Who Let the Dogs Out? The Meaning Behind the Baha Men’s Song Lyrics

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Surprisingly, the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” has a long and complicated history.

Bridging the ’90s and the new millennium, many believe that the Baha Men created the song and gained fame for its appearance in the Rugrats in Paris: The Movie. Yet, that is not entirely the case. We are here, however, to tell you who actually let the dogs out and the meaning behind the song lyrics. Let’s get into it. 

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Interestingly, a television documentary that is available on Hulu answers the mystery. The documentary, directed by Brent Hodge, titled Who Let the Dogs Out, premiered at SXSW in 2019. To get to the beginning of the story, many can trace the song’s origins back to Anslem Douglas’ song “Doggie.”

Douglas claims that the song is a feminist anthem against men catcalling women. This theme drastically differs from the 2015 meme, which does not paint women in a favorable light.

But to get back to the song’s origins, in 1996, Patrick Stephenson and Leroy Williams, two producers for Wreck Shop Radio in Toronto, wrote the chorus for “Who Let The Dogs Out.” They had written this chorus for a radio station jingle in Buffalo, New York. Douglas’ brother-in-law worked at the same radio station, heard the jingle, and convinced Douglas to record it with Stephenson and Williams’ permission. 

The Meaning Behind the Song

In an interview on his website, Anslem Douglas reveals that “It’s a man-bashing song. I’ll tell you why. The lyric of the song says, The party was nice, the party was pumpin‘. When I said the word party I was being metaphorical. It really means things were going great.” And things were going great, Until the men start the name-callin’ / And then the girls respond to the call.

What do the girls respond to the call with? Douglas continues in his interview that “a woman shouts, Who let the dogs out? And we start calling men dogs. It was really a man-bashing song.” Douglas describes a reversal of roles and an eye-for-an-eye situation. If the men are name-calling, then the women can name-call just as well. It all comes back to the concept of catcalling. On a literal level, who would be after a cat—a dog. Thus, the women call the men dogs.

Early Versions and the Eventual Culprits

In a close timeline with Stephenson and Williams, 20 Fingers and Gillette released the song “You’re a Dog” with a chorus that is wildly similar to Stephens and Williams’ jingle. 20 Fingers and Gillette’s chorus asks “Who let the dogs loose” but Stephens and Williams never heard the version of that song and neither group took legal action against the other. A similar situation happened when a Miami rap duo, which included Brett Hammock and Joe Gonzalez, recorded a song called “Who Let the Dogs Out?” in 1992. All of these people were surprised to hear the Baha Men’s version hit the charts in 2000. 

All in all though, in an interview with Variety documentary director, Brent Hodge, opened up about who actually coined the term. Hodge mentions that there are nine different people who claimed that they wrote it but reveals that the song was actually a sports chant before it was put into music. He can date the origins of the chant all the way back to 1986 at an Austin, Texas high school, where he has a video of the chant from a football team that sounds exactly like the hook of the hit 2000 song. 

So, there you have it folks—an incredible phenomenon of a traveling phrase that created multiple renditions and a hit. You can check out the Baha Man hit of “Who Let the Dogs Out” below.  

Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

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