Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever – Full Breed Profile

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
You love that Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is smaller than Goldern Retriever, but you are not sure if this breed is for you? If so, check this guide and learn how they differ and if this dog is for you.
Dog Breed Group:
Sporting Dogs
1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 9 inches tall at the shoulder
35 to 50 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 14 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is AKC’s 150th breed.

At first sight, they appear to many like small Golden Retrievers, although these two are separate breeds. They are intelligent, outdoing, and affectionate.

They are also a bit independent. This medium-size gundog was primarily used for hunting – this breed was specially created to lure and retrieve waterfowl.

This redhead dog is packed with boundless energy and as such will demand a lot of time outdoors to burn that extra energy. That being said, this dog isn’t for everyone.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers like to be and stay busy and as such, they are both physical and mental commitments.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, or otherwise called a “Little Red Retrieving Machine” come with a perfect red coat that will require brushing at least once a week.

Their natural drip-dry coat comes with low maintenance which is something that should be a plus when thinking about getting this breed.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are easily motivated to perform tricks, especially if you have their favorite treats on hand.

As natural hunters, they will be more than happy to spend an entire day hunting or just working something next to their humans.

They’re great sporting companions, so any human sport such as jogging, or dog sport such as agility will do more than enough to keep them both busy and happy.

Quick Facts

Real name: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Other names: Yarmouth Toller, Tolling Retriever, Little Red Duck Dog, Little River Duck Dog
Common Nickname: Toller, Duck Toller
Origin: Canada (Nova Scotia)
Breed type: Sporting Dogs
Weight: 35 to 50 pounds
Height: 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 9 inches tall at the shoulder
Lifespan:10 to 14 years
Litter Size: 6 -10 puppies
Color: Most commonly shades of red and orange, with white on the chest
Coat: Medium-length coat with a softer, dense undercoat

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever History

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was developed in the Acadian community in Nova Scotia.

This breed first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century. Since they were developed in the community of Little River Harbour they were first known as the Little River Duck Dog.

Once the Canadian Kennel Club recognized the breed as purebred, in 1945, their name changed to Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

This dog of sweet and original appearance is a mix of spaniels, retrievers, and setters. However, these traits are more of a rumor, as they are yet to be confirmed.

With the rise of DNA tests in dogs we will probably know one day for sure from where and how every dog breed got developed.

What is known is that this breed was perfected during the second half of the 19th century.

The national recognition for this breed came in 1980. In 1995 this sturdy dog was declared the provincial dog of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Physical Appearance

A single look at this breed is enough to think about Golden Retrievers, right?

They are often mistaken for golden buddies, although they are quite different in appearance. Plus, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are far more active, both mentally and physically when compared to Golden Retriever.

These dogs are well-built and athletic. Their body is built to be active and their overall agile movement shows it.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are compact, medium to heavy boned, and overall powerful.

As for the size, they have 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 9 inches tall at the shoulder, and between 35 to 50 pounds.

As for the color, they usually have a red or golden-red coat, with white markings on their chest. They can be born without markings, but they usually have them.

Some are born with white markings on their shoulders, around ears and even the back of the neck – these dogs are never accepted to participate in dog shows.

To show your dog in a dog show he needs to look based on the breed’s standards. The head is fox-like, while the nose is black, and the lips fit. Eyes are set well apart and almond-shaped.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Personality

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are known as curious and intelligent dogs.

Not only that they enjoy walks, but they love the freedom that comes with it. They are happy to explore every corner, to memorize every smell, and to do their best to keep you both safe and satisfied.

They are affectionate and eager to please. Also, when near the water they are fast to jump in. As huge water breed and great swimmer, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever will use every second to swim. This is something to bear in mind if you are not fond of water or are not an experienced swimmer.

To keep this breed happy you will have to provide enough physical stimulation. Otherwise, you might discover how it looks when a dog is bored. They come with a strong retrieving drive, which is why they’re often part of search and rescue teams.

When in the dog park, no ball can escape them. Endurance is something that is commonly seen in this breed, so a good and long hike from time to time is recommended.

They will bark when a stranger approaches, but they are far from being aggressive barkers.

In fact, their bark is known as the “Toller scream”, a high-pitched howl-like sound. They will use this should mostly when they’re excited.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Training

Tollers love when there is a job to be done.

For example, they will see a training session as a task to be performed the best way possible.

Make sure that you provide enough training and socialization to keep him happy and fit.

Training sessions should be fun, short, packed with treats, and based on positive reinforcement for maximum results.

Did you know that dogs are capable of mastering basic commands as of eight weeks of age?

Use this to your advantage and think about training before your pup or adult dog arrives.

No matter what you hear people saying, know that even adult dogs can learn new tricks.

If you feel like you need help training-wise think about hiring a professional dog trainer, or enroll your Toller in puppy classes.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Exercise Needs

Have you ever heard of that saying – a tired dog is a good dog? If not, believe that this saying is true.

The best way to keep your dog engaging, happy, and healthy is to provide enough exercise.

Dogs love a good run or a long hike. For some, a long walk around the block shall do, while for others long jogging won’t do.

Where do these Golden Retriever-like dogs stand when it comes to exercise need?

Let’s just say that if you are a first time owner or not a big lover of the outdoors, this breed isn’t for you.

These dogs will demand additional exercise next to regular walks. Otherwise, they will show you just how unhappy they are.

Remember: a tired Toller is a good Toller.

Provide a minimum of 30-minutes intense walks or runs to keep his active and his joints strong.

These dogs are big water lovers, so any water-based dog sports will be much appreciated.

As an energetic breed, they are highly recommended for dog sports, such as agility and obedience.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Grooming

Grooming a dog may sound like a lot of work, but in fact, it’s all about good organization.

Did you know that brushing isn’t the same as grooming? Brushing is in fact a big part of grooming.

To have a neat, clean, and healthy Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever you should provide regular grooming. This breed comes with a water-repellant double coat that requires weekly brushing (twice per week should keep his coat clean and tangle-free).

To make brushing a fast and easy process use the bristle brush and a pin brush.

When brushing, check the dog’s skin for any sign of flea or skin infection. Brushing is overall a great way to bond with your dog further.

The rest is basic care:

  • Trim or grind nails monthly
  • Bathe only when really needed
  • Check gums weekly
  • Check eyes daily for any sign of eye discharge
  • Clean paws after every walk
  • Provide proper paw-care
  • Provide regular parasite control

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Health

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are overall hardy and healthy dogs.

They may have certain genetic disorders like all dogs can. This is why it’s important to work with responsible dog breeders only and provide regular veterinarian check-ups.

Prevention is the key when it comes to providing your dog healthy senior years.

These dogs may experience:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Addison’s disease
  • Aseptic meningitis
  • Eye problems, such as Collie eye anomaly
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism

Tollers are generally healthy dogs, and breeders play a big role in this matter.

Since the Toller community is small, breeders work with each other to only breed healthy puppies.

This is why responsible dog breeders will always screen puppies for most common health issues, and present you with the medical documentation on your new puppy.

Breeders will also provide additional information on best feeding practices, grooming tips and tricks, and insights on possible health-wise problems in the future.

Is Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever For You?

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are great dogs for experienced dog owners. They may appear similar to Golden Retrievers, but they are very different, especially temperament-wise.

These dogs are less prone to being friendly to strangers, less submissive, and more independent.

They are playful, high-spirited, and only recommended to individuals of families with active outdoor life.

If this is you, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a breed to consider having. If you want a dog that is agile, medium-sized, and high-spirited, this may be the right breed for you.

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