Nova Scotia Duck Tolling RetrieverNova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers or 'tollers' as they are known are the smallest of the retriever breeds. They were developed on the eastern seaboard of Canada to have the dual function of being used to attract ducks within shooting range (tolling) and to retrieve the shot ducks.
Ducks are attracted to approach towards a toller due to its colour (fox like) and jaunty action. Huntsmen use them to retrieve a stick along the shoreline from behind a blind, and curiosity of the prey species induces the approach behavior in the same manner, as songbirds will mob an owl.
These dogs were developed to assist in putting dinner on the table, so when the ducks swam close enough the hunters would shoot, even with the birds on the water. In the UK we would frown on the lack of sportsmanship in shooting birds on the water, but the breeds development did not take place for sport!
Today the breed is multipurpose with no distinct lines being bred for work or show. Individuals should be able to show and work, and this is the way enthusiasts in the breed want to encourage development of the breed. When clean and presented in show condition they are a flashy show dog, but are equally at home out in the shooting field ? on land and in wildfowling situations.
The toller is a medium-sized, compact, powerful, well-muscled dog. A heavily feathered tail, constantly moving? when working or moving carried in a characteristic inverted C position above the topline (unlike other retriever breeds).
In colour the toller can be any shade of red or orange with lighter featherings and underside of tail. White markings are usual in at least one of the following places: tip of tail, feet not extending beyond the pasterns, chest and blaze. Size wise the dogs are 48-51 cm (19-20 in) and bitches 45-48 cm (18-19 in).
The first tollers arrived in the UK in 1988, and numbers have progressed slowly so that in 2004 there are just over 650 in the country. Most are in pet homes, but gradually more and more are finding favour in the working gundog world. They should be considered smart and sensitive to train, but loyal and willing once they understand. Due to their size they fit easily into the house and car when not shooting, and have an easy maintenance coat. Their love of water, double coat, and well-defined webbing on the feet makes them ideal wildfowling dogs well able to stand up the British climate.
More information on the breed can be found on the Kennel Club website