Interview with Alleyne Dickens, Breeder of Bonheur Belgian Tervuren
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
Alleyne Dickens: I’m Alleyne (AL-een) Dickens, a third-generation Belgian Tervuren breeder from Virginia. My parents, Faye and Bud Dickens, established Bonheur Belgian Tervuren in 1962, My grandparents and sister Carrole also bred under our kennel name. My daughter, Tierney Mays, is a fourth-generation breeder. We’ve bred more than 85 champions in the US, Canada, and Russia, numerous Working and Herding Group placers, High in Trial Obedience dogs, top Agility competitors, and some awesome pets.
Our family is proud to have bred the first Tervuren Best in Show winner, CH Bonheur D’Artagnan UDT, as well as the first Herding Dog to win an All-Breed Best in Show, CH Bonheur Star Treader CDX TD. We also bred multi-BIS/BISS CH Bonheur Ruarri MacTire, and 200 Obedience scorers: Tishaminga de Weeping Pines CDX and CH Bonheur World Shaker UD.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
Alleyne Dickens: I co-breed often and have a special partnership with Marcie Schubert, Windsong Belgian Tervuren. Our current star is the No. 1 Tervuren bitch GCHB Windsong Bonheur Well Spirited RN DN. “Kai” is also the partner of the No. 1 Junior in Tervuren, Taylor Stone. We love Juniors! The top two Juniors in Tervuren for the past two years, Sarah Wolfe and Taylor Stone, show bitches that we bred.
There remain two Belgian styles in this country, American and European. Both have extremes. We strive for a moderate dog that possesses good structure and movement, along with a square body and beautiful headpiece. Equally important are health and temperament. We have imported dogs from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and more recently, the Czech Republic.
I want every dog I produce to have the robust health and good character that make a good companion, whether or not they are shown. We don’t keep kennels, so we can’t keep many dogs ourselves. We co-own at least one puppy from every litter to keep our bloodlines current.
A number of breeders in this country share my vision, producing Tervs with good type, structure, and temperament. We still need to be careful with health issues, but there have been improvements, particularly in joint and eye health.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
Alleyne Dickens: Because of family health concerns, we weren’t active for some years but are now campaigning three young specials and preparing to bring out an exciting puppy. Entries in the Mid-Atlantic are increasing, with numerous majors. We live within an hour of Doswell, Virginia. We also train and compete in Obedience, Rally, Agility, and Scent Work.
I celebrate all of our puppy buyers and all of our dogs on Facebook. I have private Facebook groups for each litter, and one for all owners of Bonheur Tervuren. I publicly post all accomplishments every week, giving attention to everything from CGCs and health clearances to new titles and Group placements. I post lots of pictures and engage my clients as much as possible. We’re working on a new website.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
Alleyne Dickens: I recently got a Cirneco dell’Etna. In many ways I feel like a newbie again. Hounds are different from Herding dogs. I appreciate the judges who have been encouraging. I think AKC needs young judges, especially those who come from the breeder ranks. I’d love to see more Bred-By competitions. I like the National Owner-Handled Series, but wish it wasn’t so often overlooked. In my opinion, Best in Show should be the very last event of the day.