Tonka Watson


I’ve had a passion for dog training since acquiring my first puppy after moving to NZ in 2002.  We competed at the top level for agility and attained Canine Good Citizen Gold level award. 

Now onto my 3rd dog, I’ve been a club instructor for years, compete in scent work and agility, and spend all my spare time and money advancing my knowledge about all aspects of canine welfare, behaviour, and husbandry.  

I’m an advocate for welfare based training.  The lifestyle we expect our dogs to adapt to is far removed from their natural habitat and I believe many ‘behaviour’ problems are simply dogs finding an inappropriate outlet for their natural behaviours.  Both dog and owners need to have their needs met to live in harmony and form a trusting and respectful bond.




Jo and Joy the Chihuahua cross

I have worked with Tonka  over a six month period to help my young dog become less reactive and more confident in the world. When I got my puppy Joy, a Chihuahua cross, she was very frightened of anything unfamiliar. It became clear that she’d had little socialisation before I got her and as a result had limited experience of the world. She would cling to my shoulder and shake with fear when we were away from home.

At home she would become highly anxious at any unfamiliar sound or sight (if I moved a familiar object to a different location she would bark and growl at it at length) and when anyone came on the property she would bark at them persistently. I reached out to Mindfulness 4 Dogs hoping they might be able to help my terrified pup.  They were more than willing to assist and recommended I work with Tonka (and her dog Tori).

I was relieved to learn that Tonka also had an anxious dog and I was heartened be able to work with someone who understood our situation. I was impressed by her calm manner, her kindness and depth of knowledge about dog behaviour.


Over the first few sessions Tonka worked with Joy in a calm methodical way to help lessen Joy’s anxiety and allow Joy to make choices to engage with her (or not). This was no quick or easy task for Tonka as Joy either clung to my shoulder or hid in the bushes on the far side of the property shouting at Tonka to leave! (for several sessions). Tonka never became frustrated with Joy or gave any indication that Joy was a ‘problem’ dog that could not be helped. She never forced her to do anything, but rather, demonstrated to Joy she was a safe person by working at Joy’s pace.

As well as working with Joy, Tonka was a considerable support to myself, helping me to understand Joy’s behaviour and giving me tools and ideas to work with her. Learning why Joy behaved the way she did was pivotal, as it enabled me to maintain patience with her and to persist with our training routines.

I found Tonka to be very committed and engaged working with us, following up on our sessions with emails containing links to people and things we had discussed. I had plenty to go on with between sessions. Tonka also bought her own dog Tori to later sessions. Tori interacted with Joy in a calm, easy manner, which was a turning point for Joy’s confidence. At our last session Joy met Darren for the first time. For a dog that was once very reactive and afraid, she approached and interacted with him in a friendly and affectionate manner, within an hour of meeting (Darran does have that X factor though).

While I was initially doubtful that anyone would understand or be able to work with Joy, I was wrong. My experience working with Tonka  has been life changing for both Joy and myself and one of the best investments I’ve made. I now have a dog who has grown in confidence. While she is still, by nature, an anxious dog the episodes are short lived. I now have the tools and confidence to support her as she grows increasingly more able to live a happy and balanced life.

The team at M4D’s are the real deal and offer a high quality service based on many years of experience and education. I highly recommend you trust your dog with them.

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Victoria Road, Hamilton, NZ

0274 585872