Interested in a little dog with lots of history? Cue the Duck Toller. Yes, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been an active part of hunting traditions for years. The Toller is named for its ability to entice waterfowl into close range to allow the hunter an opportunity for success. They’re intelligent, motivated and energetic dogs and can be a positive addition to any family whose willing to give them the physical and mental stimulation they need.

Breed Characteristics

  • Height
    • Males: 18”-21”
    • Females: 17”-20”
  • Weight
    • Males: 44–51 lbs
    • Females: 37–44 lbs
  • Life span
    • Nova Scotia Duck Tollers tend to live between 12-14 years
  • Color
    • Copper or red and may have white patches of fur

Fact: Gunner recommends their medium dog kennel for most Duck Tollers

Duck Toller Personality

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are great little dogs. They’re very intelligent and outgoing, so they typically enjoy spending time with both children and adults who will give them attention. If you have ever met a Duck Toller, then you know they can also be emotional and respond best to positivity, warm affection and patience. In fact, some owners and trainers have noted that they seem to hold a bit of a grudge if you raise your voice too much.

Duck Tollers are athletic, hunting dogs who require vast amounts of exercise; for this reason, many Tollers also excel on the agility course. With their sleek body and swift legs, they’re able to fiercely attack the course and speed through obstacles, especially if there’s treats at the end and they’re in the mood to run.

Toller Training tips

As with any dog, Nova Scotia Duck Tollers require training, but they may require more specifically individualized training. These dogs are very alert and emotional with a hint of stubbornness mixed in, which can be difficult for new dog owners to properly handle. Their stubborn attitude will show itself when they’re training and they just want to play or when they’re playing but really should be training.

It’s always important to work with the individual dog in front of you, so you might have to flex your training plans according to how your Duck Toller is feeling that day. In order to create a more fast-paced and fun schedule for them, try having short training sessions (just a few minutes per session) to keep it light, positive and fun. Otherwise, you might find your Duck Toller to be mischievous and difficult to work with and they’ll try to outsmart you, rather than work alongside you to accomplish the training task.

Fact: Nova Scotia Duck Tollers are often misidentified as small Golden Retrievers

Photo courtesy of Jessica Troyanovsky

Hunting History

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers have some of the most interesting historical hunting backgrounds you’ll find. Known as “decoy dogs,” Duck Tollers were often used while waterfowl hunting. Hunters would allow the dogs to frolic and play at the water’s edge to imitate the natural, care-free spirit of a small fox. As ducks fly overhead, they see this “fox” at the shore and assume everything is safe and normal down near the decoys and are more willing to investigate. Once the ducks are lured into close range (hence why these dogs are called “tollers”), the hunters can take aim and swing on the birds. If any birds are dropped from the air, the Duck Toller is then sent to retrieve their prize and deliver it to the waterfowl hunter. 


Duck Tollers are typically a healthy breed of dogs and only require moderate grooming. They shed their coat as much as any other retriever, so weekly brushing will help to limit the number of coppery clumps of dog hair around your home. It is also important to brush a Toller’s ears, especially after a hunt through brush and burrs, to remove knots and clumps that will bother them.

Much like other retrieving breeds, Nova Scotia Duck Tollers can be prone to hip dysplasia, so it’s important to find a breeder who is checking the health of their dogs prior to breeding. This does not eliminate the possibility of having a puppy with dysplasia problems, but it can certainly lower the chances. Tollers can also be susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy, so most breeders note to keep an eye on their vision over time. Finally, while uncommon and preventable with health-tested breedings, Tollers can be prone to be afflicted by Juvenile Addison’s Disease (JADD). This is a problem that occurs in the adrenal glands and usually happens when a puppy is around five months old. Symptoms of this awful disease are lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Before breeding your Duck Tollers or purchasing a puppy, you should do your due diligence to see which genes your dog is carrying.

Fact: Nova Scotia Duck Tollers are the smallest retrievers in the AKC

Read more: The Science Behind a Proper Kennel Fit

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