Dog Breed profiles

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breed Profile

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever fact file

KC Group: Gundog
Size: Medium
Height: Dogs 48 - 51cm; bitches 45 - 48cm
Weight: Although no weight is specified in the breed standard, Tollers average around 16 - 23kg
Average lifespan: 12 years 
Good with children?: Yes recommended
Exercise requirement: Moderate
Good guard dogs?: Would bark
Moulting level: Medium
Grooming: Moderate
Colours: Shades of red or orange with lighter featherings and on the underside of the tail. White markings are often seen on the tip of the tail, feet, chest, and as a blaze on the face
Jogging partner: Yes


The Toller is generally a healthy breed, although the following conditions are known:
  • Eye problems, including cataracts and prcd-PRA (progressive retinal atrophy).
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia.
  • Autoimmune problems.
Hip and elbow dysplasia affect the stability of the hip and elbow joints.
Cataracts are a painless clouding or coating of the lens of the eye. They most commonly occur as the dog ages, or as a result of injury to the eye. They appear as a milkiness to the pupil or aperture of the eye and tend to affect both eyes simultaneously.
PRA is a disease of the eye, which causes the retina to degenerate slowly over time — vision slowly declines resulting in blindness. Prcd refers to a specific type of PRA.
Health tests
The breed is listed under the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club hip dysplasia scheme. The average hip score in the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is 11 (each hip is scored individually, then the two figures added together to give the dog’s final hip score). Breeders are strongly encouraged to only breed from dogs with scores well below this figure.
It is also compulsory for Tollers to have had DNA tests for prcd-PRA and collie eye anomaly/choroidal hypoplasia — these tests can be carried out at any age and only need to be done once in a dog’s lifetime.
Many Toller breeders may have also had their dogs tested under the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club elbow dysplasia scheme and DNA tested for autoimmune problems. To get an elbow score each elbow is tested and is given a score between 0 and 3 (0 being the best and 3 the most severe); the highest being taken as the score for that dog. Breeders should only breed from dogs with a score of 0 or 1.
A breeder should be able to provide documentation proving that the relevant health tests have been done.


  • The Toller is an incredibly animated dog and is very playful.
  • Kind and confident.
  • Intelligent, versatile, and enthusiastic.


  • The Toller is an ideal dog for an active family.
  • He is a high-energy dog and needs regular off-lead exercise as well as plenty to keep his mind occupied.
  • He has a gentle nature and is great with children.
  • He makes an excellent watchdog and will alert his owner to a stranger’s presence. He would be useless as a guard dog as it’s not in his nature to be aggressive.


  • The Toller is incredibly intelligent and eager to please. Build a strong bond and he will do anything for you.
  • Start training from puppyhood and be consistent.
  • The Toller never tires of retrieving — incorporate this into your training and you’re on to a winner.

General care

  • The Toller’s water-repellent double coat needs to be brushed at least once a week, paying attention to the dense undercoat and checking his feathers for debris.
  • Check ears regularly as the breed can be susceptible to wax build-up.


  • Good-natured and biddable.
  • Versatile.


  • Needs a lot of exercise — mentally and physically.

Did you know?

  • To toll means to entice game. The Toller has an unusual way of working; he will frolic along the waterfront in full view of ducks or geese, occasionally disappearing and then reappearing, waving his white-tipped tail, arousing the curiosity of the birds who then swim over to investigate — luring them into gunshot range. The Toller then retrieves the fallen quarry.
  • He is blessed with webbed feet and so is a powerful swimmer.
  • The breed originated in Canada and arrived in Britain in 1988.