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Novia Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are exceptionally happy dogs in general, and most owners find it impossible to have a bad day when watching their Toller play. However, these traits don’t necessarily make Tollers the best family dog.

In order to help you decide if a Toller is right for your family, we’ll take a look at what characteristics of Tollers make them a good family dog, which potential cons to consider, and how to find a Toller if you decide the breed is right for you.

Do Duck Tollers Make Good Family Pets?

Duck Tolling Retrievers can make great family pets, however, they are high energy dogs who require training and exercise. They also should be introduced to children in their puppy stage to properly condition them to their company. A well socialized Toller will love spending time with their family.

At their hearts, Tollers are working dogs. They can love spending time with their family, but they also need a job to do. This job can vary between hunting companion, agility partner, dog sport dabbler, or even hiking buddy!

If your goal of a pet dog is to have a dog that will hang out around the house with little exercise or enrichment beyond your daily life, a Toller is not the choice for you.

Tollers certainly love to be a part of the family, and enjoy the presence of their people. If you leave your Toller to their own devices, though, their intelligence will likely get them in trouble.

Owning an intelligent dog sounds like a great plan until your dog starts to use their smarts against you!

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I’m constantly amazed at the thought process that my Tollers go through to solve problems on a daily basis.

I once watched Hobbes maneuver a dog bed to remove it from a crate in order to lay on the hard plastic because he was hot and wanted a cool place to lay.

Another time, Windi took advantage of us leaving to steal a muffin. This muffin had been on the counter (and in a plastic container) for over 24 hours without any attempt by him to steal it.

However, as we climbed into our car to run errands, Windi watched us through the kitchen window. Once the car doors were shut, we then watched him carefully lift up the plastic container, remove the muffin, and eat it!

The plastic container never moved an inch, and he made sure we were fully in our car and leaving before he made his attempt.

Their smarts make them exceptionally fun dogs for me because they are fun to train. However, we have definitely had to learn to laugh at their antics and the things they can do to cause trouble because of their brains, too!

If you can find the humor in their antics, provide them with the exercise they need, and keep them busy, they can be a great member of the family.

However, left to their own devices, a Toller will create their own entertainment. They may also develop behavior problems due to the lack of enrichment and exercise in their life.

Tollers and Children

Not all Duck Tolling Retrievers love children, just as not all dogs in general love children. However, Tollers can certainly get along well with children if they are properly socialized to them. It’s also important that the children are dog savvy, and will respect their boundaries.

When we got our two Tollers, my husband (then boyfriend) and I did not have any children. We still don’t have any children, but I knew that it was something that could happen during the lifetime of my Tollers.

Because of that, both of my Duck Tollers have been socialized with children of varying ages, so they are comfortable with their presence. They were exposed to strollers as young puppies, as well as children’s toys that move and make noise.

One of my Tollers loves children, and eagerly wishes to say hi to those we see on walks. He’s very gentle, has learned not to jump on them, and thinks they are fun playmates.

My other Toller is tolerant of children, but does not seek them out. However, that is akin to his personality (and the general personality of Tollers in general). Most Tollers have an aloof personality to strangers, and instead are deeply loving of their inner circle of friends and family.

If your Novia Scotia Toller was not exposed to children from a young age, they may need more boundaries with children or need additional time to adjust.

No dog should be left alone with kids, and kids also need to learn how to properly interact with dogs.

Kids should never sit on dogs, pull on their fur or appendages, tease them, or take away their food or toys.

The youngest of children may not understand all these rules, which is one reason why it’s critical to supervise whenever kids and dogs are together.

Dr. Sophia Yin created these wonderful posters explaining how kids should and should NOT interact with dogs, complete with graphics, that can be useful guidelines when you are teaching kids how to interact with dogs.

Toller Pros and Cons

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club has “Top 10” lists – both of the reasons you should and the reasons you should NOT get a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. These lists provide an excellent overview of what you should expect when considering this breed.

Reasons to Get a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever for your family

  • They are extremely smart. This intelligence can be fun for playing and training, although it can get them into trouble at times!
  • They are very versatile. One of the reasons I personally chose Tollers for my current dogs was because I enjoy training for and competing in a wide variety of events – agility, obedience, rally, conformation, dock diving, nosework, tricks, and more – in addition to using my dogs for training demonstrations and therapy dog work.
  • They are perfect for lifting your mood. Both of my Tollers have hilarious antics that make me smile every single day, even if it’s just for a moment.
  • They are enthusiastic learners. Not only did I want dogs that could do all the sports I mentioned earlier, I wanted dogs that wanted to do these sports.
  • They are great duck hunting companions. The name actually comes from how these dogs work – tolling involves the dog prancing along the shoreline and luring in waterfowl.
  • They communicate their feelings and personality. Both of my Tollers, while they are half-siblings, have their own unique personalities that are easy to see. Tollers will tell you how they feel about a situation, too!
  • They are the cutest breed of dog. Ok, I might be slightly biased, however, their rich red coat, fluffy fur, and white markings can make them look beautiful to many.

Reasons NOT to get a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

  • They shed. Their beautiful coat will shed quite a bite twice a year, and will still be shedding somewhat in between blowing their coat. They need grooming to prevent mats, and love to swim and play in the mud.
  • They have higher prey drive than some other breeds. Tollers are likely to find great fun in chasing small animals, including pets. They can often be trained to live with other animals, but not without effort.
  • They are not friends with everyone they meet. This does not mean that Tollers should be aggressive towards strangers. However, most Tollers tolerate strangers while only truly loving those in their inner circle. My Toller, Windi, often takes a few months of regularly seeing a new friend before he gets excited to see them and wants their attention.
  • They scream. Yes, just watch the video below! Not all Tollers produce this high-pitched sound, but many do. When excited, an extremely loud and frantic scream sound is often emitted. I have had people think my dogs were in grave danger and pain, or that a person was screaming, instead of thinking my dogs wanted to chase a squirrel!
  • They are high-energy. Since Tollers are hunting dogs first and foremost, they have higher drive and energy than dogs bred to be couch potato companions. Many Tollers never tire of retrieving, no matter how tired your arm is from throwing things!
  • They are sensitive. They can shut down with too much pressure during training sessions.
  • They’re smart. This is a pro AND a con! They will use their brains no matter if you give them an outlet for their intelligence or not.

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