Last Updated on: February 28, 2024

Since birth, I have had only the remnants of my eyesight, but dog agility has been with me since 1996. First I competed with a female Pinscher, later with a female Labrador and since 2002 I have been doing this sport with a Papillon and a Belgian Malinois, which is also my guide dog. Although my eyesight has deteriorated significantly several times over the years, agility has always been a great mental support for me at any given moment. I always feel literally energized after training, which can offset all the worries of my everyday life. In the 28 years that I have been involved in this sport, participating mostly in races in competitions with healthy participants, I have managed to win dozens of awards from national and international races thanks to the professional approach of my coach. My dogs have been granted an exemption, they can compete with a collar and a bell.

Orientation on the course

The question that probably comes to mind for many of you is how can I navigate between obstacles with a visual impairment.

I am accompanied on course walks by an assistant who tells me the order of the obstacles as I cannot see the numbers. I have to memorize everything – the distance of the obstacles from each other, their angles, the offset from the line and the distance of the other obstacles from the contact obstacles. It is necessary to calculate how many seconds it takes for the dog to run out of the tunnel according to its length, or how long it takes to complete the weave poles. From that, I calculate when I can run. In the same way, also just by estimation, I try to estimate the time the dog spends between two obstacles before overcoming them. I can tell that the dog has missed one of the obstacles if he comes to me earlier than usual. I use my sense of hearing mostly to estimate when to give the dog the command and when I can run to the next obstacle. Assuming I start with a dog I am already familiar with and can judge its movement, I can move around the course.

A lot also depends on the light conditions, I can’t see anything when the sun is low and even a visor won’t help me with shading. It’s similar to a sports hall where the sun can shine in from the side. In these conditions, I find running very difficult, almost impossible.

However, the moment I start again with the puppy, everything is like the first time for me. When practising the weave poles, I have to place the dog and always stand close to where he is supposed to run, so that I can tell if he overcame the obstacle from the right side. I then use a touch target with an audible signal to help me practice both the dog walk and the A-frame, so I know the dog has stepped on the contact zone.