On 2 October 2015, the organisation’s representatives set off to take part in the International Guide Dog Competition. This year, the competition was held in the Finnish town of Järvenpää. Latvia was taking part in the competition for just the third time and had to compete against notable competitors from both Finland and Estonia, where the guide dog movement is at a more advance stage of development. Latvia’s participation in the competition was arranged by the TEODORS service dog association, which organised a trial competition beforehand. As a result, Latvia’s representatives in this year’s competition were Solveiga Vildmane (Liepāja) with her dog Ulla and Natalja Muravjova (Daugavpils) with Lati. Their assistants during the competition were Gunta Bite and Jana Šlapaka, who both work for the TEODORS’ partner institution, the Latvian Library for the Blind. The guide dog competition was judged by three judges, comprised of one judge from each country. This year, they were Reijo Rekorius (Finland), Maria Soonberg (Estonia) and Zaiga Kļaviņa (Latvia).

The competition began early on 3 October. The course was 1.5 km long and contained several tasks, which the guide dogs had to perform precisely. For example, they had to find a pedestrian crossing, traffic lights, shop door, stairs and given warning about obstacles along the road or curbs. They also have to be able to wait for a long time in a shop, as well as to pick and give their master dropped items including keys, a glove or white cane. This time, the course was very challenging, because the route took the competitors along town streets with traffic lights, as well as small suburban streets without pavements or curbs, which are harder to identify for the dogs. It was these little streets that caused the Latvian team the most problems.
In the overall competition, Solveiga and Ulla finished 4th, which is a fine achievement, given that they have been together for only four months. Natalja and Lati finished 6th. As a result, the Latvian team finished 3rd in the overall competition. It is clear that the Latvian team still has a lot of work to do, but it can still draw satisfaction from its results. The Estonian team came 1st, while the Finnish team finished 2nd.
The TEODORS service dog association expresses its most sincere gratitude to the organisers and, in particular, to Regina Koljonena from the Finnish Guide Dog Holders’ Society, as well as to all the volunteers that helped during the competition. Among them was Latvian Laura Faitrouni, who lives in Finland and helped us with translation works.
The service dog movement in Latvia is gradually developing and participation in this competition is important recognition of our work. We are identifying the problems that need to be resolved, but can also reflect on the good results of our work to date. This underlines the fact that the TEODORS service dog association provides not only professional, but also responsible, dog training.
2016 will be the Year of People with Disabilities. Therefore it is particularly important and significant that the International Guide Dog competition will be held here in Latvia.

Gunta Bite
Latvian Team Assistant
Riga, October 2015


Solveiga and Natalja and their guide dogs discover the Finnish town of Järvenpää– both look as if they are still a bit sceptical


Natalja and Lati along the competition route


The Latvian team, from the left: Gunta, Solveiga, Zaiga, Natalja, Jana, and at the front, dogs: Ulla and Lati


All the participants in the competition from Estonia, Finland and Latvia

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