Tollers are named after their “tolling” abilities. Duck hunters would sit in their blinds and throw sticks out, letting the toller to go out and play on the shore and in the surf. Large rafts of ducks would show interest and curiosity, and swim into range. The toller is a decoy! Some say tollers were bred to look like foxes, which would exhibit similar tolling behavior to lure waterfowl.
My husband was fed up with swimming for his own ducks or hoping to stumble on upland birds. We researched, talked to many breeders, and settled on the toller. Living in Wyoming, we tend to hunt harsh conditions requiring dogs that can handle sub-freezing temperatures, icy waters, strong winds and rough terrain … and our style is to switch between waterfowl and upland birds. The toller fit the bill. Their playful, mischievous personalities are an added bonus and really keep us on our toes!
Tollers are fantastic, versatile upland dogs. They are excellent flushers with strong bird drive and natural quartering. Clear physical markers — changes in body and tail carriage — indicate when they are hot on a bird. Some dogs flash point. Pheasant hunting comes easy, but tollers are up for any challenge. Ours also hunt, flush and retrieve grouse (sage, sharptail, ruffed and dusky), wild chukar, Hungarian partridge, and they show prowess locating coveys and singles of quail including Mearns, Gambel’s, scaled and bobwhites.
Tollers are high-energy and intelligent dogs. They need attention, commitment, and a job or outlet. Train them, keep them busy. They are wonderful companions that enjoy hanging out and relaxing with the family. They can be hesitant with strangers and are independent. But they are empathetic and know when and where they are needed, providing an understated comfort.
Tollers are playful, clever and intense, and everything about them is a challenge, from training to understanding, but it is highly rewarding!