Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Dog

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a big name for the smallest dog among all the retrievers! It is a relatively new breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, and not many people know about them.

So, to give you all the details, we have created this ultimate dog breed guide, covering their origin story, characteristics, health and nutritional needs, and grooming and training tips. As per the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club USA, the breed’s name stems from the term “toll” – meaning “to entice.” 

They were selectively bred to lure ducks using their white-tipped tail and then retrieve them for hunters. While initially used for hunting, today, they make great family pets. They are devoted and affectionate toward their families, thriving in environments that offer frequent and diverse outdoor activities. 

Are you considering buying the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and want to know about them? Keep reading this guide. 

Breed Overview

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized Canadian sporting dog. It boasts golden-red fur, floppy ears, and an athletic physique with a waterproof double coat. 

Originally known as Little River Duck Dogs, these cheerful pups adore both water and sports training, cherishing their families immensely. 

Resembling smaller-sized Golden Retrievers, they possess a distinct personality that’s entirely their own. Whether they bring joy or stress to your life hinges on what you seek in a family dog and the lifestyle you can offer these lively furballs.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, often called Tollers, thrive as sporty dogs, blending intelligence, affection, and a hint of independent confidence. 

Provide them with what they need—like lots of exercise and attention—and you’ll gain a faithful, loving companion. They’ll eagerly join you on hikes, bike rides, and endless long walks, becoming your ideal partner.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Overview

Breed Group: Sporting

Height: 18 to 21 inches (males), 17 to 20 inches (females)

Weight: 35 to 50 pounds

Lifespan: 12 to 14 years

Coat: Waterproof double coat

Color: Golden-red, buff or red with white markings

Temperament: Intelligent, affectionate, independent

Needs for Grooming: Moderate grooming needs

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Canada


History of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever breed hails from Yarmouth County in Nova Scotia, Canada. They were originally bred by the Acadian residents living in the Harbor region known as Little River. 

The Toller is believed to be a mix of retrievers, setters, spaniels, and potentially a farm collie mongrel. However, it is not confirmed. 

Hunters in the 1800s cleverly bred Tollers, who were known for their smart hunting tactics. Similar to foxes, they use quick moves to attract prey out into the open. Being retrievers, they’re prized for their readiness to plunge into water and retrieve downed waterfowl.

Originally kept under wraps by Nova Scotia hunters, Tollers gained recognition from the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945. This marked the official switch from their old name, Little River Duck Dogs, to their lengthy current title. 

By the 1960s, Tollers found their way to the United States, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that they got the nod from the AKC. The breed’s development reached its peak in the latter part of the 19th century.

Today’s Tollers still resemble and behave like foxes, but they’ve adapted well to non-hunting life, although many still enjoy the sport. They’re content living as family dogs as long as they have an outlet for their innate retriever energy and drive. 


Tollers often get mistaken for tiny Golden Retrievers, though they’re actually more energetic, both mentally and physically. As per their standards, they’re described as athletic, muscular, and balanced with a deep chest. 

Considered a medium-sized breed, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever holds the title of the smallest registered retriever by the American Kennel Club. 

A grown Toller typically stands between 18 and 21 inches tall and weighs around 35 to 50 pounds. Females are a bit shorter than males. 

Males18 to 21 inches35 to 50 pounds
Females17 to 20 inches35 to 50 pounds

They’re meant to be well-built without being too heavy or too light, as both extremes affect their athleticism. Their legs are strong, with webbed feet for swimming.

For breeders focused on shows, the head is crucial, resembling a fox more than a blocky Golden Retriever. Their triangular ears are set back from the head, and they are tall. 

Their lips, nose, and eye rims must match in color, either black or black, integrating into the fur. They have strong jaws and a scissor bite, which are essential for carrying birds gently. Their eyes, set apart and almond-shaped, range from dark brown to amber, portraying a friendly and alert expression.

Coat and Color

Coat and Color of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Originally bred for water retrieval, Tollers have a water-proof medium length double coat. It’s soft with a dense undercoat, occasionally showing a little wave but mostly straight. 

Featherings on their body and tail are silky and moderately long, and their muzzle sports short, fine hair. Shedding happens seasonally. 

Their coat ranges from golden red to dark coppery red, sometimes with lighter patches underneath. Buff, brown, or beige coats aren’t typical, although they occasionally pop up in breeding lines. 

Some Tollers have white markings on their tail tip, feet, or chest, but not having any white is fine, too. However, those with certain markings, like on the shoulders or with silvery, grey, or black patches, are disqualified in shows. Remember to pay attention to the coat color when searching for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever for sale. 

Characteristics and Temperament

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are smart, curious, and always alert, with tons of energy. They’re loving, keen to please, and gel well famously with kids, making them fantastic family dogs. But potential owners need to know—they require a lot, both physically and mentally.

These dogs need daily physical activity to stay happy. If they don’t get enough exercise or are stranded unattended for too long, they might get a bit destructive. Tollers are born to work, especially in hunting—they truly thrive when they have to do a job. 

They’re superb companions for various sports like agility, dock diving, and obedience. Thanks to their sharp sense of scent and intelligence, they’re also perfect for rescue and search missions.

Interestingly, Tollers don’t have a bark that’s aggressive. Instead, they might let out a unique “Toller scream,” a howl-like high-pitched sound that’s more like their own special song. They belt it out when they’re excited, not in aggressive situations.

Tollers can be really friendly if they’re introduced to lots of different things when they’re young. They’re full of energy and love being around their family, but they can be a bit cautious with strangers. To grow up healthy, they need to experience new people, smells, places, and sights.

They usually get along with other canines, but they have a powerful instinct to chase small animals like cats. If they meet cats or other small creatures early on, they might learn to get along. If Tollers aren’t socialized well when they’re young, they might end up behaving aggressively, destructively, or be a bit shy when they’re older.

Here’s an overview of the characteristics and temperament of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers:

  • Are they affectionate? Yes
  • Are they friendly? Yes
  • Do they get along with kids? Yes
  • Can they live with other pets? Yes, if socialized properly.
  • Do they need plenty of exercise? Yes
  • Are they playful? Yes
  • Are they energetic dogs? Yes
  • Can you train them easily? Yes
  • Are they smart? Yes
  • Do they bark a lot? Only moderately.
  • Do they shed a lot? Yes

If you are planning to buy this dog, look for a reputable breeder or search for Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever adoption online. 

Health and Nutrition 

Health and Nutrition of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are generally healthy if you give them a proper diet and take them for vet checkups from time to time.

To pick the right diet for your Toller, focus on high-quality food approved by the AAFCO. Talk with your vet to figure out the best food for your furry friend.

Feeding a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy means three to four meals a day, while grown-ups do well with two meals. Otherwise, they don’t need any special feeding routine.

The amount of food depends on your dog’s weight, lifestyle, and health. The food package might suggest portions but always check with your vet. Overfeeding can lead to health issues like obesity.

If your Toller has hip or elbow dysplasia, your vet might suggest joint supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin. Omega-3 supplements can also help their joints, skin, and coats stay healthy.

Apart from food, you also need to give them fresh water. Keep a water bowl accessible around the feeding area and change it twice a day. If you are giving them treats, make sure you choose a healthy alternative. According to the American Kennel Club, treats should only be 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. 

Common Health Problems

Duck Tollers, while typically healthy, might have some inherited health issues.

1. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia 

These conditions involve misaligned hip or elbow joints, causing pain and arthritis over time. They can be inherited but are also affected by exercise, weight, and diet.

2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) 

PRA leads to blindness and is inherited. A DNA test can check for the gene. Responsible breeders screen for this to avoid passing it on.

3. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) 

DM affects the spinal cord, causing hindleg paralysis. It’s suspected to be genetic, and diagnosis involves ruling out other causes. Sadly, it leads to mobility loss, often resulting in euthanasia.

4. Deafness

Deafness in dogs can result from various reasons like genetics, ear problems, or injuries. However, deaf dogs can lead happy lives. Training them might need special approaches to ensure their safety.

5. Addison’s Disease 

This disease destroys the adrenal glands, affecting hormone production. Symptoms include lethargy, appetite changes, and, in severe cases, sudden collapse. It’s diagnosed with a blood test and managed with lifelong medication. Though it can’t be cured, proper management allows dogs to lead fulfilling lives.

Certain illnesses like Addison’s Disease and deafness often surface in Nova Scotia Duck Tollers during their middle age. Sometimes, these genetic issues might not show until after breeding. 

Unfortunately, specific gene marker tests for this breed aren’t available yet. However, breeders can reduce risks by considering the genetic history of multiple generations in a litter. So, when looking for Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppies for sale, select a reputable breeder. 

Behavior and Training

Behavior and Training of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an active breed needing daily exercise for both body and mind. They’re clever and love varied activities like hunts, hikes, and runs—the weather doesn’t bother them.

Given their intelligence and working background, Tollers need lots of engaging activities and might not suit every family. They’re good with kids who understand dogs but might need careful introductions to smaller pets like cats.

Tollers are curious and energetic, suitable for smaller homes if there’s a fenced yard for safe play and various walking spots for fun.

Teaching a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever can be tough. They aim to please but can be a bit stubborn. Still, training’s doable. Start basic obedience at around eight weeks old. 

Short sessions with lots of praise and consistency help. Even though they might get up to some mischief, obedience training is essential, even if it’s not for advanced stuff like agility or hunting.

Here are some fun activities they enjoy:

  • Swimming
  • Hunting
  • Fetch
  • Hiking
  • Dock diving
  • Agility

Exercise Needs

Tollers, like all dogs, need daily exercise to stay happy. They’re good with about an hour of activity each day. Long walks or a yard to roam are essential, and they love sports like agility and flyball. 

Playing together is awesome for bonding and keeping them entertained. But remember, each Toller is different—some might chill on the couch after a walk, while others need more action to feel fulfilled.

Grooming Needs

Grooming Needs of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Grooming your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is important to keep their lovely coat in top shape.

1. Skin

Tollers typically don’t have sensitive skin, but their care might vary based on individual needs. They don’t need frequent bathing like other dogs, and occasional baths (once every four weeks) are enough. 

2. Coat

These dogs can shed quite a bit, especially during the shedding season. Brush your Toller once or twice a week, especially behind the ears, where mats can form. Pay attention to their feet to prevent slipping on smooth surfaces. Trim the excess hair around their feet to avoid any accidents. 

3. Eyes

Check for changes in their eyes and use pet-safe eye wipes to clear tear staining or debris. It will help you to prevent any infection. 

4. Ears

Keep their ears clean after water play or baths to avoid ear infections caused by trapped moisture. After their swimming sessions, make sure you clean their ears.

5. Nail Trim

You also need to check their nails and trim them if there is excess growth. As they tend to play a lot, it can cause nail breakage, so it is best to keep them short.

6. Teeth Brushing

While Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are not prone to dental disease, it is still advisable to brush their teeth. You can do it twice or thrice a week. 

Are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers Hypoallergenic?

Toller Retrievers aren’t hypoallergenic. Allergens in their saliva, skin, fur, paws, and dander can trigger allergies. They shed quite a bit and love cuddles, so severe allergy sufferers might want to consider a different breed. If your allergies are mild and managed, you can have a Toller by taking specific steps.


Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppies for sale range between $1,500 and $2,500 USD. The price varies based on factors like the breeder, number of puppies, their sex, pedigree, inclusions, and where the breeder is located. 

Expect to pay around $1,500 for a non-pedigree Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy and up to $2,500 for a high-quality pup from a reputable breeder. 

Life Span

Life Span of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Be ready for the long haul, as the breed usually lives for about 14 years. Even as they age, their energy might decrease a bit, but Tollers usually stay active well into their senior years.


Where to find Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever dog for sale?

You can search online for Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever for sale to get a list of all the breeders selling the dog. 

How long can a Toller be left alone?

Leaving a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever alone for six to eight hours can work if they get a long walk before and after your absence. 

Do duck Tollers cuddle?

Yes, most Tollers enjoy cuddling with their owners after a long day’s work. 

How fast can Tollers run?

Tollers are speedy dogs, reaching up to 45 mph if they love to run.


This is all you need to know about the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever dog breed. If you are looking for an affectionate and devoted pet, they are a great choice. Their wolf-like face, floppy ears, and short legs make them look very cute even when they grow up. However, remember that they need your time and attention to stay happy. If you are ready to devote time to play and train them, they are great for any household.

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