Dogs get freaked out by "Law and Order" theme?

dogs.jpg Apparently, the Law and Order theme song pisses off a lot of dogs. A quick YouTube search reveals dozens of videos recorded by dog owners who observe their pets flipping out when the TV show theme music begins. Does the tune contain a hidden frequency that only canines can hear? More here, via Videogum (thanks, Tara McGinley).

Update: A special nod to nastynets contributor Joel Holmberg who started it all by making this grid of 35 youtube videos of dogs reacting to the song. Joel tells Boing Boing "[I created it] when I was home visiting my family over christmas and noticed my family dog, Velvet, freaking out to theme song."



  1. Now I want to try that on my dog, only because I’ve noticed similar behavior with the intro of Bioware games.

    My wife’s been on a Dragon Age kick for the last couple months, and there’s something about the intro sequence (complete with roaring dragon) that freaks the pupster out.

    He’s not much better when I’ve been playing Mass Effect 2, another Bioware offering.

    I’ve been taken to muting the intros so he doesn’t get startled.

    I think it’s something to do with the bass involved, because he’s had almost constant background noise since he was born. The breeder was pretty cool about leaving the radio on in the kennel 24/7.

  2. I have a similar but different reaction: I begin to salivate, and want to sink my teeth into someone’s leg…. preferably that oafish public defender, and those rats from the ACLU!

  3. Maybe the dogs are guilty of something, and they just know that the TV police people will be coming for them soon.

  4. This is amazing. After watching some of the videos in the link I think I’ve figured out what’s driving the dogs crazy. There seems to be a steady rhythm in a high-pitched tone that plays during the entire song. I’m guessing humans can’t normally hear it, but the high pitch comes through in a few of the videos – watch the video with the black lab standing in front of the laptop. The sound I’m talking about about is very noticeable and annoying.

    1. I agree about the high annoying fake triangle type sound. That gets my vote. Just listened to a :30 clip of the actual recording on iTunes and it comes through loud and clear.

      I also 2nd the notion that there really can’t be a hidden frequency since normal TV speakers aren’t designed to repro anything outside of human hearing range.

  5. I always thought the howling response was because dogs are really adept at aural and visual cues. So they are responding to the howling sound at the end of the theme song, and after enough listenings they start to howl before it even gets to that part.

  6. I once had a german shepherd, and I discovered (using Science!) that he really, really hated it when you whistled and hummed at the same time. He would sort of square his shoulders and bark at you once every .75 seconds (no more, no less) until you stopped, however long that took.

    Either whistle or hum individually, he had no problem with, but combining them apparently created some Lovecraftian sound from beyond space that canine sanity just could not tolerate.

    I bring it up, because for some reason, that two note tone they use on Law & Order sounds equally unnatural somehow. Though I rarely bark at it.

    1. I’ve noticed this phenomena with my two dogs as well. I use it when I want to clear them from the room.

    2. I just tried that humming and whistling thing on my cats – one wasn’t bothered, the other ran and hid under the couch. Hm.

  7. No issues that I recall with L&O, but my Australian Shepherd freaks out whenever she hears the “bonk” of an incoming Google Talk message.

  8. I think it’s the overtones created by the low-end in the theme, actually. I’ve always found them to be a sort of ringing, thrumming sound that I don’t enjoy. I notice this particularly because I listen to a LOT of music, but rarely feel the need to turn the volume down because of such an effect.

  9. My parents had a basset hound that would whine and cry whenever you played the song “Suicide is Painless”. MASH came on after the local news – about the time they would start getting ready for bed and send him to the basement for the night.

    1. You got it – this has nothing to do with sound, and everything with behavior. My roommate’s corgi will bark when the bells toll during the ending theme of Futurama, because he knows the show is over and he wants fed or played with. These other dogs know their owners are about to either not give them attention for an hour, or have been sitting for an hour and now might give them some attention.

  10. I had a yellow lab that would always whimper along to the Days of Our Lives daytime-soap theme. Uhm…not that I was watching it, I have to blame the mother for discovering that dog music.

  11. If I hadn’t been primed, I might have described the main video here as the dog trying to sing along to the theme.

  12. My dog freaks out at John Williams’ Superman theme. Something about that rumbley lead up to the fanfare.

  13. Pisses me off, too. I would demand instant channel-changing as soon as I heard the DONKDONK, even if I was in the other room.

    I’ve been worn down, now. Because some flavor of DONKDONK is on. EVERY. HOUR. OF. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

  14. Can’t be anything humans can’t hear: TV audio doesn’t go up any higher than 20KHz, the upper limit for the human ear.

    My dog howls along with the local volunteer fire dept siren. It’s just a dog thing.

  15. My parents dog loved that theme too. He started out just barking at the wolf howl, but as time went on, it was clear that he recognized the song and began barking as soon as it came on.

  16. There is some very high frequency percussion repeated during the whole tune. This must be what the dogs don’t like. It is a repeated quaver beat of a somewhat metallic sounding tick with the second beat in every four missed out. Many of the recordings don’t capture this sound because it is too high. Some recordings reveal it by distorting it and making it appear at a lower frequency.

  17. Listen carefully, the dogs aren’t freaking out, they’re singing along!

    Of course, their ability to carry a tune varies, but it’s there.

  18. There is something even more obscure than high frequencies going on here. Most speakers’ barely reproduces the human hearing spectrum let alone a frequency that can barely be heard by dogs.

  19. No tv theme song will make me change the channel faster. The theme to L&O pisses me off so much that I’ve *never* watched any portion of the show. Ever.

    I fully empathize with any canine that is pained by this repellant piece of “music”.

  20. I think they howl because the theme kinda sounds like howling and they want to howl along. (bark bark bark bark HOOOOOOOOOooowl-hoooooooowl) And, of course, the dogs are being given attention when they howl at the theme, so they feel encouraged continue to do what comes naturally — howling with other “dogs”.

  21. Either the speakers on my laptop don’t reproduce the secret dog whistle or my dog is immune to the powers of this theme song. Further testing is required.

  22. My family’s German Shepherd of years ago had interesting taste in music. He would start to howl along, very specifically, to Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock and Roll (part 2)’ and Sugar Ray’s ‘Fly’.

    Just those two songs. None other. And it wasn’t agitation, just full-on howling. I have no idea why. Later in his life, his bark started to go, but his singing persisted… about one full octave higher.

  23. Maybe the dogs know something we don’t. Law and Order is a nasty show for nasty people and I can’t wait until this frakking franchise is over.

  24. My theory is that people tend to walk their dogs around 10pm before going to bed, which is when L&O comes on. So when the dogs hear that theme, they think it’s time for a walk.

  25. I was just watching this video without headphones.

    My chinese roommate called in from the other room: “Are you watching porn? Cuz that sounds like it’s japanese.”

  26. Tangentially, my cat runs from the room in terror whenever the sound effect of a horn is played (as in, a horn you blow in, like in Lord of the Rings, etc). Don’t know what it is but it scares her to death.

    So I play it again. (No, not really.)

  27. Don’t these shows create an artificial level of anxiety in the viewer? Maybe the dogs are just warning the owners that a really bad show that is going to cause everyone stress is about to come on TV. Like warning about tornadoes or other natural disasters. “turn off your TV, bark.”

  28. Well, my beagle would join in on my clarinet practice when I played it and he was around. And yep, I’d have to put it up for awhile just so that I could continue later without his accompaniment.

  29. Just went to the link and played the video…my two dogs both freaked out! I think it was the dog, Tug, and his vocalization that made them go completely bonkers! Wow!

  30. we have an american eskimo dog that would sit under the piano and howl the whole time my son practiced his violin. Later, I discovered that mashing the high keys on the piano would do the same thing, and also the high notes on a hohner melodica.

    I think there are just some tones that get a dog going, and based on my experience they’re at the upper end of the range of some musical instruments. In the law and order theme I’d guess it’s that electric piano sound which has some prominent high overtones to it.

    The EPiano sounds like a Yamaha DX 7 preset, actually, and amongst electronic musicians, it’s regarded as especially heinous, as is the prominent ‘seinfeld’ slap bass also featured in the Law & Order theme.

  31. My two cockatiels (birds) also vocalize to the Law and Order theme. They even responded when the theme was played as a clue on Jeopardy! The theme to the original Twilight Zone also triggered a response.

  32. I have three dogs. Two noisy dachshunds, and a German short-haired pointer. They are verbal dogs, bark and talk all the time, but the theme song to Law and Order evoked no response. Sorry. I was disappointed.

  33. I actually just tried this on my dog. The only thing he did was hiccup a few times at the beginning. I’ll have to try it again tomorrow when he’s not trying to sleep.

  34. Dogs howl when the pack is gathering together. When the pack is their human family, they howl when they hear the recognisable theme tune of a TV show that the family gathers together to watch.

  35. I heard that the BOOMBOOM at the end is the sound of a tennis ball being thrown against a wall to a dog. My puppy was sitting on my lap when I watched Law & Order one time and she got up and barked and started scrating my blanket until she ripped a hole in it!! I dont know whats up with the theme song. Im never watching it again

  36. I don’t think my dog hates it I think he likes to sing but I have also found that he howls to the theme song for two and a half men and the JG Wentworth commercial with the vikings who are singing opera. I would love to know what actually makes him sing

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