Dog Breed Review

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever




The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is the real mcCoy of decoy; a natural at deceiving waterfowl. Couple that with their companionship skills, it’s no wonder that Canada loves this retriever.

They are intelligent and busy, quick on their feet, but when they come home, the NSDR is a loving companion; faithful to a fault.

While many people may not know much about this breed, in the past three or four decades, the Toller’s popularity continues to jump.

So what is it about this breed that Canadian and dog lovers all over the world love? Is this breed right for your home?

Here is what you need to know about the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.


The word “tollen” is an old English word that means to “lure.” That is exactly what the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever does and does well. In fact, aside from the Nderlande Kooikerhonje, the Toller is the only breed for that specific purpose of decoying. 

Bred to lure ducks into thinking that they are foxes, something waterfowl couldn’t resist. Taking the bait on the NSDR, the waterfowl finds itself within the hunter’s shooting range. Once the hunter fires down the game, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever retrieves the duck or prey. Moreover, whether the game is alive or hurt, the Tolling Retriever’s job is to go and return it to their master.

The dicey element to this breed’s history is their lineage. Nobody knows for certain, but many believe that te Farm Collie has something to do with it. That, and some sort of setter and retriever type, possibly the Chesapeake. Their start begins in the early 19th century in the Little River Harbour region of Yarmouth County. In fact, the original name for the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was the Little River Duck Dog and Yarmouth Toller.

Outside of Canada, not many people knew about the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Their first appearance inside the United States dates back to the 1960’s. At that time, the Labrador Retriever had all the fanfare.

However, the formation of the NSDR Club of America in 1984 would help get the word out about this breed’s hard work ethic and companionship. In 1987, the United Kennel Club made it official by given the breed recognition. It would take the American Kennel Club 20 years or so to follow suit. However, in 2003, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever became a breed with full recognition. 

Today, the Toller is still an avid hunting and sporting breed. Although they are find companions, it is their waterfowl expertise that helps their popularity grow. The American Kennel Club lists the breed as the 87th most popular in America.


Out of all the “retriever breeds,” the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is the smallest. As a medium size breed, a male can stand between 18 to 21 inches. A female will stand from 17 to 20 inches.

With regards to weight, both male and female Tollers can range between 35 to 50 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

If someone or something is going to be deceptive, than that someone or something needs to display a bit of intelligence. That’s the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, which is a dog that, historically, has been able to successfully decoy waterfowl into the welcoming trap of their human friends. This is an eager to please breed, that is simple to train and needs to stay busy. They like to have a purpose and role. They like to feel as if they are helping their family. 

Aside from deceptive hunting games, the Toller is also good at sports. They absolutely adore fetch, along with other canine sports such as agility, lure and obedience. Long walks or a stroll along a hiking trail is a perfect encounter for the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

At home, this is an affectionate breed, very affectionate. Their nose down, wag the tail, work ethic is one thing, but at the end of the day, they simply can’t wait to go home and be with their humans. Tollers love to remain close in contact with their people and feeds off the touch and exchange of good dog ownership.

A breed that is pretty good with children and should do fine with other dogs. Overall, this is a friendly breed. Yet, they may not make the best guard dog due to their diplomatic traits. Don’t confuse their diplomacy with neglect for their people’s well-being, however. This dog will act upon necessity. 

The NSDR can be adaptable to most surroundings, although they are happiest in bigger spaces, where they can run and be active. Again, this is an adventurous dog that likes to sniff out its surroundings. 

All in all, the fun loving dog at home can certainly turn up the heat when out on the path. Dogs and children will get along nicely with the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. They crave for attention and are more than willing to return the favor. After you come from work, expect your Toller to greet you and plea for a belly rub or a little fetch in the backyard.


The experts of this breed say the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is generally healthy. You may agree, yet, there is quite an extensive list of possibilities and complications pertaining to their health. That said, you can reduce those complications by purchasing a Toller from a reputable breeder. Someone with a good and credible reputation. This breeder should be able to provide you proof of health clearances. Also, getting into the habit of scheduling routine visits with a Vet will help maintain your dog’s well-being. If you do those two things, there is no reason not to anticipate your Toller to live between 12 to 14 years.

According to Paw Print Genetics, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, in a short sample survey, shows a 47.4% incident rate for Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Of course, the list is made up of NSDR’s from the Czech Republic. PRA is a genetic condition of the retina, in which, systematic failure of the photorod cells of the retina can result in temporary or permanent blindness. There are tests and ways to avoid this from occurring. That is why it is important to buy from a reputable breeder. Most dogs, however, do go on to live normal lives.

Collie Eye Anomaly is another concern. Obviously, the Collie breed suffers from this congenital condition that affects the choroid, sclera and retina. A possibility of blindness exists and treatment is available. This would represent the reason to schedule routine visits with your veterinarian. 

Cataracts can be seen with the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Cataracts is the cloudiness of the crystalline lens that can result in night blindness and even worse, complete blindness. 

When it comes to the joints or orthopedics; the NSDR has a low rate for some of the major complications affecting a dog’s elbow, legs and hips. For instance, Elbow Dysplasia, the abnormal development of the elbow and biggest cause of elbow pain is a low concern for the Toller. Moreover, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals found the breed to have a 2.2% dysplastic rate. This ranks them 87th. 

Patella Luxation, which is when the knee cap slips out of place causing pain and discomfort;  is another low threat for the breed. The OFA ranks the breed 112th with a 99.3 normal percentage.

Hip Dysplasia isn’t much of a concern but there is a low chance that your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever could suffer from the condition. Moreover, the breed ranks 147th along with the Aussie Shepherd. Out of 2,500 evaluations plus, the breed had a score of 6.0 percent dysplastic rating.

A deficiency in production of the adrenal, cortisol, and aldosterone gland, Addisons Disease, can be found with this breed. This can invite lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite and diarrhea to name a few symptoms. Oral medication treatment is available.

With regards to the breed’s thyroids, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever ranks 19th in OFA’s study. This puts them in the company along with the Old English Sheepdog, Beagle and Cocker Spaniel. The NSDR has an 84.1% normal rating and an 8.1% incidental rating for autoimmune thyroiditis. 

Finally, you may want to caution for issues like: epilepsy, pyoderma, deafness, heart diseases (which account for six percent of the breed’s mortality) and cancer.


If you’re looking for a dog that will lay around with you all day, try an English Bulldog. This is not that dog. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an active dog for an active family. This is why they make wonderful additions to a family that enjoys adventures. A family that likes to camp, hunt, hike, or even farm, will enjoy this breed much. They need to get out and exercise. At least 30 minutes a day will do for their energy requirements. One long walk or two short walks should suffice.

Aside from plenty of physical and mental stimulation, the Toler may display a strong prey drive. If you have smaller pets like rats or birds, you may want to reconsider this breed. Also, invest in a fence and a leash. However, this is an indoor dog that should be inside with their family. Additionally, they shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. It may surprise you to know that the breed will do okay in apartments just as long as you keep up with energy requirements.

Check their ears routinely for any kind of odor or bacterial infection, their coats as well for complications like Pyoderma, and trim their nails regularly to protect from splitting and overgrowth.


A serious issue of overeating and eating too rapidly is Bloat or Gastric Torsion. This is why most experts suggest breaking up a dog’s meals. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is no exception to the rule. They should be getting 2.5 cups to 3 cups of high quality dry kibble per day. Again, break that up into two or three smaller meals throughout the day.

Their food should be a formula that has a proper nutritional balance. You’ll want meat as the first ingredient. This isn’t a picky eater but they do tend to burn through the calories being an active dog. Meat is a great source for energy. So anything like chicken, turkey, fish and beef should do the trick.

A dog between 35 to 40 pounds, that isn’t overly active will need between 1000 to 1100 calories per day. However. a dog of the same weight but a bit more busy in their day will need 1600 plus to 1850 calories a day. Mix in plenty of fruit, veggies and supplements like omega 3 and 6. That will help culture their coat and keep their joints strong and healthy.

As always, you should provide your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever with fresh drinking water.


A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a medium length coat with a soft and dense undercoat. There may be a bit of a slight wave to it in the back. The coat is water repellent. They are seasonal shedders, which means some  grooming will be necessary. 

According to the breed’s standard, there are two acceptable coat color options: Red, red and gold. There is one marking that the standard will allow and that is white markings.

Fun Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Facts

  • In 1995, the NSDR became Nova Scotia’s provincial dog signaling their importance on the region.
  • If you think you hear screaming, you’re right!!! According to the American Kennel Club, the Toller produces a high pitch bark similar to that of a scream.
  • The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is one of four Canadian breeds: Canadian Eskimo, Newfoundland and Labrador Retriever.
  • Aside from being the AKC’s 150th breed to gain recognition, they also have the longest name out of any dog with recognition in the AKC.

Closing Words

It’s quite easy to see why the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is so important and popular with our neighbors up north. Once the rest of the world began to learn about this breed, a trend in interest towards this breed continues to grow.

That’s because the NSDR is reliable, hard working, intelligent and most of all: a sweet and loving companion. 


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