As another breed of dog that was first developed in the Maritime provinces of Canada, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has perhaps one of the most unique hunting methods of all of the sporting dogs. They were actually bred to lure or "toll" the waterfowl into the shoreline, allowing the hunter to take a shot. Basically the dog romps out and about along the shoreline, often chasing a stick or a ball, which in turn draws the attention of the birds. Since the dog is not in an attack posture the birds swim over closer to inspect what is going on, resulting in the hunter being able to stand and fire as the birds take wing. The Toller, as the breed is affectionately known, is then immediate ready to swim in and retrieve the downed birds.
The history of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is not completely clear and there were no breeding records kept of the different foundation breeds used. It is highly likely that several breeds including Irish Setters, English Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers were probably the most likely foundation breeds. However, as the smallest sized retriever, there are also other breeds that were likely included in the early programs. This is particularly evident in the face of the Toller, which is supposed to be very distinctly fox-like and slightly wedge shaped in appearance, not squared off and blocky like that of the other retriever breeds. In addition the slightly elevated, highly triangular ears are another deviation from the standard retriever appearance.
As with most of the hunting breeds of dogs, the Weimaraner being the notable exception, early breeding programs focused much more on the abilities of the dogs rather than on their physical appearance. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever's early breeding throughout the early 1900's did, however, strive to keep the red colors and avoid the light colors or the very dark colors. Currently only red shades, which may appear a rich golden or even orangey color are accepted, with white markings on the muzzle, chest, tip of the tail and feet acceptable. The underside of the coat and the feathering can be a lighter shade, however it cannot be white or an extremely pale color. The double coat is luxurious and thick but straight with a very slight wave allowed along the back only.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium sized breed with an average weight of about 50 pounds and a measurement of 21 inches at the shoulder for males, lighter and slightly shorter for females. The body is compact and just slightly longer than the dog is tall. Overall the appearance should be of a very athletic dog, not necessarily a muscular or bulky dog. In competitions and for actual hunting the slightly smaller and more spirited dogs are favored for tolling over the heavier or bigger dogs.
The naturally playful nature of the breed that makes them so good at luring in the waterfowl also makes them a terrific family dog and a great pet for homes with children of all ages. It also means that this breed has an above average level of exercise requirements, but they are by no means hyperactive or difficult to manage dogs provided they have routine exercise. Typically one or two longer runs, a longer play time that includes lots of retrieving practice and some running and playing with the family in a fenced yard will more than satisfy the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever's need for exercise. Although they can adjust to apartment and small space life, this is not a good option unless the people can make the definite commitment to lots of outdoor time for the dog.
The gentle nature of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever also makes them a great match for other dogs, even dominant breeds, as well as cats. They may also be suitable for farms with poultry, proving they are trained not to chase from a young age. They tend to be dogs that do stay relatively close to home, but like all dogs for their own safety they do need a fenced yard in urban and suburban areas.
Highly trainable the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever loves to please their owners and will catch on very quickly to what is expected. Typically these dogs are natural retrievers just as they are natural "tollers" and will not have to be trained in either of these types of activities. Like all hunting dogs, some are more naturally gifted than others and hunting lines and show lines do have some variance in their natural aptitude for both tolling and hunting, but both are strong retrievers by instinct.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever loves to swim and is a very likely to be the first one in the water. Their thick, dense and slightly oily coats are naturally water repellent and they can tolerate extremely cold water without any apparent discomfort. They are also good winter dogs in very cold climates but their dense coats may not be suitable for extremely hot and humid climates without being able to get into air conditioning in the heat of the day.
Since the breed is originally very small and there has been a definite rise in popularity in this playful yet loyal breed, some genetic problems including thyroid issues and autoimmune problems can be found in some breeding lines. Always ask to see the health records of at least the parents and one other generation if possible. Working or field lines of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers may have fewer genetic issues than show lines that are bred for specific adherence to breed standards.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a great watchdog and they are quite voracious barkers if they feel their territory is threatened. They can be rather reserved and aloof around strangers so early and routine socialization with new people is highly recommended. In addition to hunting these medium sized dogs make great agility and obedience competitors.
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