Ducks by nature are very curious birds, which often ends up with the ducks swimming into danger because of this. Luring ducks closer, or duck tolling, is something a pair of foxes in the wild often does to take advantage of the ducks' curiosity. This method of hunting used by foxes has been studied over the centuries by hunters and naturalists. A red fox would ignore the ducks while it rambled, cavorted, and leapt on shore near the water's edge, getting the attention of ducks swimming a safe distance away from shore. Out of curiosity, the raft of ducks would gradually move closer to shore to take a better look until the birds were dangerously close to the fox. A second fox hides on shore in the tall grasses then rushes out and grabs a duck before the birds know what is happening.
From observing foxes hunting ducks, Native Americans learned how to use this method to their advantage when duck hunting. They would use a rope, tie a fox pelt onto it, twitch and move the fox pelt, while the hunter on each end of the rope remained hidden. Once the curious ducks were within range, other hunters were able to get some duck successfully.
This style of luring and hunting eventually led to training hunting dogs for both duck tolling and retrieving ducks. Hunters favored small fox-like dogs with highly visible red or yellow coats, and if possible, a bushy tail. The Nova Scotia Duck tolling retriever, due to the effort of hunters to develop such a dog, owes its origin to them.
The hunting styles used by hunters and their Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever today, certainly mimics the way foxes, for centuries, hunted duck. Originating in Nova Scotia, Canada, the unique duck tolling dog's main characteristic is its strong sense of play. They have a love of prancing and playing endlessly, throwing toys or sticks into the air, even when alone. With its red or orange coloring and manner of play, this retriever is a perfect tolling dog.
When working, the duck hunter usually hides in a duck blind and then sends his duck trolling retriever out to pounce and play along the shoreline, tail always moving, completely without direction, or sometimes tossing him a ball or stick. When the curious ducks are within shooting range, the hunter calls his duck tolling retriever back to the blind. The hunter then stands, which puts the ducks to flight, and then he or she shoots. Using the dog's great retrieving instincts, the hunter directs the dog to bring back the downed ducks, using his strong swimming strength and skill in the water and on land.
The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is not only a fine hunting companion and excellent hunting dog; he is also a wonderful family pet, and a capable competitor in hunting, agility, obedience, and other competitions.