Could the familiar sports-and-song chant “Who let the dogs out? Who, who, who, who?” really have been popularized at Austin’s Reagan High School during the early 1980s?
It might seem improbable that the chant could have spread from Texas teenagers to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival to the Baha Men’s Grammy Award-winning hit dance song to a popular cheer for sports teams across the U.S.
Ben Sisto, a Brooklyn-based artist and probably the leading expert on the chant’s phenomenon, wants to know more than what he has already gleaned from a few sources on the Austin angle. He’s applying the final fact-checking to the documentary, “Who Let the Dogs Out,” which he wrote.
Sisto has interviewed several people from Austin who remember the cheer from the 1980s, which could suggest its origins. He also has a video of local sportscaster Dave Cody singing the chant at a pep rally in 1985 or ’86. One of his sources thinks the chant was heard at an Austin Little League game as early as 1983.
Sisto's theoretical chant trail goes from the Austin Little League (maybe 1983), Reagan High (as early as 1984, but definitely by 1986), Michigan (1990), Jacksonville, Fla. (1992), Chicago (1994), Toronto (1996), Trinidad (1997), London and Virginia (1998), New York and Bahamas (2000, Baha Men).
Directed by Brent Hodge, the movie is scheduled to premiere during the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival. Sisto also tours with a roadshow presentation of his research results.
“I'm interested to know if anyone from Austin has specific memories of the chant being used before the year 1986,” Sisto says. “Especially if they have recorded footage, photos of the phrase appearing on any posters or clothing, any audio recording from live events or radio, even reporting on use of the phrase in print or newspapers. Any kind of media.”
The improbability of an Austin origin story is not lost on Sisto, who has spent years exploring the evolution of the chant. He has also collected a good deal of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” memorabilia and artifacts.
“I'm also very open to hearing people's personal memories and thoughts,” Sisto says, “but those are more for my own info and wider context — and couldn't be used in the film project.”
If you have any fresh information on the chant during the Reagan High years, go to wlwltdoo.com — there's a form at the bottom of the page. Also, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.