The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

The Purebred Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever

Information and Pictures

A medium wavy coated orange with white dog standing in grass. The dog has white on the tips of his paws and chest, a brown nose and soft looking ears that hang down to the sides.

Copper the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever at 14 months old knows he looks good after a bath.

Other Names
  • Little Red Duck Dog
  • Little River Duck Dog
  • Novie
  • Scotty
  • Toller
  • Tolling Retriever
  • Yarmouth Toller

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The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever looks somewhat like a small Golden Retriever. It is a well-muscled dog that is medium to heavy boned. It has a deep chest that is well-insulated for swimming in cold water. The coat is dense, and comes in various shades of red and orange. It usually has small white markings on the feet, chest, tail tip and sometimes face. It may have a slight wave on its back, but the coat is otherwise straight. The ears are triangular and set high and are well back from the skull. The head is clean-cut and slightly wedge-shaped. The powerful, compact, well-muscled body is on sturdy, solid legs.


Sensible and very devoted to its family. These dogs are intelligent, easy to obedience train and good with children. They make great companion dogs as long as they get enough exercise to fulfill their energetic needs. Tollers may be a bit more reserved around strangers than the Golden Retriever; socialize them well. The same charming way this water dog has with his game, he demonstrates with his owner. He is hard-working and clever, and enjoys being with his master. His expression may seem low-spirited, but once in the hunt he is the happy hunter. The Toller's strong retrieving desire and playfulness are natural traits, both necessary for his tolling ability. Tolling (luring) is a natural trait (like pointing) and cannot be taught. They have an intense natural excitement about their duty. Young dogs need to practice; training sessions involve establishing a close relationship and having children throw things for them to retrieve. Some owners say the Toller is a retrieving fool. They love retrieving games! These are excellent family pets which get on well with other dogs and animals. They are very patient with children. They bark when there is danger but that is likely to be all. They need owners who know how to properly communicate authority over them.

Height, Weight

Height: 17 - 21 inches (43 - 53 cm)
Weight: 37 - 51 pounds (17 - 23 kg)

Health Problems

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.

Living Conditions

The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. This breed does well in cold climates.


These high-energy dogs need a lot of physical exercise. They need to be taken on a brisk, long, daily walk or jog. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog's mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. In addition, they will enjoy it if you throw a ball or stick for them to retrieve.

Life Expectancy

About 12-14 years

Litter Size

About 5 to 10 puppies


The water-repellent, double coat of the Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever should be combed and brushed with a firm bristle brush, paying particular attention to the dense undercoat. Dry shampoo regularly, but bathe only when necessary, for it removes the natural oils in the skin which make it naturally water resistant. This breed is an average shedder.


The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever originates from Canada. Tolling Red Decoy Dogs probably accompanied their masters from Great Britain to Nova Scotia. They were crossed with retrievers and working spaniels. It was developed to toll (lure) ducks in the manner of the fox. The clever manner in which foxes work together to obtain a duck dinner has been observed over the centuries. The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever is the creation of skillful Canadian hunters. The Toller's rather unusual job is to lure ducks and geese within shotgun range, and to retrieve them from the water after they have been hit. From his concealed blind near the shore, the hunter tosses a stick parallel to the shore, and with great liveliness, but without barking, the Toller retrieves it. It may take a dozen or more throws before the ducks or geese become curious and approach the shore. When the overly inquisitive ducks are within shooting range, the hunter calls his dog back to the blind, stands up to put the birds to flight, and shoots. The Toller then acts as an efficient retriever. Indians utilized this mesmerizing practice by stringing a fox skin across a length of shore and yanking it quickly back and forth, simulating the movement of the fox. The breed used to be called the Little River Duck Dog or Yarmouth Toller, but when the Canadian Kennel Club began registering it in the late 1950s, the present name was established. FCI gave it full international recognition in 1982. There are a fair number of Tollers and breed specialty clubs in the USA. The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever was first recognized by the AKC in 2003.


Gun Dog

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club
A litter of four Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever puppies are sitting around a potted plant. Three are sitting outside on a flagstone patio in front of the plant and one is sitting behind it.

Archer the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever with his litterates at 6 weeks old

Front side view - A red with white Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever is laying down in grass looking to the left.

Decoymans Piper Breeze, photo courtesy of Decoymans Kennel

See more examples of the Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever