As the dust bunnies around my home will tell you, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers can shed quite a bit! Regular grooming, sweeping, and vacuuming can keep their loose hair to a minimum, but unless you are OK going to work decorated in Toller hair or enjoy the occasional Toller hair seasoning floating onto your plate, this is a breed you’ll want to avoid.
However, you don’t have to live your life drowning in Toller fur! Proper grooming and maintenance of their coat can keep the shedding to a minimum.
Shedding Cycles and Tollers
In reality, Tollers will never NOT be shedding. The cycle of hair growth that Duck Tolling Retrievers go through means there will always be some loose fur. However, they tend to “blow their coat” twice a year, shedding much more than usual.
This seasonal shedding often occurs once in the spring and once in the fall, as your Toller prepares their coat for the changing seasons.
Daylight, temperature, and other factors play into when your Toller will shed seasonally, and how much they will shed during this time.
When our dogs live indoors with us in a temperature controlled climate with artificial lighting, they may shed less at once over a longer period of time than dogs living strictly outdoors. (Note: Tollers thrive on being indoor dogs. They love to be with their family, and do not often do well as outdoor only dogs).
However, they will still seasonally shed and shed throughout the year too.
Four Stages of Hair Growth
- Anagen phase – This is when new hair is growing.
- Catagen phase – The phase occurs when hair reaches its maximum length and stops growing.
- Telogen phase – At this stage, hair is resting, not growing.
- Exogen phase – Hair falls out during this phase.
A Toller always has hair in all 4 phases, which is why they are continuously shedding. They may shed more hair than usual during spring and fall, but if all of their hair went through the exogen phase at once, they wouldn’t have any left!
Preventing Shedding in Tollers
While your Toller will still shed, properly grooming them is a great way to reduce the amount of hair in your home. Instead of waiting for the hair to fall to the ground and be swept up or vacuumed, you can groom them to catch the hairs that are already loose and ready to fall off.
The steps that I follow when reducing shedding in my Tollers, recommended by professional groomers, are:
- Start with a bath, lathering your Toller in shampoo.
- Apply and lather shampoo for a second time – this trick helps you get rid of even more excess hair in the next step.
- Apply conditioner – preferably leave-in conditioner.
- Blow dry your Toller using a high-velocity, dog-specific dryer.
- While your usual hair dryer may help to dry your Toller, the blow dryer will help to remove excess fur. Dry them until they are completely dry, and watch their loose coat fly!
- Brush your Toller.
- You can use a variety of brushes here. The important thing is that you’ll want a brush, such as an undercoat rake, that reaches through all the layers of your dog’s coat.
- I typically use a few different brushes to collect their undercoat, like a rake and pin brush. Then, I comb out any areas that are prone to tangles using a metal comb, such as behind their ears, their leg feathers, and their tail.
- Soft bristle brushes can be great to top off the groom by removing any hair sitting on top of your Toller’s coat, but they won’t reach the undercoat and be very effective at reducing shedding.
Trust me when I say that once you realize how much hair you can get off of a shedding dog by properly bathing and blow drying them, you’ll never go back to just trying to brush them alone!
The first time I had my Tollers bathed and blow dried, my fiancé requested that we add a dog blow dryer to our wedding registry because of how little hair they were shedding after being groomed.
It’s still important to keep up with regular brushing alone, but adding a few bath and blow dry grooms to your dog’s grooming schedule each year can truly help reduce their shedding.
If you want to groom your Toller yourself, you can invest in the dryer and other equipment. Otherwise, regular brushing at home while splurging on baths and blow dries twice a year during shedding season will also make a difference.
Most Tollers don’t require daily brushing, but they do need maintenance of their coat to remove loose hairs and ensure they don’t develop any mats.
I rarely have the time or patience to brush my Toller’s entire body at once, much less to brush both of them, so I tend to break it up into short sessions.
Focusing on their ears, tail, elbows, and butt fluff, I make sure to brush and comb these areas at least once or twice a week. These areas are the most likely to mat, so I make sure I devote time to them first.
However, a few times a month I also take the time to brush out their body. From their neck, shoulders, ribcage, and back, this is where the majority of loose fur comes from.
On this schedule, I’m able to vacuum and sweep weekly without too much extra hair around the house, except when they are blowing their coat. During that time, I sometimes have to sweep daily!
Besides grooming, you can also reduce shedding by ensuring your Toller eats a proper diet and maintains a healthy coat.
When your Toller has healthy skin and a healthy coat, they are less likely to shed as much since the fur will be able to grow longer and stronger.
Are Tollers Hypoallergenic?
No, Tollers are not thought of to be a hypoallergenic breed. They shed quite a bit, which can trigger allergies even when their coat is well maintained. In reality, though, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic.
Most allergies to dogs are triggered by the dander on their skin, and not the fur itself. However, the fur can bring dander with it as it sheds, releasing more of the irritant into the environment.
Thus, dog breeds that shed less, such as the Poodle and Irish Water Spaniel, are less likely to trigger a person’s allergies.
No matter which dog breed you get, you may still find yourself bothered by the dander from their skin. However, the Mayo Clinic has some great information on how to reduce the amount of dander in your home (and thus, reduce your allergy symptoms:
- Share your home with a smaller dog, since there will be less overall dander
- Make areas where you sleep or spend a significant amount of time a pet-free zone
- Bathe your dog weekly to help remove any dander before it makes its way into your home
- Shampoo your carpet frequently or chose another type of flooring, to prevent dander from hanging around
- Utilize a HEPA purifier and vent filters to lessen the dander and allergens in the air
Because allergies to dogs are linked to the dander, you may want to consider meeting dogs in person to see if your allergies are triggered before adding them to your home.
Some people who are allergic to dogs find that specific dogs, or specific lines of dogs, are less likely to trigger their allergies, shedding or not.
By meeting a potential dog in person ahead of bringing them into your home, you can get a better idea if the dog will be a problem for your allergies or not.
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