breed include the American Duck Retriever, the Little River Duck Dog, the Yarmouth Toller, or, more simply, the Toller.

Still more nicknames for this breed include the Little Red Duck Dog, the Novie, the Scotty, and the Tolling Retriever. (That’s a lot of names for one dog to go by!)

Did You Know?

  • The Toller was born for the water – she actually has webbed feet!
  • The Toller is very versatile – she can go from couch potato mode to hardworking gundog in mere seconds.
  • Her full name – Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever – is actually the longest breed name on the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed list.

A Brief History of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Toller originated at the beginning of the 19th century in Little River Harbour, a small community located in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia – hence the name.

Initially, breeders called the Toller the Little River Duck Dog until 1945, when the Canadian Kennel Club recognized the breed officially as a purebred.

Experts believe the Toller is a combination of Retrievers, Spaniels, and Setters, perhaps with a Collie mix thrown in. The Toller came to be the dog we know today sometime during the latter half of the 19th century.

How Do You Train a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Playing in Snow | DogTemperament.com

A downside to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever temperament is that she is not as eager to please her masters as, say, a Golden Retriever might be.

This can prove difficult when trying to train her, as she can be very stubborn.

If she isn't listening to the commands you're giving her, don't get discouraged.

Remain firm, consistent, and persistent. Given the chance, she'll walk all over you. Don't let her.

Most Tollers (or Little River Duck Dogs) do better with training when rewards are involved, but be careful with the treats.

You must monitor her weight to make sure she doesn't become overweight, which can happen quickly – especially with treats.

The Toller's fun-loving personality also means that she prefers training to be fun, too.

The Toller becomes bored very easily, so, keep training sessions short. You're less likely to lose her attention that way.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan a world-class Dog Trainer from New Zealand is worth taking a look at. This online resource has hundreds of fun informative dog training videos that can help you learn the basics and more.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Appearance

If you’re wondering “how big is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?”, the answer is mid-size.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Size: Weight and Height

On average, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever weighs between 37 and 44 lbs. for a female, and between 44 and 51 lbs. for a male.

As far as height goes, they average 17 to 20 inches tall for a female, and between 18 to 21 inches tall for a male.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Colors

When it comes to colors, the Toller comes in copper, red, and red golden.

How Do You Groom a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

Grooming a Toller can be, in all honesty, a bit gross, depending on what she rolls around in.

The dirtier and smellier, the better – the Toller has a blast rolling around in a puddle of mud.

If she's not as dirty, then a weekly brushing should be enough, with more brushing during shedding seasons.

Be sure to remove any excess hair that may grow between the pads of her feet to increase her traction on indoor floors.

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Hypoallergenic?

As for whether you can consider this breed hypoallergenic, the answer is no.

Typically, as is the case here, the larger the dog, the more dander they produce. So, if you tend to suffer allergies while in the presence of dogs, the Toller is, unfortunately, one of those breeds who can cause you to have a reaction.

Health of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Most of the health problems that plague the Toller are related to their immune systems.

Perhaps the most important health concern for the Toller is Addison's disease.

Addison's disease is a condition that affects the glands, and it is 10 times more likely to be found in a Toller than in any other dog.

Symptoms of Addison's disease include:

  • Weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivering
  • Increased drinking/urinating

Addison's disease may not be life-threatening, but it can be more severe for some dogs.

If your dog suddenly becomes weak and experiences severe diarrhea and vomiting, call your vet immediately.

Other Health Issues

Other problems to affect the Toller may include:

The average life expectancy for a healthy Toller is between 12 and 14 years.

Helpful Dog Health Resource:

Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely dog from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expectancy.


Interestingly, the Toller's activity level doesn't rise to that of her cousin, the Labrador Retriever. But she is, however, a more active Retriever than her Golden Retriever cousin.

This means that you'll probably have to walk her about twice a day to satisfy her and get out all the energy that might otherwise lead to her to engage in “the zoomies.”

Activities she enjoys include swimming, tracking, and fieldwork. In other words, if you can’t give this dog an active lifestyle and are looking for more of a lapdog, then a good match you two will not make.

This is one of those breeds who needs a mental challenge as much as she needs a physical one. Be sure to give her plenty of tasks that require thought, like fetching or doggy puzzles.

To find more examples and benefits of daily dog exercise read our article here.

Finding the Perfect Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy In Pond | DogTemperament.com

Finding the perfect Toller puppy may prove difficult, as this is one of those breeds who has suffered the most from inbreeding.

In fact, reputable dog breeders are actively working to diversify the line better.

If you find a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever for sale you must research your breeder very carefully before paying the high price.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppies for Sale

You're probably wondering: “how much is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?” You may be surprised to learn that the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever price averages around $1,700 for a puppy.

If you're looking for Toller puppies from a top-quality bloodline, then one of these puppies can run you anywhere from $2,200 to $4,800, and perhaps more.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Rescue and Adoption

If you are interested in adopting a Toller, puppy or adult, the organization NSDTRC-USA specializes in rescuing and re-homing this lovely breed.

As with any shelter, they provide photos of the dogs available for adoption, along with their estimated ages and a brief background of their histories.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breeders

Because the Toller has been affected by an overabundance of inbreeding, you must make sure the breeder you use is reputable before you purchase a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever that’s for sale

When in doubt, you can always go through the AKC.

The AKC has a breeder finder on its website that can connect you to breeders that are registered with the AKC.

A registered and licensed breeder is a breeder you can trust.

Always make sure you get copies of all promises the breeder makes to you in writing, as well as certifications of health clearances for the Toller puppy that you choose.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Mixes

If you find mixed breeds irresistible, you can find some Toller mixed breeds, though there aren’t many to choose from at this time.

Presently, the only mixes I know of include the Toller with a Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, or Labrador Retriever.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever vs. Golden Retriever

While the Toller and the Golden Retriever are similar in that they are both Retrievers, there are several differences in the two dogs’ temperaments that can change your mind about which dog you’d rather bring home.

For instance, Tollers tend to be less likely to submit to you, and they are less friendly with strangers. They are also less likely to do well in a home with low activity levels.

Most people tend to see Golden Retrievers as the be-all, end-all when it comes to family dogs. Conversely, Toller owners have described the breed as “too much dog” for someone looking for a dog who lives and dies for his master, and who loves to lounge around the house.

A Final Word about the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Temperament

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever temperament is a friendly one, and she is a very versatile dog.

She's up for whatever you want to do, whether it's a nap or a hike.

Her loud “scream,” however, does not make her an ideal choice for apartment living.

She loves to roll around in the dirt and stinky things, which may make her harder to clean and groom.

She may be a bit of a pain to train because she is stubborn and doesn't care quite as much about pleasing you. You'll have to make training short and fun and be firm and consistent with her, to keep her attention.

Tollers are generally healthy, but it's important to be aware of their health concerns considering their high level of inbreeding.