What is a Toller?
The smallest of the recognized retriever breeds, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, or "Tollers",
are a medium-sized, bright, happy red dog. One thing that makes a Toller stand out is the spring
in his step and the sparkle in his eye. His animated way of working is what attracts the curiousity
of the ducks. There is much information on the history and development of the breed, and you
can get to some of that information from our links page.
Tollers are a high-energy breed, but most seem to be able to moderate their activity level to what
the owner requires. The same dog that is snoozing under the computer or on the couch will jump
up quickly if anyone wants to play or go for a walk. A seemingly calm dog becomes a maniac if the
gun comes out for hunting or training. It is this ability to turn the energy on and off that make
Tollers great family pets. But make no mistake about it, they do require lots of exercise and
training when young.
Tollers are very intelligent and perceptive. Sounds great, right? Well, never underestimate the
value of a less intelligent pet! The same dog that learns quickly and thinks independently will also
tend to get into trouble quickly. Turn your back on a Toller with food on the counter and you may
come back to find him licking his lips! They can and do learn the rules, but they also are great
opportunists and you have to try to keep ahead of them.
The Toller Today
Recently admitted into the AKC arena (American Kennel Club) to compete in performance events
and in the miscellaneous class, on July 1, 2003 the Toller will be the newest AKC breed. How will
this affect the breed? As with anything new, there are people who will want them just because
they are "new" and also people who will start breeding them to fill that need. This is not a good
thing for the breed. First of all, the Toller is not the breed for everyone. They can get out of hand
if not trained early. If the family is not committed to exercising and training them, there will be
unhappy dogs and unhappy owners. Education about the breed is essential. Breeders should
not only screen buyers carefully, they should also be ready to take back a pup or dog any time in
that dog's life. Will these breeders who are new to the breed understand the importance of
careful placement, and will they be around several years later to help with a problem if it should
arise? Also, nearly all breeders sell pups on Non-Breeding Agreements, to make sure that
breeding stock has health clearances and proper temperament, working abilities, and breed type.
With more people becoming involved in the breed, it is a constant worry that eventually they will
fall into the hands of someone who is just breeding to make money, and such "breeders" will not
require health screening or careful evaluation of the homes they are selling a pup to. Also a
potential worry is that some people will start breeding just for looks, without regard to temperament
and working ability, and health issues.
Description of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or
Toller, was developed in the early 19th century
to toll (lure) and retrieve waterfowl. The tolling
dog runs, jumps and plays along the
shoreline, occasionally disappearing from sight
and quickly reappearing. He is aided by the
hunter, who is out of sight and throwing small
sticks or a ball. The dog's playful actions
arouse the curiosity of the ducks swimming
offshore, and they are lured within gunshot range. The Toller is subsequently sent to retrieve
the shot game. The Toller is a medium-sized, powerful, compact, balanced, well-muscled dog.
He should show a high degree of agility and determination. He was bred to retrieve in icy
waters, and must have a water-repellant coat of medium length. Color is various shades of red,
and white markings are allowed on the feet, chest, tip of tail, and/or blaze. The pigment of the
nose and lips is flesh-colored, or black. Ideal height for a male is 19-20 inches at the shoulder,
and 45-51 lbs. The female is slightly smaller, 18-19 inches and 37-43 pounds.
One of the major differences in this breed, when compared to the other retrievers, is it's
personality. Tollers have a spark of unique individualism. Most puppies are on the high energy
side. Owners should channel this energy with regular walks and playtime. Tollers are happiest
when working, and love to retrieve. The correct temperament for an adult Toller is gentleness
(especially with children), intelligence, and outgoing in the field. With strangers, adult Tollers
may be leery at first, but there should be no sign of shyness or aggression. Tollers are very
intelligent, and will work well when trained with a gentle hand.
Tollers are not plagued with many of the health
problems present in popular retriever breeds.
Tollers who are part of a breeding program
should have hips certified clear of hip
dysplasia, and eyes cleared of PRA by a
veterinary ophthalomologist. Most Tollers sold
in the US and Canada are sold on
Non-Breeding Agreements, and must meet
certain requirements before they can be used
for breeding. Breeders are careful to make sure that dogs used for breeding are healthy and
possess the qualities important in the breed.
Tollers can be used for upland game as well as waterfowl. They are adaptable, and the
perfect size to fit in the boat or car. Their drip-dry coats seem to shed dirt and they are
generally clean dogs. Even though they are smaller than the other retrievers, they are
tenacious, and not afraid to retrieve larger geese or wounded birds. They are very animated
when working, and will happily retrieve all day. Their enthusiasm can lead to vocalizations, but
they can be trained to be quiet if started at a young age.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club
since 1945, and can compete in any CKC events. In the United States, The Nova Scotia Duck
Tolling Retriever Club (USA)
was founded in 1984, and titles can be earned in conformation, obedience, agility and field.
The US club recently applied for American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition, and can now be
shown in AKC obedience, agility, and in the Miscellaneous class. On July 1, 2003, they will
become fully recognized by the AKC, and will be the newest AKC breed. The breeders who
have strived so hard to protect the breed and keep the working abilities strong hope the new
people drawn to the breed will be careful in their search for a breeder, and keep health and
working instinct foremost on their list of requirements. While appealing in appearance and
size, the Toller is not for everyone, and is happiest in an active home.