Why Some Dogs Have Fur Over Their Eyes
You remember the old Looney Tunes cartoons about a sheepdog?
He showed up for work every day to watch his flock of sheep, punching a time clock while carrying a lunch pail. He would trade pleasantries with the sheepdog heading off duty, walk over the top of a hill, and plop down to watch over his sheep.
However, if there was anything he needed to see clearly, he’d raise a front leg and lift his giant fur bangs up away from his eyes so he could see.
Can Dogs See Through Bangs?
If you’ve ever seen an Old English Sheepdog, or any of the handful of breeds that have fur over their face and eyes (sometimes called a “fall”), you’ve probably wondered if they’d like to do the same thing. People can’t see with bangs in their eyes. Can dogs?
No, not really, although this is a rather recent observation.
There is evidence to suggest that Old English Sheepdogs and their predecessors did have fur that hung somewhat over their eyes. They were used as cattle and sheep drovers (helping people drive herds of livestock to market, sometimes for 100 or more miles). As they leapt and meandered down the road keeping track of their charges, their fur would bounce away from their faces and out of their eyes.
The Myths and Beliefs
As generations passed and the dogs became more popular as companion dogs, they were bred with longer and longer fur covering their faces. The American Kennel Club breed standard calls for an Old English Sheepdog’s skull to be covered with hair.
Because the dog’s fur naturally grew long in front of their eyes, people thought it was better to leave the fur alone. Their thinking was that the fur worked as a natural sunscreen for the dogs’ eyes. This mistaken belief was reinforced when people would move the fur away from the dogs’ eyes and it would instinctively blink due to the brightness of the light. There was even a myth that the dogs would go blind if you trimmed that fur.
Although dogs do rely on their sense of smell and their hearing to a much greater degree than humans do, dogs were given eyes and sight for a reason. They enjoy being able to see and benefit from that sense as well.
Having fur in their eyes can lead other problems than just difficulty seeing. Hair hanging in their eyes can cause chronic eye problems, including ulcers of the cornea and conjunctivitis. It can also lead to behavior problems. If a dog can’t see what’s around him, he can become fearful and skittish. Removing the fur and allowing the dog to see his surroundings can relieve these issues almost immediately.
If you own a dog that has a fall, there are several things you can do to help him see better and help relieve the anxiety from his limited eyesight. You can trim, or have a groomer trim, his fur so it’s out of his eyes. Of course, extreme caution needs to be observed when trimming facial fur since the dog may be skittish and you can run the risk of injury.
So, unless your dog has mastered the task of using a front leg to lift his fall, help him get the fur out of his eyes. He deserves to see the world around him.