Editorial and Commentary
The show standards established for many breeds of dogs have been linked with a number of genetically related abnormalities that can result in unnecessary suffering. The facial skin folds and shortened face of bulldogs, which respectively lead to chronic dermatitis and respiratory difficulties, are two dramatic examples. Likewise, ear-cropping is an ethically questionable mutilation that conveys no benefit upon the dog. Another serious welfare concern relates to a practice that is common among owners of Old English sheepdogs and other breeds with long facial hair: allowing the hair to cover the animal's eyes. This feature is considered a desirable show point. It is additionally justified by the widespread belief that it is necessary to keep the hair over the dog's eyes in order to protect them from sunlight. In fact, when the hair is lifted up to expose the eyes to daylight, a photophobic reaction (blinking, lacrimation, etc.) does occur, which leads the owner to the erroneous conclusion that the eyes actually need to be left covered. However, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that an animal whose eyes are almost totally obscured from any contact with daylight will show photophobia when the eyes are exposed. This is no reason for keeping an animal's eyes permanently covered. Furthermore, the eyes, since they are continually being irritated by hair, are likely to develop chronic conjunctivitis, which may in turn lead to corneal ulceration and other ophthalmic problems.
Fox, M.W. (1983). Occlusion of vision in Old English Sheepdogs. International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 4(1), 9-10.