The Toller: No Peeking!

If you were asked to make a temperamental soufflé, put it in the oven, wait for it to bake, then turn your back to the oven as someone else removed it without so much as peeking to see if it rose –  could you do it?

This is the closest we can come to putting you in the “shoes” of a  Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. A properly trained Toller never alters his focus when performing his unconventional style of hunting.  Cavorting, pivoting, whirling around and dancing on a shoreline to attract the attention of ducks, a Toller doesn’t so much as peek at the birds he’s luring closer to shore. Once they’re closer, the hunter calls his dog back to the blind, stands up to take aim, then shoots. This is where the “retriever” part of the dog’s name comes into play: The dog returns with the bird in mouth.

If you think this sounds a little unsporting, you should know that Tollers are only mimicking the behavior of wild red fox. Early on, hunters noticed the success of the foxes who employed this ploy, then tried training their dogs to mimic the same action by throwing sticks and rocks for the dogs to retrieve. It worked. It’s said that hunting with a NSDTR means never coming home with an empty game bag. In their book, The Atlas of Dog Breeds, two of our favorite authors, Bonnie Wilcox and Chris Walkowicz, wrote of a small 30 pound Toller bitch who retrieved a Canada Goose from the Atlantic Ocean during a storm. East coast readers will recognize that this was no easy feat.

 Image: Photo credit: dziambel what now? via photopin (license)


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