The path to creating any truly unforgettable one-hit-wonder is complex and mysterious, but it sounds like the story behind “Who Let The Dogs Out” by the Baha Men might be even more complex and mysterious than usual. That’s at least what writer Ben Sisto—who was also behind the traveling “Who Let The Dogs Out” museum—and filmmaker Brent Hodge seem to have learned while making the appropriately named documentary Who Let The Dogs Out, which premiered at SXSW over the weekend and simply seeks to answer the question posed in its title: Who, specifically, let the dogs out?
That sounds like a gag, but a Daily Beast story on the film explains that it’s not really about who let the dogs out in the song—as it’s probably supposed to be a rhetorical question—but about who actually wrote the song and came up with the idea of asking who let the dogs out. Unfortunately, like in the song, it’s not entirely clear. Research determined that a lot of different people claim they came up with the song, to the point where it’s hard to say who came up with each specific part, but what we do know is that an American producer pitched the song—via a cassette tape with the hook on it—to the Baha Men. That cassette had come from a figure in the old British punk scene who began regularly traveling to Trinidad and Tobago, recording the music he heard there, and then bringing the recordings back so British music producers could use them for samples.
The credited songwriter is Anslem Douglas, who has established in previous interviews that the “dogs” in the song are supposed to be asshole men who are making derogatory comments about women. Literally, it’s about everybody having fun at a party until men start saying gross stuff to women, at which point they say, “hey, who let the dogs out?” in reference to these men. This all gets more complicated by the fact that Douglas says he didn’t come up with the phrase “who let the dogs out,” but that he had picked it up from his brother-in-law who heard it from a Canadian radio show he used to work at. Then there are other producers and songwriters who say that they actually came up with it.
No matter who really let the dogs out, or who came up with asking who let the dogs out, Brent Hodge was able to get a movie out of the story that is also called Who Let The Dogs Out. It’s all just very confusing.