by Peggy O'Connell & Laurie Geyer Toller
originally posted to
the Toller-List - Friday 22nd December 2002
These are not Little
If you can't keep this dog busy, don't get
this dog. More than many breeds, a
Toller is a mental and physical commitment. They are not the dog for everyone, and while we love them dearly, we
don't want to see them in pounds and shelters.
Keep all of this in mind as you consider choosing a "Little Red Retrieving Machine"
With all the
posts about all the reasons why someone should consider a Toller is not for
them, it made one breeder think of all the reasons why, out of hundreds of
breeds, Tollers were the one for her.
- When they look into your eyes, you know they
love you (or maybe they are hungry, or want outside, or you've hidden the ball
- Versatile and adaptable - able to go from couch
potato to screaming retriever in mere seconds.
- World's best mood-lifter. If you have a Toller to toss a toy at you,
then do a flying pounce and come bouncing back for another toss, you just have
to share their joy of life.
- Ability to communicate in many ways with us humans.
- Perfect size.
- Smart - easily motivated by food, toys, anything that moves.
- Natural hunting abilities easier for someone like me who doesn't spend much time training.
- Their watch-dog abilities without being barky at other times.
- Lower incidence of health problems. In my lifetime of purebred dogs (4 other
breeds), my Tollers are by far the healthiest.
- Their natural drip-dry coat, beautiful and low maintenance.
Ten Reasons why the Toller may not be for
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.
- 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
Tollers 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.
- 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 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 from the norm, the Toller may not be for you.
- 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, and to enforce them
consistently, you will find that the ruler of your household has four 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.
- 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 reserve true enthusiasm for their family and special people.
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
a bumper stuck there (we have pictures). This may sound cute now, but after the 400th throw, you may
change your mind.
- 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 wood chipper, it's high pitched, frantic
and loud. Not all Tollers scream, but many 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.
- 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 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.
- 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
all be in fun, but it is likely to happen.
- Shedding and Mess
Tollers do blow their coat seasonally, and they are dogs who like to swim and roll and
wallow. They are not the dog for the fastidious or the allergic.
Reproduced by kind
permission of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club (USA)