The Nova Scotia Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
"Little River Duck Dog"

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Nova Scotia Retriever
Little River Duck Dog
Weight: Male 45 — 55 lbs
Avg Wt: Female 35 — 45 lbs
Height:Male 18” — 22”
Height Female 17” — 21”
AKC Rank 2008 #100
Lifespan: 11—14 yrs
Group Sporting

Dog Breed Info - Nova Scotia Retriever

Little River Duck Dog
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Breed Overview

Origin: Nova Scotia, 1800’s Original function: Duck tolling and retrieving. Today Duck tolling and retrieving. Color: Red w/white markings.

In Europe, dogs were once used to toll, or act as “decoys” which meant the dogs simply played and frolicked alongside the shore of a lake and attracted the curiosity of ducks. This caused the ducks to come closer to the edge to see what was going on and within gun range where the hunters shot them. The dogs then retrieved the dead ducks and it was mission accomplished. The job of the dog was to pretend he was “playing” and didn’t know the duck was around when actually, the dog was “luring” the ducks into gun range. It was pure instinct, not something the dog could learn. This is why “Duck Tolling” is included in the name, as the dogs were found in Nova Scotia, Canada. The Toller may be a cross with spaniels, retrievers, setter type dogs and a farm collie as well as possible crossed with Native American toller Dogs. The breed was originally known as the Little River Duck Dog or Yarmouth Toller. The Canadian Kennel Club renamed the breed to it’s present Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever in 1950. The breed is now recognized by the AKC.


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is generally easy to obedience train, although easily distracted and bores quickly so training should be done in a private area and clicker training with positive reinforcement is recommended for best results. Pick up as clicker at the pet store. Dogs love the method and it’s the most humane way to train a dog. Keep training sessions short but frequent so the dog is always “fresh.”

Crate Training

Here's a link if you're interested in crate training your Nova Scotia Retriever puppy.

Potty Training

Most Nova Scotia Retrievers are relatively easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


A happy NSDT Retriever
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The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an energetic, playful, happy and pleasant breed that loves water, hunting, retrieving and family. Tolling means luring. This dog loves to retrieve. It is written that you can not throw a ball just one time for a Toller. You’ll have to keep throwing it all afternoon or until your arm falls off because the dog won’t be satisfied. Whatever the dog does, it is done with great excitement, whether it is hunting, obedience, agility or just taking a walk. The Retriever is alert buy not hyperactive. They need a LOT of daily exercise and have a LOT of energy to put into it. This is a devoted family companion. Around 1950, the Canadian Kennel Club recognized the breed as the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

If you happen to get a Nova Scotia Retriever with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Yes, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is friendly with just about everything including moist other dogs.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

.Generally gets along with other pets in the house. Not known to be aggressive or jealous.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Wary of strangers but will warm up quickly once introduced.

A Nova Scotia Retriever runs the agility course, scoring high.
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Yes, very playful. Especially loves games of fetch, jogging and romping with kids.


Yes, very affectionate. Loves people, children and family.

Good with children?

Yes, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever does well with children. They love to run, romp and play fetch. This is a terrific family pet, Young Toller's may be overly boisterous so caution is needed with small children. Older kids are okay.

Good with Seniors over 65?

No. Needs too much exercise.

Living environment

Apartment, condo, farm, ranch all okay.

A house with a large fenced backyard would be nice so the Nova Scotia Retriever could go out and play fetch in a safe area, but not necessary.

This is a family pet and needs lots of interaction with her humans so she needs to live indoors. She can spend time in the secure yard, but don’t leave her there.

Energy level

Very high. On a scale of 10, she’s a 10.

Exercise needs, daily

Very high needs. Retrieving is best. Anything involving water where they can swim. Throw sticks into a lake and let them swim out to the stick to retrieve it. Obedience and agility training are good exercise. Several long walks or maybe some jogging would be good exercise.


May bark if a stranger approaches but that’s about all. Not really a watch dog.

Guard dog

No. Too friendly. Not an intruder killer.


Shedding is moderate.


Brush with a stiff bristle brush once or twice a week.


Suggested Reading For The Duck Tolling Retriever

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners to keep close at hand. Vol 2, 2008 includes DVD.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Special Rare-Breed Edition : A Comprehensive Owner's Guide (Kennel Club Dog Breed Series)

Gundog Training Made Easy

Taking Control: The How & Why of Basic Gundog Training


Nova Scotia Retriever Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Nova Scotia Retriever puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been VERY well socialized and started in obedience training.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Breeders with puppies for sale. Go online and search for Nova Scotia Retriever Breeders (or puppies) as there must be more out there.

Nova Scotia Retriever Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for a Nova Scotia Retriever Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Nova Scotia Retriever Rescue As I write this, Petfinder is showing only 31 dogs available for adoption in the USA. That number is subject to change, but it is an indication. If you do adopt one, try to locate any dog health records that may exist and save for possible future reference.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site, however, you will probably want to surf the web for more of this breed to choose from. Start with Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Rescue groups and monkey with the name until you find what you want.

Dog Health Issues For Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
Below are the dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Cairn by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. These are dog illness and medical problems this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness, arthritis and difficulty walking. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—(PRA) An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the Nova Scotia Retriever becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

Other health problems could occur with your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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