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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 curiosity 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:

Admitted into the AKC arena (American Kennel Club) to compete in performance events and in conformation in the Sporting Group on July 1, 2003, the Toller is a new breed to the AKC.  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

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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 usually with white markings 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 drive 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.

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Tollers are not plagued with many of the health problems present in popular retriever breeds. 
Tollers who are part of a breeding program should at minimum have hips certified clear of hip dysplasia, and eyes certified clear by veterinary ophthalmologist.  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. The importance of keeping the working abilities they were designed for (tolling, retrieving) alive in the breed is paramount and hence, an NSDTRC-USA Championship title can only be earned by obtaining both an AKC Championship in conformation and earning a pass at an approved hunt test.

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.

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