Tollers: Interview with an Owner

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever – big name, big character?

Marlene wanted an active dog who would fit in with holidays and hiking. She says Ludo is that and much, much more.  I never thought I could ever love a dog as much as this.  He makes me laugh every day.” How lovely is that!


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, known as a Toller, is described by the Kennel Club as a powerful, handsome, web-footed swimmer from Canada. They are one of the Retrievers, within the Gundog group, but are quite different in appearance to Labradors, being more like a Border Collie in size and coat. Their character and temperament is as ‘retriever’ as you could hope for and the ‘buff’ or ‘red’ colouring is very distinctive.


Tollers are relatively new to the UK, having been brought over from Canada in 1988. The Kennel Club describes Tollers as follows “His method of work may appear strange to many; his task is to lure wildfowl to within range of the guns. It is reputed that he uses his vigorous tail action to achieve this. He lives up to his name as a good retriever, especially from water, where his webbed feet, a breed feature, enable him to swim powerfully.

“The Toller has been selected over the generations for his intelligence and trainability. As a result he makes an ideal and enthusiastic family companion for the active household, performing well in a variety of activities such as agility, flyball, tracking and obedience.

Getting ready for the challenge

Ludo was Marlene’s first dog, so she read up on the breed, talking to breeders and vets. She also met a few at Crufts, so she was somewhat prepared.


The best thing about Ludo is that he is a loving, gentle boy who just wants to play but loves the praise he gets from working with me too.  He understands things very quickly and is extremely perceptive which may or may not be just a breed thing, as I know of a lot of other clever dogs too. 

“Because he is quite clever, he can also be opportunistic so prepare yourself to be in charge.  (I taught 5 year olds in my old life so I had great training for being consistent and in charge.)  As a breed, I have heard some can be aloof but most Tollers I know will choose their time and people for showing affection.

The Toller scream

Marlene says that Tollers have a famous ‘scream’ when they get excited, which can put people off the breed. She finds it quite funny to hear! She says Ludo will only resort to this if he thinks someone is on the property that shouldn’t be there. Marlene is training him to calm down with hand gestures and rewards.


Health issues?

Like other retrievers, they need to have their hips scored and low scores are desirable, to reduce the risk of dysplasia. They also require eye tests, similar to those needed for Border Collies.

Marlene says there she has had no experiences with health issues. She recommends talking to the breeder to check health records and details of issues. As Marlene says “Good breeders will avail their track records and will be very honest.

Exercise and training needs

As with any dog, it is essential to make sure that they have the opportunity to get out and about every day. Marlene says We walk every day but the walks vary in length and purpose.  Some walks are feral rambles – I love these! Some walks include safety training, manners, basic skills, tricks, play.  Some walks are led by my dog walker who offers pack walks.  She carefully handpicks about 3-4 dogs who work well together, so that they learn manners and responding to her calls, not just mine.”


Tollers are not suitable for inactive homes. You will need to be prepared to get out and about. Like Springer Spaniels, they love to sniff and search and should not be walked on lead. Tollers will suit an active family or people who can spend a lot of time with them.

Marlene retired to make space in her life for Ludo. She says “I have a very active lifestyle i.e. I am a rower so fitness is essential. Long off-walk rambles and short on-lead walks are part of our routine.  I see  each activity as a learning opportunity for Ludo and me.

Thank you Marlene for telling us about your gorgeous boy.


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One thought on “Tollers: Interview with an Owner”

  1. I love my dog. He is a rescue, and to our amazement is a Toller. per our Vet. We have him four years. He is bright, very sweet tempered, and just a wonderful pet. I have many dogs in my life, Rusty has proven to be one of the best.

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