NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER
Smallest of the retrieving breeds, the Toller was developed in southwestern Nova Scotia to entice ducks and geese within gunshot range by duplicating the actions of the Eastern red fox. Using the natural curiosity of the ducks and geese, the fox will engage in all sorts of antics which will result in waterfowl swimming closer until they are near enough to provide the fox with a meal.
Early sportsmen bred a dog which somewhat resembled the fox in appearance, and which was active but silent at work with the ability to retrieve in water. Therefore, the tolling dog has a dual purpose, to lure or toll the ducks or geese within gunshot range, and then to retrieve the downed birds.
To effectively use a tolling dog, the hunter must first be well hidden in a blind close to the water, downwind from the birds. He then throws out a small stick or a ball where the dog will be in full view of the ducks and geese. The tolling dog runs, jumps and plays along the shoreline, occasionally disappearing from sight and then quickly reappearing, aided by the hidden hunter. Upon returning to the blind, the dog eagerly flips the stick to his master, expectant of another throw. This pattern is repeated until the birds begin to swim towards the dog, and may have to continue for some time until they are within range.
Once the ducks or geese are within gunshot range, the dog is recalled to the blind, the birds flushed and shot. The Toller is then sent out to retrieve the dead or wounded birds.
The exact history of the Toller is somewhat unclear but it is known that smallish dogs were used for centuries in Europe to lure ducks into nets. An 18th century sporting scene was described by James Wentworth Day in his The Dog in Sport as including “ginger-coloured decoy dogs”. These “red decoy dogs” could very well be fore-runners of today’s Toller. Other breeds thought to be in the Toller’s ancestry include the Brittany Spaniel, Irish Setter, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever and some type of small collie.
However it was done, the cross-breeding produced a fox-like dog with the desired working abilities which became known as the Little River Duck Dog after Nova Scotia’s district of Yarmouth County, the centre of the breed’s development. After generations of pure breeding, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was granted official breed status by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945. This breed is recognized by the FCI., and in Australia, New Zealand, and most European and Scandinavian countries. And recognized by the AKC 2003.