Home > Versus Dog Comparison > Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever What’s the Difference?

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever What’s the Difference?

Golden Retrievers and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers look very similar. 

In fact, oftentimes, when people see a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, they may mistake it for just a small golden retriever!

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

But make no mistake: they are two entirely different dog breeds. They share some similarities, but also many differences that are important to note before making the choice to adopt one.

So, if you’re looking for your next family companion, keep reading along! We’ll break down the key differences between these two similar-looking dog breeds.

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Comparison Table


Golden Retriever Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Size21.5-24” tall17-21” tall
Weight55-75 lbs35-50 lbs
ColorGolden, light golden, or dark golden.Shades of red and/or orange, usually with white on the chest and paws.
TrainabilityEasy to trainEasy to train 
IntelligenceIntelligentIntelligent
Friendliness with strangersFriendly with everyoneCan be a bit wary of strangers, but is almost always friendly
Friendliness with other dogsFriendly with other dogsNormally good with other dogs, but might chase small cats and dogs
Exercise needsMedium to high energy. Will need at least 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day. High energy. Not suitable for being left alone or living in an apartment. 
Lifespan12-13 years10-14 years
Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Comparison Table

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: History

To get a better understanding of the differences between these two dogs, let’s take a look at where they come from. 

Golden Retriever History

Golden Retrievers have their roots in Scotland, where they were first bred in the 19th century. The breed was developed by crossing Flat-coated Retrievers with Tweed Water Spaniels, along with other breeds from Britain.  

This clever combination of a water spaniel with a retriever resulted in a very capable working dog that could hunt just as well on land as in the water. The Golden Retriever was particularly renowned for its ability to hunt goose, other birds, and deer. 

Nowadays, the Golden Retriever is among the top ten most common dog breeds in the world, mostly as a companion pet thanks to their very friendly disposition. 

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever History

This dog comes from Nova Scotia, and was bred to retrieve ducks…that much is obvious! But there’s a bit more to its history than you might think.

Also known as the Little Red Duck Dog, Duck Toller, or simply Toller, this breed was developed in the Little River Harbor community of Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, sometime in the early 1800’s. 

The dog was first recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1945 and given its official name. While the exact combination that spawned the breed is unknown, it’s likely a mix of spaniels, retrievers, settlers, and possibly a collie mongrel. 

While not nearly as popular as other retrievers, the Duck Toller has a great reputation in some parts of North America, especially where duck hunting is common.

It was given its name thanks to its great ability to lure waterfowl within shooting range for hunters, an action known as “tolling”. 

Since the small Duck Toller looks like a fox, its unusual white markings trigger the curiosity of geese and ducks, causing them to swim closer, within shooting range. 

Thanks to their double coat that’s also water-repellent, they’re especially good at retrieving ducks in cold water, similar to Labrador Retrievers

In 1995, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was declared the provincial dog of the province it came from. 

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Temperament

While both of these dogs are friendly and playful, they’re also not exactly the same in terms of personality. 

Golden Retriever Temperament

The Golden Retriever is one of the most common dog breeds in American households, mainly due to its friendly disposition. Golden Retrievers are friendly with everyone, strangers and family alike, and wouldn’t hurt a fly.

They’re also quite calm, making them easy to train. In addition, Goldies are affectionate and intelligent. 

All of this makes them excellent for families, as they’re gentle and patient with children. Thanks to their history of being retrievers for hunters, they sometimes bring their toys or other objects to their owners!

However, since they’re so gentle in nature, they don’t make for good guard dogs at all.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Temperament

These compact dogs are agile and strong. Constantly alert, they’re upbeat and always ready for adventure, making them great for owners who like to hunt, camp, swim, or run with their furry friend.

Tollers are very intelligent, outgoing, and of course, high-energy. This means they need a lot of stimulation, both mental and physical. 

While they’re good with children and make for good family dogs, be aware of their high exercise needs; they may become destructive if they don’t get enough exercise or don’t feel stimulated. 

This is not a good breed to be left alone for long periods of time. They’re happiest when they have a job to do, which makes them great for sporting competitions and hunting. 

While they don’t bark very often, they sometimes have a unique sound known as a “Toller scream”, which is a sort of howl that sounds like singing. They use this sound when they’re excited and want to play!

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Grooming

Both of these retrievers have a double coat that needs some care and attention. But which one is harder to maintain? 

Golden Retriever Grooming

These dogs have a water-repellant double coat, just like Duck Tollers, which will shed heavily at the change of seasons. They also need to be brushed once or twice a week to keep their year-round shedding at a minimum.

You only need to bathe a Goldie occasionally, when they get dirty. Trim their nails regularly.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Grooming

While Tollers have a similar water-repellant double coat and also need a weekly brushing, they tend to be slightly easier to manage. 

In shedding season, brush them daily to keep your furniture safe. Make sure to brush around and under their ears, as the fur there has a tendency to get knotted. 

You can keep grooming to a minimum with these breeds to preserve the natural look. Just make sure to remove any excess fur from between their foot pads to help them maintain traction when they’re indoors. 

Trim their nails a bit more often than with other breeds, maybe once a week or so

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Training

Both of these dogs are smart people-pleasers. Let’s take a quick look at their training needs. 

Golden Retriever Training

Golden Retrievers are easy to train thanks to their obedience and intelligence. They want to please their owners, so positive reinforcement is essential.

We recommend puppy training classes, and lots of socialization with other people and dogs when they’re still young.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Training

While they’re intelligent and friendly, Duck Tollers can be a bit stubborn at times. This can make it a bit more challenging to train them than a Golden Retriever. 

Since they’re so smart, they usually only respond to training if there’s something in it for them, so they respond well to reward-based training. This can be either through vocal positive reinforcement or with treats. 

Just make sure to cut down their meals a tiny bit if you train them with treats to account for the added calories. 

They do best with short, productive training sessions. 

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Lifespan

Golden Retriever Lifespan

A Golden Retriever can be expected to live 12-13 years in healthy conditions. 

Nova Scotia Duck Toller Lifespan

10-14 years is the average lifespan for a healthy Toller. This higher range is a bit above the average Golden Retriever. 

Golden Retriever vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: Health

Before adopting a dog, it’s important to know what kind of vet visits you’ll have to make. Let’s take a look at the health of these two breeds. 

Golden Retriever Health

Golden Retrievers are generally healthy dogs. However, due to the high demand for the breed, some irresponsible breeds have cropped up that allow health problems in their breed lines.

These can include eye problems, elbow/hip dysplasia, and heart conditions. 

A responsible breeder will conduct screenings for these problems in their litters, making the problems more rare.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Health

Tollers are a relatively healthy dog breed, although the gene pool has become somewhat small over the years, resulting in certain genetic conditions. 

Some of these include Addison’s disease, Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and autoimmune thyroiditis. 

Make sure to adopt from a reputable breeder and ask if they’ve been screened for health concerns.

Conclusion: Golden Retrievers vs Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Overall, these are two very smart and friendly dogs. They’re also similar in appearance, although the Golden Retriever is quite a bit bigger.

Both of these dogs make for great companions, but the Duck Toller is much better suited for an owner who can give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. A Golden Retriever will require less exercise overall.

Additionally, in terms of health, the Duck Toller has a longer average lifespan. However, due to a limited breeding pool, they can also be prone to genetic health problems. Make sure to adopt from a responsible breeder.

We hope this article has helped you learn the differences between these dog breeds!