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What is Mad-Dogging?

By Ken Black
Updated: May 17, 2024

Mad-dogging means to stare down another person, in a menacing way, for a variety of purposes. Mad-dogging could be a form of friendly competition, such as in a staring contest, or it could signal a threat. In some cases, determining the motivation for the stare down could be extremely important.

The mad-dogging term comes from the stance that two dogs often take prior to becoming engaged in a fight. Sometimes, the dogs will attempt to stare each other down in the hopes that one will back off, or exhibit some form of weakness. With dogs, this usually involves auditory threats such as growling or barking. With human beings, often there is no verbal element to a mad-dogging event.

Though it has not gotten much media attention across the nation, there was a case in July of 2008 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Lawrence Vargas, a 23-year-old male, was shot after he and another man stared each other down in a mad-dogging style. The suspect in the shooting remained at large a month after the incident.

The case in New Mexico is not the only one where someone was shot after a mad-dogging incident. A month after Vargas was murdered, another man was shot in Watsonville, California, after police say two groups of individuals engaged in a mad-dogging incident. In that case, the man who was shot survived after sustaining only minor injuries.

A retired New York City police officer, Sgt. Lou Savelli, wrote in a piece for a corrections-based Web site that mad-dogging is often practiced by gangs. If law enforcement officers notice it, they should be prepared because it will likely be a precursor to violence.

In some cases, mad-dogging is a simply staring contest between individuals. These types of competitions are common, especially among children. Though usually they are conducted with no menacing faces or threats. However, some individuals engaged in a staring contest may use a mad-dogging technique in an attempt to break the concentration of the other person. In general, however, these are not true threats.

However, both friendly staring contests and the more sinister mad-dogging do share some commonalities. First, both are a type of psychological contest between two or more individuals. Second, there is a certain level of physical challenge involved as well, as the goal is usually not to break eye contact with the other person under any circumstances.

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Discussion Comments
By anon29579 — On Apr 04, 2009

Don't be scrutinizing people you don't know! People should have more respect! I hate looking up to see somebody I don't even know trying to start a fight with me just because they felt like fighting!

My mom always told me it is rude to stare. And gang members ain't the only people to do that. Nowadays, everyone and their grandma are disrespectful enough to try and play that stupid game with someone they don't know.

Me personally? When I look up, and someone I don't know is staring me down, I perceive them as a threat. That's a stupid game that shouldn't be played. I don't care how old someone is. You are messing with someone else that you have no business messing with.

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