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.
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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.