The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the smallest retriever, is a high-energy, medium-sized, powerful red dog with lighter-colored feathering underneath the body and tail. (The lighter parts of the coat are still richly colored.) Most Tollers have at least one of the following white markings: tip of the tail, feet (with no white above the pasterns), chest, or blaze on the forehead, though it is not a disqualification for a dog to be entirely lacking white. The Toller's body is slightly longer than tall, in a ratio of 10 to 9. The head is somewhat wedge-shaped. The triangular drop ears have rounded tips, and are set high and well back on the head. The base of the ears is held somewhat erect. Ear length should reach approximately the inner corner of the eye. Eye color should be the same as the coat color or darker, with eye rims either the same color as the coat or black. The color of the eye rims, lips, and nose should match. The mouth must be soft, but the jaws should be strong enough to carry a reasonably sized bird. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The oval feet are webbed for swimming and the legs from the front should look like parallel columns, though from the side, the pasterns on the forelegs slope slightly. The tail is luxuriously feathered, and is carried below the topline unless the dog is alert, when it may be held high and curved. The Toller generally has a slightly sad expression until he is asked to work, at which time he appears to be intensely concentrating and excited.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, once called the Little River Dog, was developed in the early nineteenth century in the Little River district of Nova Scotia, Canada. The breed is named for its method of luring ducks to the hunter. When a dog is "tolling," he runs and jumps playfully along the shore in full view of a flock of ducks, disappears from sight, and then reappears as he fetches sticks or balls for the hunter (who hides in a nearby blind), all the while waving his feathered tail. This activity lures the curious ducks within gunshot range of the hunter. The dog then retrieves the downed birds for his master.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was first recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945, but the breed remained relatively obscure until 1980 when Tollers won Best in Show at two Canadian dog shows. This sparked interest in the breed, and its popularity began to grow. In 1988, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was one of four Canadian breeds that were each honored with a postage stamp carrying their portrait. In 1995, the 50th anniversary of recognition by the Canadian Kennel Club, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever became the official dog of Nova Scotia. The breed is also popular in Sweden, and is gaining popularity in the United States. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was admitted to the AKC Sporting Group in 2003.