Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Today seemed like a good day to talk about Canadian East Coast dogs. Maybe its because early this morning I saw October snow falling on a river that was flowing out to Lake Superior -- this is hardy dog weather.

These are two breeds that developed able to handle the kind of conditions they would face on a day like today if accompanying their person out boating or duck hunting.

The Newfoundland, or Newfie, is recognized in three colors...although in Canada it is more like two and half colors:


Brown (The CKC recognizes a "sunburned black")


This breed is typically great with children and make wonderful family dogs IF you can provide the following:
Moderate exercise - more when they're young.
 You have a strong tolerance for shedding and drooling.
Solid training - they can be stubborn but are trainable with a firm and consistent handler.

The Newf is known for being an affectionate breed that loves water and is very tolerant of cold.

They take up floor space but need to be around their people - this breed is not a good candidate for being left outside by themselves; they can develop separation anxiety if left alone too much.

The Newfy also fails to realize there is any reason they should not be a lap dog. They will settle for laying on your feet -- air conditioning is a good idea in the summer for this breed.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or Toller, is found in shades of red from golden to liver, with white markings. They sometimes get mistaken for small Goldens or Golden mixes.

My favorite story of how the Toller's color pattern developed is that hunters noticed how fox would lure ducks to shore by playing, perhaps tossing a pebble on the shore and flipping the white tips of their tails enthusiastically while they did this. The ducks would come closer and closer attracted by the movement, until a fox (the fox often worked in unison with one distracting, one catching) could take a duck by surprise. Hunters began to favor the foxes color pattern in their own hunting dogs and bred them to have the same energy and playful nature. It's said a Toller can lure ducks in the same way fox do -- only the Toller waits for the hunter to shoot and then retrieves the duck.

Not all kennel clubs - the AKC  is a good example- have maintained the priority of a white tip for a Toller's tail - for AKC bench trials it is acceptable for a Toller to have an all red tail.

 A classic Toller coloring though is that fox red with the white chest and tail tip.

Tollers, though built much smaller and lighter than Newfies, also have tolerance for swimming -- and retrieving -- in cold water. They also make great family pets, though they are likely to be more standoffish with strangers than a Newf.

You will probably also train a Toller a little more quickly than you will a Newf; Newfs however, do a much better job pulling carts and both breeds work well when given a task they are suited to.

Let's hear it for two great Canadian breeds of water dogs who can take the cold, the kids, and all the fun your family wants to give them -- and with dogs of such very different sizes if one breed doesn't suit your lifestyle, then the other one just might.


  1. Hey Christy: I think you made a mistake...

    I think that last picture of the dog pulling a cart is a grizzly, not a newfie.

    I just caged a pic or two of Strider from Andy and Richelle - will pass it on. I've only met two tollers, one super-intense, one (Strider) more laid back. I don't know as I've met a purebred newfie, but I've always admired the breed.

    Rick, whom you've met at my vet's, has Becky who strongly appears to be a newfie mix. Her feet are hilarious, with big tufts of fur in places I've never seen them on a dog. She is extra large, black and thick and long-coated. And she is super-sweet and calm.

    A newfie would certainly be a candidate for a future super-large breed dog for me. Those landseers are gorgeous, but the other colors are also pretty. Maybe someday. Kathy

    1. Every neighborhood needs a trained grizzly that brings fresh Christmas trees around, right?

      Newfies are such sweeties but then, so are Tollers. I'd be happy to live with either of these breeds. So many great dogs in the world! I'll probably be lucky to live with 20 or so breeds, sigh :-)

  2. A Toller has been crossed with an Australian Shepherd in Germany as the gene pool is quite small. I think I sent you the link? Apparently they are closer to collies than to any hunting dog. Have met a few in my neck of the London woods. Was very impressed by them.

    1. Hi Cate,

      There is possibly a smidge of farm collie in the Toller, however, they are thought to be descended from the River Duck Dog with additions from setters, retrievers, and spaniels. I personally see spaniel and retriever in many of the faces of Tollers I've met; some individuals have a coloring that is within a few shades of a light Irish Setter/dark Golden Retriever red. They really are impressive dogs, intelligent, alert, and energetic.

  3. We seldom bring hunting dog when we hunt because we have this pick-up boy who will get our duck for us. But I’m thinking to have brown Newfie this year.