Tollers are the smallest of the Retriever family. Girls 17-19" tall at the shoulder and about 30-40 pounds. Boys 18-20" and 40-50 pounds. They have a luxurious, thick coat, in shades of red from dark liver to buff, with the average being about the colour of a new penny, and various white markings on face, chest, feet, and tip of the tail.
Tolling is the act of luring curious waterfowl closer to the hunter, by playfully retrieving along the water's edge. It is said that foxes will use the same maneuver, one playing along the shore, the other waiting until the ducks get close enough to pounce on.
While they may look like small Golden Retrievers, they have an intensity and energy requirement more like a Border Collie, but with "an off switch". They should be an insatiable retriever and love the water. Like most of the other breeds in the retrieving family, they make great family pets, given enough exercise - both physical and mental exercise. They like to have a job to do, especially if it involves working with their owners - eg. agility, obedience, hunting, etc. There are Tollers successful in a wide variety dog sports.
They are not the breed for everyone. Here are the Top 10 reasons NOT to own a Toller, put together by longtime Toller fanciers, Peggy O'Connell and Laurie Geyer.
10. Shedding and Mess
Tollers do blow their coat seasonally, and they are dogs who like to swim and roll and
wallow. They are not a dog for the fastidious or the allergic.
9. Watch your cat
Many Tollers do just fine in households with cats or other animals. They do have a strong
prey drive, however. If you don't want your cat chased, this may not be the dog for you.
The chasing will be all in fun, but it is likely to happen.
8. They aren't protection dogs
Tollers are generally wary of strangers, but if you want a dog to serve as protection, look
elsewhere. While they are excellent natural watch dogs, and their barking may be more
than enough to scare away a burglar, these dogs are not cut out to protect. They may not
lead the burglar to your silver, wagging all the while like a Lab or Golden, but they also
aren't likely to go for his leg.
7. The "Scream"
Many Tollers have a penetrating scream which they produce to indicate excitement and
eagerness. To the uninitiated, this can sound like the dog is being fed into a woodchipper;
it's high-pitched, frantic, and loud. Not all Tollers scream, but most of them do. If you
are unable to teach quiet manners, or live in a neighbourhood where dog noise will get you
in trouble, or just don't like dogs who make noise, this is not the breed for you. The scream
is usually a reaction to an exciting stimulus (water, a toy, a ball ) rather than a constant
behaviour, but it can be annoying.
Tollers are a hunting breed, and are bred to be working dogs. They have a frantic drive
to work, and will retrieve until your arm is ready to fall off. Tendonitis in Toller owners is
not unusual. This dog is a retrieving fool who will climb trees to get to a bumper stuck
there (we have pictures). This may sound cute now, but after the 400th throw, you may
change your mind.
5. Not everyone's best friend
If you are looking for a dog who wants to be the world's best friend, the Toller may not be
for you. Tollers are gentle and kindly and many can be quite outgoing, but if you are looking
for a dog with that Lab "I just met you and you're my best friend" attitude, the Toller may be
wrong for you. The Toller will greet strangers happily, but generally reserves true
enthusiasm for their family and special people.
4. Did you say no?
If you give a Toller an inch, they will take a mile and come back for another. Tollers are
generally too smart to engage in out and out dominance battles. Instead, they sense power
vacuums and exploit them. If you are unable to be firm, (kind, but firm) about the rules of
your household, adn to enforce them consistently, you will find that the ruler of your house
has 4 legs and is red. They don't have a mean bone in their bodies, but they are
opportunistic and stunningly smart. If you aren't in charge, they will be.
3. Just do what I tell you
Tollers love to work, but they are not always as easy to train as other breeds. They need
to be challenged and engaged by their work, or they get bored and stop paying attention.
They may also try things a dozen different ways before they get around to doing what you're
looking for. Patience, inventiveness, and flexibility are the rules. If you want a dog who's
going to learn by the book, or if you're at all unsure about your ability to train a dog who's
a little different form the norm, the Toller may not be for you.
2. Smart, smart, smart
It cannot be stressed enough that this is a dog with brains to spare. Keeping all that
intelligence focused and busy is a big challenge. These dogs MUST be given at least basic
obedience training, and many Toller owners are active in several dog activities (hunting,
agility, flyball, tracking, competitive obedience) just to keep their Toller occupied. Even a
Toller who is "just a pet" MUST have basic obedience training and the chance to use their
brains (teach them to bring the paper, have them carry the mail in, teach them tricks) or they
become downright obnoxious around the house.
The Toller is an energetic dog, and needs plenty of exercise. While they aren't quite as
hyperactive as some breeds, they do need lots of exercise, physical and mental. If you
are looking for a dog who is content with nothing more than a pleasant walk in the evening,
go elsewhere. Better behaviour through exhaustion is the rule for living with a Toller. If you
don't have time to give this breed at least an hour of exercise a day, every day, with plenty
of swimming and fetching, look elsewhere. A Toller with excess energy will find another
outlet for his drive, and the results are seldom pleasant.