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Back in the 70’s one of my greatest pleasures was taking the Newfs to the family cottage in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec. There on the shoreline of Lac Orange they did something that I found fascinating. They would play on or near the shore and soon a flock of ducks would come over to check them out.

About a decade later I was to find out that this was “tolling” or luring of game. In 1988, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Kennel Club, Canadian stamps were produced depicting some of our native breeds, one of which was a combination toller and retriever, the very remarkable Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are relevant to our breed because, like all retrievers, they have Newfoundland genes in their make up. But, perhaps they got more than just retrieving genes from our Newfs. Yes, I believe that some of their tolling ability may also be derived from the Newfoundland dog.

This belief is not just based on my anecdotal observations of Newfoundlands; in fact it has been documented by two renown American breeders and authors. One was Mrs. Maynard Drury who in her book This is the Newfoundland quotes author Major General Hutchinson who wrote about a Newf with a white fore-foot who used his bit of white as a lure for fish (pages 118 – 119, second edition). Margaret Booth Chern, in her book, The New Complete Newfoundland, gives two examples of Newfs tolling for fish and uses the term “toll”. Mrs. Chern also provides a picture of a Newfoundland tolling for fish (page 182, second edition).

When a Newfoundland with one white fore foot tolls for fish, he dips his white toes into the stream. This has the effect of a “shiner” and attracts the fish. Once the fish come close, the Newfoundland jumps in the water and catches them. What is extra fascinating about this is that the Newf knows which foot to use as a lure.

My latest pup was born with one white fore paw and I got excited about the prospect of finally having a fish toller. Unfortunately, at eleven months, the white is being overcome by black fur as so often happens. Guess I’ll have to wait some more.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

February 1999