The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Grooming Advice

Registered as the AKC’s 150th breed, the “Toller” is a playful yet power packed, retrieving dog. Developed to toll (or lure) from the old Middle English word meaning to lure or decoy game and that’s just what this dog does. He draws the ducks and other waterfowl by his playful action of running, jumping and disappearing and reappearing in full view of them, spiking their curiosity and thus drawing them close enough for the hunter to get in a good shot with the shotgun. This ducking and weaving action is in tandem with the throwing and retrieving of sticks and balls from the hunter.

Likely originating from crosses of Goldens, Chesapeakes, Labradors and Flat Coated Retrievers with a dash of Cocker and Irish Setter for colour pigment and perhaps some small farm collies and spitzes, the Toller was registered as a Canadian dog by the CKC in the late 50’s. My first acquaintance with them was years ago at a show near Toronto and there seemed to be oodles of them entered engaging me in some bobbing and weaving myself as I asked as many questions as possible from those in the crowd that knew some facts and history.

The Toller is a medium sized, powerful, compact, balanced, well muscled dog and the smallest of the Retrievers. He has a highly alert personality, ready to spring to a speeding, rushing action when required to work. When working, his head is carried out almost level with the back and the tail in constant motion whilst he should have good reach and strong rear drive. He should be an able and strong swimmer and hold a strong retrieving desire with a high level of playfulness - essential for tolling.

His coat should be water resistant - a double coat of medium length and soft dense undercoat. Colours should be any shade of red from golden red to dark copper red with lighter featherings. He should have at least one white marking on either tip of tail, feet, chest or blaze but not penalized for lack of it.

To retain and promote the water repellant nature of the coat, between shows I recommend oiling the coat with Plush Puppy Seabreeze Oil at a ratio of 1 tbspn to 1 gallon/4 litres water. Work this well into the coat with a sponge or carefully pour over and squish well through to saturate. Then use the oil straight from the spray or applied undiluted to the areas around where they pee. This is a bad area for breakage. Keeping it oiled will also help prevent the coat becoming brittle or tangled and will deter accumulation of debris from the yard. This is a super oil, totally water soluble and won’t build up or be nasty to live with. It is all naturally derived from Evening Primrose Oil, Calendula Oil and other niceties and there is truly nothing quite like it. It helps add depth to the colour of the coat through retention of moisture thus deterring fading and drying. The coat develops a wonderful healthy vigour with constant use and that lovely low level sheen so desired in a Gundog’s coat, hinting at good water repellant properties.

Now for the show grooming, bearing in mind that your standard calls for not only those properties stated earlier but for the outer coat to be firm and resilient yet neither coarse nor silky, lying close to the body - may be straight or wavy. Use Plush Puppy All Purpose Shampoo which is great for shine and best suited to the Toller, at a ratio of 3:1 i.e 3 parts water to one part shampoo. At times when the Toller coat can get a touch greasy, use Plush Puppy Deep Cleansing Shampoo just to freshen and give a good once over deep clean. If your Toller is out of coat and he does shed seasonally, then switch to Plush Puppy Body Building Shampoo for that more coat look diluted again at 3:1 for maximum effect and up to 10:1 for less effect.

Normally after shampooing, condition the featherings with Plush Puppy Silk Protein Conditioner diluted at least 3:1 for easier dispersion and diluted at a ratio of 15:1 for the topline. Note: your standard does not allow for trimming of this dog except for feet, ears and hocks so one uses the styling time to tweak the shape of the coat as best as possible by clever use of products.

Okay, so now the harder stuff begins. In order to get that soft draping fall to the longer areas without wave, use Plush Puppy Swishy Coat. Some like to apply undiluted but truly, for easier and even dispersion I always recommend dilution. No point slapping it onto the top sections and totally missing the underneath. Purpose defeated! There is always a lot of dog to get through and dilution is quicker and gets a professional and even result. Dilute at a ratio of 1 tbspn to 3 cups water depending on the texture of the coat - you can dilute more or less. Sponge or pour thoroughly through the coat ensuring saturation. Squeeze out excess (do not wash out) and blow dry. We also prefer for show baths to include a small amount of the Seabreeze Oil to the final rinse - tiny amount meaning 1 tspn and change the water quantity of the Swishy mix to 4 litres/1 gallon and leave in - don’t wash out.

For blow drying, use the Plush Puppy Oval Cushion Pin Brush. This is used to prevent over stretching and damage to the coat. When 3/4 dry, switch to the Plush Puppy Porcupine Brush for that smoother, straighter and glossier finish to your drying result. The Pin won’t stretch it enough but the Porcupine will finish it beautifully. Get in under the lengths with the brush and gently bend the ends around the curve of the brush. Never entirely dry with a top brushing action only - this just flicks and kicks out the short pieces in the coat and tends to give that flyaway look to the coat. You are, after all, seeking a polished professional look that once mastered is breathtaking and sets your dog apart from the wash and wear “do’s”.

Should you have a coat to dry that is too curly or wavy, then add 1 tbspn of Plush Puppy Blow Dry Cream to the Swishy mix as this will further flatten the coat.

On show days, Plush Puppy OMG is just the best. This grooming spray is like no other and can be purchased in a 500 ml Ready to Use spray or a 500 ml Concentrate allowing you to fine tune any coat with the dilution tailored to suit every coat type. As a general rule for the Toller, dilute around 20:1 as per the Ready to Use spray which tends to suit most coats but if in peak condition then you may prefer a dilution of up to 30:1. For tangled, matted situations (heaven forbid), dilute 15:1. This spray reduces static, allows the brush or comb to float through the coat and just adds that manageability one seeks on show day. Not called O.M.G. for nothing as Oh, My Goodness, this stuff works and it won’t build up on the coats.

Don’t forget to use Plush Puppy Odour Muncher for a clean fresh effect that deodorises and leaves a soft fragrance plus Plush Puppy Shine & Comb for a last minute extra sheen. A little Plush Puppy Pixie Dust discreetly applied onto strategic areas with a teensy weensy amount on the brush is beautiful when brushed in well to work the dust to underneath the surface leaving the hints of glamour on the surface lightly twinkling out in the sunlight and spotlights without appearing artificial. If you can see this product when applying it you have gone too far and so just brush further into the coat to diminish the effect. The secret is a dusting not a snow storm! Everything is discreet and not to be advertised as such.

Well, as form follows function, you now have your lovely Toller spruced and ready to spring to action, excited to work and fit to show his strength and endurance. His coat is gleaming, his silhouette is styled to perfection and it all looks as easy as falling off a log. Just you and the dog know differently. He is of a delightful breed, a natural and tenacious retriever, showing all the traits in the ring of his ability to work and please. I am still as impressed with this breed as the first day I set eyes on them and look for them whenever I see them entered in the catalogues. I am amazed there are not more of them.

- Cheryl Le Court