The Breed History
In the southern tip of Nova Scotia in Yarmouth in the early part of the 19th century, the Toller was developed to toll or decoy (lure) the waterfowl and then retrieve them. The dogs will play at the water's edge in response to thrown balls and sticks, and this activity engages the attention of the ducks. They will then come into range for the gunner and once the job is done, the dog swims out to bring in the bird. Breed origins are sketchy, but the Europeans may have brought with them the red decoy dog which was crossed with the local retriever and spaniel types. The first registry to accept this breed, affectionately called "the little red dog" was the Canadian Kennel Club (1945). The AKC first accepted the dog into the Miscellaneous Class in 2001 and accepted it into the Sporting group in 2003. This is the official dog of the province of origin, Nova Scotia.
Breeding for Function
Strictly bred for hunter function, these dogs have continued to be encouraged to prove in field tests (Working Certificates WC, WCI, WCX) to ensure that their original suitability for the tolling and retrieving is maintained. They are gradually gaining in popularity as a companion animal. While working, they usually keep their feathered tail in motion.
Height at Withers: female 17-20" (43-51 cm), male 18-21" (45.5-53 cm)
Weight: 35-45 lb (16-20 kg)
Coat: The medium length water resistant coat is double. Overall, the coat is straight, though slightly wavy over the back. The undercoat is short, soft and dense. Moderate feathering of legs, tail, underside of body and pantaloons is present, while muzzle hair is short. Colors are red shades, with a range from golden red to copper red. Specific markings are set out in the standard-usually at least one white marking is present. In winter, a heavy coat may curl under the neck. The hairs growing alongside the back of the ears may become fluffy and kinky and long. The ear hairs are gently plucked a few at a time to maintain the outline of the leather. The paws may also become excessively shaggy. To maintain a groomed look, these fuzz feet can be carefully trimmed of excess hair. Weekly brushing is recommended.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: A sturdy well balanced conformation is the hallmark of this medium-sized powerful working dog. Smallest of all of the retriever type dogs, utility has dictated all aspects of conformation. They possess a broad slightly wedge-shaped and rounded skull, a strong profile with moderate stop, the muzzle tapers and lips are tight, and the broad nose matches the coat color or is black. Cheeks are flat. Ears are high and wide set and well back on the skull. Ears are medium in size and length, triangular, and held slightly erect. Eyes are wide set and almond shaped. Eye and eyelid margin color should match the coat or be darker. Rims can also be black. The neck is strong and medium in thickness and length, without throatiness. Deep-chested, back is short and straight, abdomen has moderate tuck. The tail is richly feathered, broader at its base, reaching to the tarsus and is carried above the back while active, and held following the curve of the croup when resting. Medium in bone, these dogs should be slightly longer than high. Feet are medium-sized, webbed, oval and well knuckled up in the toes. Pads are thick, and the front dewclaws can be removed. Rear dewclaws disqualify. Moves with a springy gait, with straight alignment.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Breed attributes ascribed include: Agile, keen to work, quick to learn, loves to please. Very intense attitude is typical while working. Highly intelligent, good with children, affectionate, some puppies may be reserved but shyness is a fault. Outgoing in the field. Training-can be easily distracted and bored-need to keep sessions short and fun.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Sometimes the ears are taped to maintain proper folding if they become wonky (folded, rosebud). This frequently occurs when the pup is around 3-4 months of age, and the taping is left on for about 1 month. Sometimes a second one month application is required. The abnormal folding of the ear may be an inherited trait.
None reported in the literature
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (prcd-PRA): Autosomal recessive progressive rod cone degeneration (prcd) form. Age of onset between 3-8 years of age, eventually causing blindness. A genetic test from Optigen reports 7% affected, and 45% carrier in Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 6.5% affected.
Collie Eye Anomaly/Choroidal Hypoplasia (CEA/CH): Autosomal recessive disorder of eye development that can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. CERF does not recommend breeding affected dogs. A genetic test is available from Opigen, which reports 2% affected, 16% carrier in the breed.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 2.7% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 1.9% affected.
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's Disease): Immune mediated destruction of the adrenal gland. Inherited form is present at a reported incidence of 1.4%. Typical presentation of lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, weakness, and dehydration can occur from 4 months to several years of age, with a median age of onset of 2.6 years in the breed. Controlled by a major autosomal recessive gene, with a heritability of 0.98. Reported at a frequency of 1.02% in the 2002 NSDTR Health Survey. Associated with DLA class II genes conferring increased risk for the disease. Treatment with DOCA injections or oral fludrocortisone.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)-Related Disease: An inherited SLE-related disease occurs in the breed that includes both both antinuclear antibody (ANA)-positive Immune-Mediated Rheumatic Disease (IMRD) and Steroid-Responsive Meningitis-Arteritis (SRMA). Affected dogs with IMRD present with persistent lameness, stiffness mainly after resting, and palpable pain from several joints of the extremities. Dogs with SRMA present with fever and neck pain. Both presentations respond to steroid treatment. Seen at a prevalence of 2.5% in a Norwegian population of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. Complexly inherited and associated with multiple gene loci conferring increased risk for the disease complex.
Hypothyroidism: 17.6% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cryptorchidism: Unilateral or bilateral undescended testicles occurred in 14.08% of males in the 2002 NSDTR Health Survey. This is a sex-limited disorder with an unknown mode of inheritance.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 11.74% of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Deafness: Congenital sensorineural deafness can be unilateral of bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Reported at a frequency of 4.66% in the 2002 NSDTR Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 4.47% of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Umbilical Hernia: Congenital defect of abdominal wall closure at the umbilicus. Close surgically if large. Reported at a frequency of 4.41% in the 2002 NSDTR Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Corneal Dystrophy: Causes opacities on the surface of the cornea. Unknown mode of inheritance. Identified in 2.16% of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever with the condition.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex, punctate, and capsular cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 1.68% of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers with a cataract.
Idiopathic Epilepsy (Inherited Seizures): Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a low frequency in the 2002 NSDTR Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Pulmonic Stenosis: Clinical signs can include exercise intolerance, stunting, dyspnea, syncope and ascites, leading to heart failure. Diagnosis by auscultation for a heart murmer, and echocardiography. Reported at a low frequency in the 2002 NSDTR Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Skeletal Dysplasia: This disorder causes asynchronous growth of the radius and ulna, leading to bowing of the radius and valgus deformity of the front limbs.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for prcd-PRA and CEA/CH are available from Optigen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination, and direct test for prcd-PRA. Direct tests for coat color are available from VetGen. Recommend elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, BAER testing for deafness, cardiac evaluation, and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Historical SYN: Yarmouth Toller, Little River Duck Dog. Toller.
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 102 (474 dogs registered)
- Breed resources: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA): www.nsdtrc-usa.org/
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of Canada: www.toller.ca
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of UK: www.toller-club.co.uk/
Toller Health Coalition (& health database): www.toller.ca/tollerhealth/index.html
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