About Me

My name is Nancy Gagliardi Little and I live with my husband, Tom, in Chisago City, Minnesota with our four dogs (my three Border Collies and my husband’s Labrador). I love the Chisago Lakes area because it reminds me of the rural area that I spent most of my childhood. I have the luxury of having my own dog training business (Endzone Dog Sports, Inc) that I started after leaving my 22-year career as a senior software designer and developer.

Growing up in a rural setting had a big impact on my life. I had the very unique advantage of living on the St. John’s University campus of about 3000 acres of thickly wooded land with clean spring fed lakes. My family lived in a house that they rented from St. John’s, which bordered on farmland pastures, where I kept my horses that I rode over the country trails with my dogs. In the summer, it was like living in a private resort.

My father, John Gagliardi, is and has been the head football coach at St. John’s University since 1953. He took over coaching after the legendary Johnny "Blood" McNally (a charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame) resigned telling him that you can’t win football games at St. John’s. Dad went on to become the most winning college football coach and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame along with Joe Paterno and Bobbie Bowden in 2006.The interesting thing about my Dad’s success is that he has become the winningest football coach by doing things differently than traditionally is done in football. He has always embraced looking at things outside the box: simplifying, eliminating things that don’t work, making football fun, and keeping life in perspective. Many of his players, like Mike Grant (Eden Prairie High School) have also gone on to also be successful football coaches by also using his methods. To read more about my Dad, click here.

So, as you can imagine, I have been greatly influenced by my own father to strive to keep the right mental attitude, to simplify and break things into their smallest parts in order to work the most important pieces, to find passion and enthusiasm, to think outside the box, and to enjoy life and all it has to offer. Conversations around the house were inspiring, motivating, and thought provoking when it came to competition and life in general. I am the oldest of four children and I have one sister and two brothers.

In college, I majored in Computer Science and Mathematics and got a job with Control Data as a systems software engineer in 1979. That was where I met my husband, Tom, who was also a software engineer. We were married in 1982 and we promptly bought a yellow Labrador at the humane society, as we both missed not having dogs through college. Tom started training Maggie at Animal Inn in Lake Elmo and after watching them train and attend obedience classes, I wanted my own dog to train. I had always loved watching the obedience demonstrations that were given in St. Cloud at various places while I was in school and I knew that I wanted to get involved in training a dog, too.

It was at that time, we aquired Damien, a black Labrador, from a newspaper ad. Tom was horrified at this wild puppy that was into everything and seemed to be in constant motion. He was being sold at about 3 months of age because the owner (who also had a miniature poodle) was allergic to him. Tom was sure that I would never want him because he was so out of control. But, I fell in love with him, as I have always loved animals with a lot of drive and spirit. So, we brought this puppy into our lives and he opened up a whole new world for me. He loved training and he loved working with me. I taught him tricks, took him on walks, trained him for obedience, participated in demonstrations at various events, did some water and land retrieve training, and got involved in scent hurdle competition and then flyball. Damien was my Novice A obedience dog and consistently placed in all his classes all the way through Utility. The day after he got his UD, he won a very large combined Utility class under Bob Self and got 40 OTCH points. I was totally hooked after that. He went on to finish his OTCH, was ranked #5 all breed in the nation in the Shuman system and was inducted in the Flyball Hall of Fame. Tom and Maggie also got a UD and some OTCH points as well.
Damien High In Trial, Land O' Lakes KC January 1987

While I was competing in obedience, I met Dick and Kay Guetzloff who at the time were living in Illinois. Kay is the breeder of Heelalong Border Collies and she loved the drive and intensity that Damien brought into the obedience ring. She told me that I would never find another dog like him because he was also very willing to please and not the typical hardheaded Labrador. For about a year or so, I looked around the rings and in the field for another Lab like Damien, but never did find a consistent line of dogs that I liked. I kept thinking about Kay and the gorgeous black and white split face Border Collie, Rock, (OTCh Heelalong Trevwin Rock, who was also the AKC Kennel Ration dog of the year for many years), she was showing. Then while competing in Super Dog at Duluth obedience regional in 1985 with Damien, I watched an incredible performance by a trainer/handler with a dark red/liver colored Border Collie. I was enamored with this amazing team and how nearly perfect every run seemed to be. I watched her train this dog in the evening and I watched her in the practice ring. Janice DeMello and Widget ended up winning Super Dog at that regional and I eventually because good friends with her as she is the breeder (Hob Nob Border Collies) of the three dogs that I am training and competing with today. 

After that weekend that I knew that I wanted a Border Collie and Tom also decided that he wanted one, too. Since Tom's dog, Maggie, was closer to retirement, he got the first Border Collie from Kay Guetzloff in March of 1986. He was a black and white tri male, that we named Tack. 

When I was ready for my Border Collie, Kay wasn't breeding any litters, but she was breeding, Rock, to Mary Whorton’s female – a black and white perfectly marked OTCH/TDX bitch, Shari. So, in October of 1986, my gorgeous classically marked black and white boy, Cruiser, was born. Cruise went on to become “OTCh Tystar Cruise Control UD” and he also introduced me to the wonderful world of herding. At that time, Border Collies were still in the Miscellaneous Class and there were no AKC herding trials – only USBCHA trials and ASCA trials. I started attending Bob Vest seminars and also getting some stock time at various farms around the area. Cruiser was a lot of dog for me – a person that was just learning about herding and had no sheep/stock sense. We managed to get an ASCA STDs title. Cruiser also got me involved in some of the very beginnings of agility in this area. But I only dabbled in it, as I got more involved in herding.

Cruiser and Tack, 1988
Tom trained Tack through his CDX and he had to quit training while he got busy at work. I put the UD on Tack and then took him on to finish his OTCh and UDX, as he became “OTCH Heelalong Sharp As A Tack UDX”. Tack was not interested in sheep; he only wanted to fetch sticks and toys. Tack lived until the age of 17 years and 3 months, while Cruiser lost a battle to lymphoma at 10.

   Tack Heeling                                                        Tack High In Trial, June 1994

In 1986, I was approved as an AKC obedience judge and eventually was licensed to judge all classes through Utility. I was very fortunate to have been able to judge all over the country and was even invited to judge the 1995 Eastern Obedience Regional in Raleigh, North Carolina and the very last 2000 National Obedience Classic in Louisville, Kentucky.

Around the mid-1990’s, I got involved in the Border Collie Society of America (which is now the parent club). There was talk that the AKC was going to kick the Border Collie out of the Miscellaneous Group and many of the obedience competitors were concerned that the breed would no longer be able to compete in AKC obedience trials, just like the Kelpie who was removed from the Miscellaneous group and could no longer compete in AKC events. So, we recruited many experienced Border Collie obedience competitors around the country into the club. Some did not believe that AKC would remove the breed from the Miscellaneous Group and did not want to be a part of the club. We eventually ended up with a very strong performance club and the officers in this early part of the club’s history were all very experienced Border Collie obedience folks. I served as Vice President (2 year term), Secretary (2 year term), and Board member (two 2 year terms). We had some rough rides over the years on our way to becoming the parent club as well as even getting the breed recognized in 1997. But I am very proud of what the BCSA has accomplished over the years. Too many wonderful things to mention here, but mostly I am proud of the club’s emphasis is on maintaining the Border Collie’s amazing herding instincts.

In January of 1995, I bought my next Border Collie from Denise Wall in North Carolina. Denise is a very experienced USBCHA herding trialer and she is also on the health committee for the American Border Collie Association, which is a Border Collie working registry. Gimmick was a black and white tri and he was just about the sweetest Border Collie that ever lived. He could be trusted with lambs, cats, and children. He took me to higher levels in obedience with many High In Trials and High Combined Awards and became my first herding champion. Gimmick became “HC OTCH Endzone Gimmick UDX HXAsd HIBs”. Unfortunately, I lost Gimmick to cancer in September of 2007. He was all heart and he lived to work sheep. Please read my tribute to Gimmick.

Gimmick High In Trial in his herding debut

Reason was came to me from Janice DeMello. I had been taking obedience lessons from with Gimmick. To read more about Reason, click here.

My middle Border Collie, Score, was born in September of 2004. He is a black and white male that is very closely related to Reason as they have the same sire and Reason’s mother is Score’s grandmother. To read more about Score, click here.

My youngest Border Collie, Schema, was born on May 2, 2007. She is getting ready to make her debut in agility – probably in the spring of 2010. She is very stylish, pushy, and talented on stock and she is going to be a lot of fun to train in obedience. To read more about Schema, click here.

Being so involved in herding and agility, I no longer have weekends available for judging obedience. So in February of 2008, I officially retired from obedience judging. I have always enjoyed judging, but I actually enjoy training and competing with my dogs in the various venues even more.

I teach obedience classes and also private obedience lessons for people that want to compete. My obedience training has improved dramatically because of my experience in training competitive herding with my dogs and I have been able to pass my experience on to my students (with and without herding breeds) to help them improve their training. One other big influence for me in training dogs has been Marc Christopher, who comes to Minnesota in June every year to do herding clinics (he’s been coming here since 2000). Marc is a master of dog behavior and he has taught me how read and respond to dog training issues in a way that better communicates what I am trying to teach the dog. Like my own father untraditional way of coaching, Marc trains dogs untraditionally and simplifies the complicated sport of herding.

What I enjoy the most about training dogs is the challenge of balancing precision and self control along with focused drive into performances. I am a firm believer in foundation training as this sets the building blocks up for a consistent performance. I love working with all different types of dogs and I have experience with instructing many of the different breeds.