Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Average Cost to keep/care for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #177 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever breed is also commonly known by the names Little River Duck Dog, Yarmouth Toller, NSDR, Toller, Scotty, Novie, Tolling Retriever, Little Red Duck Dog.
10 - 14 years
Pedigree Breed ?
No - Not Currently KC Recognised
Males 48 - 51 cm
Females 45 - 48 cm at the withers
Males 20 - 23 kg
Females 17 - 20 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£0 for Non KC Registered (Not Enough Data)

Breed Characteristics


Also known as a Toller, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a handsome dog being the smallest of all the retriever breeds. They do look quite similar to a Golden Retriever and although they are popular as both companion dogs and family pets in the States, very few puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year here in the UK. Tollers are a great choice for people who lead active, outdoor lives because these intelligent dogs love nothing more than to be out and about having an abundant amount of energy. 


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has an interesting history with records of their ancestors dating as far back as the 1890's. They were bred as working gundogs during the early part of the twentieth century and proved to be excellent retrievers. It is thought the breed was created by crossing Golden Retrievers, the Chesapeake Bay, Flat-Coated Retrievers and Labradors although Cocker Spaniels, working collies, Irish Setters and even spitz-type dogs may also have been used to produce the dogs we see today.

At first, they were known as the Little River Duck Dog or Yarmouth Toller, but in the late fifties when the breed was officially registered with the Canadian Kennel Club, their name was changed to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. These charming dogs first appeared here in the UK in the 1980's and since then, the breed is slowing becoming a popular choice both as a companion dog and family pet. However, the number of Tollers registered with The Kennel Club every year remains quite low which means puppies tend to be hard to find.


Height at the withers: Males 48 - 51 cm, Females 45 - 48 cm

Average weight: Males 20 - 23 kg, Females 17 - 20 kg

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever does look a little similar to the Golden Retriever having nice clear cut heads that are slightly wedge shaped. They have a moderate stop and their muzzles taper neatly to a dog's nose. Their nostrils are well developed and noses can be either black or flesh coloured. Eyes are medium in size and almond-shaped being set well apart with dogs always having an alert, friendly expression in them. They can be brown to amber in colour depending on a dog's coat colour.

Ears are triangular in shape and they drop down being medium in size and set high and well back on a dog's head. They are well feathered at the back of the fold, but the hair is shorter at the tips which are rounded. The Toller has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. These dogs have a soft mouth which is essential in the breed even though their lips are tight fitting.

Their necks are moderately long and well-muscled. Shoulders are muscular, moderately long and well laid back with dogs boasting straight, strong front legs. Chests are deep with dogs having well sprung ribs and briskets that reach down to their elbows. Back are short and dogs have a level topline with strong muscular loins and neatly tucked up bellies. Back legs are well-muscled and strong with dogs having medium sized round and tight feet with well arched toes and strong webbing between them. Pads are thick and match the colour of a dog's coat. Tails are set high and slope slightly toward the croup being broader at the root and well feathered. Dogs carry their tails level with their backs when relaxed, but curved upwards when excited or alert.

When it comes to their coat, the Toller has a double coat that's made up of a straight, weather resistant topcoat and a softer much denser undercoat. Their coats can have a slight wave on a dog's back and feathering around the throat, behind the ears and on the back of the thighs with front legs there’s a moderate amount of feathering. The accepted breed colours are as follows:

  • Buff
  • Buff and white
  • Red and white


Tollers are known to be intelligent dogs that like nothing more than spending as much time in the great outdoors as they possibly can. As such, they thrive on living with people who lead active, outdoor lives making them a great choice for families who live in a country environment. They are a very good choice for first time owners because they are so intelligent and willing to please which when combined makes these dogs very easy to train.

With this said, puppies need to be well socialised from a young age and this has to include introducing them to as many new situations, noises, people, animals and other dogs once they have been fully vaccinated as possible so they grow up to be well-rounded, confident and obedient mature dogs.

Intelligence / Trainability

The Toller is known to be an intelligent dog and one that is usually always ready and eager to please their owners. As such, in the right hands and with the right amount of socialisation and training, Tollers are known to be easy to train and are in fact, very quick learners. However, this means they are just as quick to pick up a few bad habits if they are allowed to.

Their training has to start early and these dogs respond well to voice and positive reinforcement training. Tollers excel at all sorts of canine sports which includes activities like agility and flyball. They have also proved to be very good at obedience and tracking.

Children and Other Pets

Tollers are known to be very well behaved around children and they appear to have a real affinity with them. However, any interaction between the kids and dogs needs to be supervised by an adult to ensure playtime does not get too boisterous which could result in a child getting scared or hurt.

They are generally good around other dogs, more especially if a Toller has been well socialised from a young age. If they have grown up with a cat in the household, they usually get on well with them. However, a Toller would think nothing of chasing any other cats. Care has to be taken when they are around smaller animals and pets just in case their instinct to chase kicks in which could end in a disaster.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Health

The average life expectancy of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is between 10 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

Like so many other breeds, the Toller is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

  • Hip dysplasia - Test available
  • Degenerative myelopathy - Test available
  • Eye issues and more especially Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Test available
  • Collie eye anomaly - Test available
  • Thyroid issues
  • Addisons disease
  • Aseptic meningitis

Caring for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

As with any other breed, Tollers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Tollers boast having moderately long, but very waterproof coats that consist of a dense, soft undercoat and coarser outer one which are not that high maintenance to keep looking tidy. A weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats in good condition. However, they shed quite heavily throughout the year although like other breeds, they shed more during the Spring and then again during the Autumn when more frequent brushing is necessary to keep on top of things.

The hair on their feet and around their ears is longer and as such needs more frequent brushing to prevent knots and tangles from forming. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Tollers are quite high energy intelligent dogs and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly, happy, well-rounded and obedient dogs. This means walking a dog for at least 2 hour's a day. They also love swimming which means care needs to be taken when walking a Toller anywhere near dangerous rivers, ponds or other watercourses just in case a dog decides to jump in. With this said, they really benefit from being allowed as much "off the lead" time as possible, but always in a safe and secure environment.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, Toller puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.


If you get a Toller puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

If you are looking to buy a NSDR, you would need to pay anything from £350 to  over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Toller in northern England would be £21.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £47.37 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Toller and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever would be between £70 to £100 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.

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