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Old 04-29-2013, 03:02 PM
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meepitsmeagan meepitsmeagan is offline
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Default Nova Scotia Duck Tollers

Tell me about them! The good, the bad, the ugly.

I've begun to research them a little bit, but I've had no personal experiences with them and know that it can be kind of difficult to find a stable dog.

This dog would need to be stable, and able to withstand our MI winters after a few trips through the lake to retrieve ducks. Aloofness is known in the breed, and that is fine.

Note: I know that we are doing a lot of breed hopping right now, and no impulsive decisions will be made. We are currently looking at Wirehaired Vizsla's pretty heavy, but there are some reservations about them and their ability to duck hunt via blinds and cold MI winters.
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Old 04-29-2013, 03:42 PM
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The current toller is a world away from the Little River Duck dog of my youth, so even though I grew up surrounded by the early version I can't speak of the current dog...

When I knew them they were amazing dogs, much bigger though than most I see now, one thing that was a common concern was their tolerance for the Atlantic in the winter, most duck hunters used Chessies, as they took the early/ late season water better...

They also could be a bit shy, though I don't remember any being DA or HA at all... I had a good friend who had 4 in one house and aside from the fur they were great...

They were eager to please, biddable and though I didn't own one, I would guess based on how "easy" many I knew personally were that they were highly trainable, most of them were in very average homes and were well trained, well behaved without a lot of effort to make them that way... And aside from tolling and hunting, many were pretty laid back...

Again this was over 20 years ago, when most people down home still just called them Little River dogs, and they were everywhere home... Can't speak so much of the breed today? May be the same other than size, or they could be totally different..
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Old 04-29-2013, 03:52 PM
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I wouldn't necessarily say that it's difficult to find a stable Toller, but there are definitely iffy temperaments out there so it's just a 'buyer beware' thing IMO. And by iffy, I mean that I've met many who are either shy or verging on being shy, and also startle easily to different things. Noises, different things placed in an environment, etc. My experience with Dance and other Tollers is that they tend to react to something before thinking it through first. Just as an example: if there is a weird noise outside or something, all of my dogs will listen for a second and decide if it's worth their attention. Except for Dance, who just barks without a second thought. She's like a little alarm.

One Toller I know, who recently moved away, was my version of an ideal dog. She was appropriately reserved with people that weren't her family or what she concerned to be friends, she was appropriate with other dogs and got along with anyone and anything, super eager, high energy with a fantastic off switch, playful, just an all around nice dog. Very versatile. She'd do anything asked of her, and succeed at it, no questions asked. She was trained using methods I thought were pretty harsh, and while I do feel she acted shut down around her people at times, it was an avoidance thing and not that she was crushed. She was a very resilient, try hard dog. I loved her and I hope that my next Toller is much like her. The only thing I didn't love about her was that she wasn't nearly as goofy as Dance haha. But that's just a personal preference. This dog took everything pretty seriously, as much as she liked to have fun, her version of 'fun' was more about serious work that she enjoyed but did not include goofing off.

I met a whole bunch of Tollers last year in a different province and they were much like the dog I described above, and for a short afternoon I worked in a dog daycare before quitting, two Tollers here for a Toller specialty from the US were attending daycare that day and were awesome and very much like the dog described above. So there are absolutely a lot of very nice Tollers out there. I'd just recommend talking to different owners and breeders and getting a good feel first, rather than just talking to a breeder and meeting a couple of their dogs and jumping in. If you're comfortable, try asking a breeder if you can speak to owners of their puppies if you decide to look seriously into a Toller.

Most of the other Tollers I've known around here have not been like the dogs I mentioned above, but most of them also shared similar heritage, even from different breeders, so I wouldn't doubt if what I've seen is simply genetic to some extent. Dance's temperament, IMO, is not ideal or even correct for the breed. She's very reactionary, insecure and just all around a little bit weird... but so was her dam as I discovered after dog-sitting her, so she comes by it honestly. I haven't met many other Tollers as people shy as Dance, but they've definitely verged on that, and I bet if they hadn't had the opportunity for ample socialization early, they'd also be like Dance (Dance wasn't exposed to much prior to about 13-14 weeks old so that combined with her genetics just wasn't a good mix).

When I was first seriously talking to people about Tollers and trying to learn about the breed, one breeder told me point blank that they are a breed with quirky tendencies and that proper socialization and exposure is definitely needed, moreso than with a lot of other breeds.

I would think a Toller should be able to stand MI winters and hunting just fine, considering their heritage. Nova Scotia is not a warm place in the winter. I'd still be careful in the dead of winter though. A lot of Tollers don't appear to have thick enough coats to be able to tolerate cold waters/weather when wet for very long, but this isn't something I have a lot of experience with. And again, finding a breeder who breeds for natural abilities and working dogs would be something I'd recommend, just to stack the odds in your favour of getting a nice working dog. There isn't really a split in the breed, but there are certainly breeders who do more work vs. show (and vise versa) with their dogs than others.

But anyway: A Toller should be reserved with strangers, meaning aloofness and just an uncaring attitude. They should not be shy, but it seems that some people think that reserved and shy are the same traits. They should be dog friendly in the sense that they aren't DA, but IME, Tollers aren't really 'doggy' dogs. Most of the ones I know don't care to play with other dogs they don't know, and they have no qualms about laying down rules and not allowing any rudeness from other dogs.

They're energetic but not over the top, or shouldn't be. They should have enough energy and drive to go out and work and do stuff, but also be content to not do a whole lot when it's not warranted.

They're very intelligent, quick learners, whether it's something they've learned on their own or something you're trying to teach them. They aren't always the most people pleasing/biddable dogs (some are) and do like to know what's in it for them, but as long as you have the right motivator, you should be good to go. Dance works well for both play and food. She's actually my most hard headed dog and doesn't just do something because I asked her to. She likes to push everything and sneak around and do what she wants. She'd be really annoying to somebody new to dogs I think.

Grooming is pretty easy. Now that Dance is spayed and her coat changed, I do have to brush her a few times a month, but prior to that I rarely brushed her. She's always had a very fine coat though. I like the more plush, thick but shorter Toller coats. They don't seem to tangle and everything just falls off. But even with a finer, harder to care for coat like Dance's, she's not that difficult. Aside from the occassional brushing, I tidy up her ears and feet monthly and call it good.

They have pretty obnoxious voices. They're very high pitched and most of the ones I know don't really bark like a normal dog... it's more like a long, drawn out string of barking. I don't find them to be very noisy dogs though. Unless Dance is alerting to an actual noise (even if it didn't need alerting to), she never barks, and she never barks simply to hear her own voice. She basically only barks when startled or when talking to me (and then she roos adorably, not barking at all).

And this could just be a Dance thing, but she's very busy in kind of a frantic way. When she's learning something, she totally takes the time to think things through, but when it comes to just everyday life, she barely thinks at all. She just does stuff and it's never in a calculated, thought through way. She paces, she prances, she's just kind of frantically busy... it's hard to explain. I've really noticed it since getting Journey, who is always so much more composed and thoughtful, whereas Dance is kind of just all over the place at once, never focusing on any one thing inparticular without a lot of effort.

Other people's experience might differ from mine, and while I have spent a lot of time with lots of different Tollers, I've only ever personally owned Dance (and one other for a short time, who was weird even for a dog, nevermind breed). But hopefully that helps a bit and I'd be happy to answer any other questions. :-)
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Old 04-29-2013, 03:53 PM
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I know nothing about their hunting ability at all but I see tollers often enough at dog sports. THey seem like a great breed and I like them a lot. Not sure they are right for me though.

One thing that struck me is that they can be TINY! I met one a few weeks ago that was not much bigger than a Sheltie.

As sports dogs they can certainly do well. They get compared a lot to border collies but I have yet to really see that kind of drive in them. But I have seen quite a few that are really fast little agility dogs. Definitely strike me as less outgoing and gregarious compared to other retrievers like labs or goldens.
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurelin View Post
I know mount about their hunting ability at all but I see tollers often enough at dog sports. Hey seem like a great breed and unlike them a lot. Not sure they are right for me though.

One thing that struck me is that they can be TINY! I met one a few weeks ago that was not mug bigger than a Sheltie.

As sports dogs they can certainly do well. They get compared a lot to border collies but I have yet to really see that kind if drive in them. But I have seen quite a few that are really fast little agility dogs. Definitely strike me as less outgoing and gregarious compared to other retrievers like labs or goldens.
Nothing to add except I enjoyed the typos
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
Nothing to add except I enjoyed the typos
That's what I get for phone posting!

Now it's immortalized forever!
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurelin View Post
As sports dogs they can certainly do well. They get compared a lot to border collies but I have yet to really see that kind if drive in them. But I have seen quite a few that are really fast little agility dogs. Definitely strike me as less outgoing and gregarious compared to other retrievers like labs or goldens.
I don't think they should be compared to Border Collies... or even any herding breed really, now that I have one. I think what people mean when they're comparing Tollers to herding breeds is that Tollers can certainly have just as much energy, but that's about where it ends.

They can be very drivey dogs, but it's different than what you generally see from a Border Collie. Maybe a little more scattered somehow? I'm not really sure what it is precisely, but I can definitely see why herding dog people don't want Tollers.

Even Aussies can't entirely be compared to Border Collies, but just comparing Dance to Journey even, there is a big difference. For as much as Dance is focused on a task, she's entirely unfocused when compared to Journey. And like I said above, just kind of has a frantic way about her.

That reminds me: Being a Toller person, I get to hear all the time from people just how much they hate Tollers. It seems that they really are a love 'em or hate 'em kind of breed. I very rarely come across a happy medium, and dog people are never afraid to tell me that they think Tollers are unstable, weird, 'muttly' dogs... I don't know how much Toller experience these people actually have, or what dogs they met to give them these opinions, but regardless, a lot of dog people just don't seem to like them for some reason. It's weird and not something I've experienced with Journey or the Dobermans to the same extent.

But anyway, in case it's hard to tell, I obviously love the breed! I find them to be hilarious, fun, joyous little dogs.
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Old 04-29-2013, 04:09 PM
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I find that there's a fair amount of diversity in Tollers these days. Some are jaw droppingly awesome and some are, in my opinion, a little meh.

My favourite Toller is a dog who has served as my role model for Cohen for 2-3 years now. She's a finely boned, long legged, high drive dog who has already earned her OTCH and RAE before the age of 4, she does field tests, just files around the agility course in a state of pure joy, knows a slew of fun little tricks and is always working. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body and lives solely to please her owner. The dog is from a world-renowned working kennel, and her owner just got another from them with a similar heritage. I expect big things from this new puppy.

A few weeks ago I was out at an agility trial where there were probably about 10-15 Tollers there (it was madness -- the trial wasn't even a big one!). Most of them were of the "meh" variety. Shorter legs, wider frames, lower drive, slower speed. They were probably all lovely pets, but not what I'd look for in a dog. I think what gets me is that these dogs don't seem to be as joyous working with/for their people and tend to need a bit of coercing than I'd like/expect from a sporting dog.

The ones bred for performance can be just awesome, but those dogs in the wrong hands end up being a bit of a disaster (I have one such performance bred Toller at my school and his handler is woefully unequipped to deal with him even now that he's hit middle age). For the most part I've not met any reactive/aggressive Tollers, but I know they exist. For the most part I've only experienced ones with reserved temperaments. Some are slightly fearful, but it's not been the norm in my experience. "Frantic" would be a good word to describe the breed in general.

My friend with the perfect Toller has suggested I get a pup from her breeder (she's spoken pretty highly of my work with Cohen to her breeder) but ultimately I think I'll end up passing in favour of a sport bred Border Collie. I don't know what it is about Tollers but despite the amazing ones I've seen and met I don't think they're quite the breed for me.

* I thought Tollers were supposed to be rare, but there are dozens in my neighbourhood and in the circles where I train and perform. Go figure.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:45 PM
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Michigan winters should not be a problem, but I don't know that I would ask a Toller to do long water retrieves in the dead of winter. Frankly, if the issue is "I need a duck dog in Michigan," I think your best chance of getting a dog that will foremost fulfill the job description is a black Lab or a Chessie. Maybe a Golden, but for winter water work they aren't my first choice. Any other breed, you are taking a hit on duck-dog-ability for novelty.

I think Tollers get compared to herders because they don't fit into the retriever mold very easily, and people are looking for some place to classify them. Tollers share little to no ancestry with the rest of the retriever breeds (I wouldn't be surprised if it is there, but more "there are collies in Sheltie pedigrees" than "Shelties are miniature Collies"). I think they are more like spaniels than anything. Marsh moves, works, and plays much more similar to the working Cockers I've seen than the working Goldens.

Marsh is easily startled by sounds. He does not like gunfire, but I believe that is more because I gave him a stupid, thoughtless introduction to guns. At this point in time I still believe I can fix it. But he wakes up barking if there's thunder and skitters away if something falls and bangs, though he'll usually sidle back up to investigate. He startles, but recovers well.

But what I love most about Tollers is they are just playful dogs. A lot of working breeds are like "I am tugging and I am a serious tugger and I am going to best you in fair combat and when I win we will do it again." Tollers are more like "WHEEEEEEE! I'm gonna pick up a DUCK!!!" For Tollers, work IS play. Tolling is a playful, rushing action. The dogs I like best at a Toller field test are ones who pounce on the tolling object. I don't need a dog that will pick up ducks, I need a dog that's going to have fun with me playing goofy games. That one of those games does include ducks (and don't get me wrong, Marsh is VERY birdy and is an excellent retriever) is almost incidental.

They're definitely a breed I feel you have to meet a lot to know if they're for you. There's just a vibe to them that you either love or hate.
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Old 08-07-2013, 10:27 PM
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My inlaws have a toller, he is wonderful. Small, I think under 45 pounds, and a wonderful pet. He is obedient and playful, reliable... but he is also tireless and obsessive. He will pull each and every toy out of his basket, one by one, and bring each one to every single person in the house, trying to find someone to throw it. He will chase laser pointers, reflections off cell phones, and attack water bowls hit by sunlight. He will also drop a stick off a dock, jump in to retrieve it, swim to the shore, and repeat this all day long if not stopped by taking the stick away.
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