The Story of 'Cheese Tax,' the Ultra-Relatable Dog Song on TikTok That's Permanently Stuck in My Head
Canine parenting is a bottomless vault of silly videos, head-scratching behavior, and, if you're Atlanta musician Matt Hobbs, just so many songs.
The founder of Puppy Songs so far has written more than 150 tunes about his life with 13-year-old pups Marley (aka Mar Pup) and Leni, a pair of Chihuahua and Pomeranian mix littermates. His latest hit, the musical theater-inspired "Cheese Tax," has earned millions of views on TikTok while compelling us to always hum the tune on our way to the refrigerator.
What began as a fun project has transformed into a relatable anthem for countless dog owners who expect a canine to materialize next to them whenever they open the cheese drawer or grasp for some Kraft Singles. As the song goes: When the cheese drawer opens, you gotta pay the tax.
"I didn't guess that this was so universal or that people would be so tickled by it," Hobbs tells Daily Paws.
Composing 'Cheese Tax'
Puppy Songs began in 2020 as a pandemic "sanity project" for Hobbs, an opportunity for him to practice recording and mixing his own music while he was stuck at home. (If you enjoy a steady diet of dog videos on TikTok, you've likely heard his other songs—like "Puppy Walk" or "Stuck on My Teefs.")
"My wife says I've turned her life into a musical," Hobbs says.
The creative process usually begins when he catches one of his dogs doing something funny on camera or when he notices one of their interesting habits. In this case, it's them—mostly Mar Pup—appearing seemingly out of nowhere whenever Hobbs and his wife need cheese to cook.
It's a sight most—all?—dog owners can picture instantly.
"[There's] this kind, but very serious, puppy who's demanding a little bit of cheese while you're cooking," Hobbs says.
He'd heard allusions to the "puppy tax" or "cheese tax," so he tried to come up with a "walking-around hook," a part of the song with easy-to-remember lyrics that doesn't need instruments.
In this case: "The cheese tax, the cheese tax," uttered in a deep, march-like rhythm, opens the song. From there, he brainstormed other bits he wanted to include, recorded the 34-second diddy, and filmed extra footage of Tax Collector Mar Pup for the TikTok.
"Mar Pup had a great time filming that one," he adds.
(Before I get any emails: Hobbs says he made sure to give his pups a safe amount of cheese, which should only be given to dogs in small portions.)
The song is original, though Hobbs says its "groove" is loosely inspired by "Master of the House" from Les Miserable. There's some elements of Charlie Kelly's music from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in there as well.
As for Hobbs's favorite part, he enjoys the "when the cheese comes out, this puppy comes looking" lyric that accompanies a shot of Mar Pup running to the kitchen for cheese.
"It's not a demand," he says. "It's just a very focused curiosity that you get when a dog is staring you down."
Going Viral (Again)
Hobbs has given up on predicting when his songs will explode. Creating "Cheese Tax" was mainly a passion project and not something he was trying to make famous. (He did have some foresight, however. An extended version of "Cheese Tax" is now available on Spotify and soon on Apple Music.)
Similar to "Stuck on My Teefs"—which also earned millions of TikTok views and inspired thousands more toothy dogs videos—Hobbs was surprised this song went viral after its posting last week.
TikTokers have made more than 8,300 other videos using the "Cheese Tax" audio, showing their pups quickly, mostly politely begging for cheese. Puppy Songs' original video has nabbed more than 10 million views, but the second wave of posts has earned even more.
All the views and engagement are nice, but Hobbs's favorite part of the process is seeing other people enjoy his music in their own homes. It's a "special treat" that's pretty rare these days.
"Dogs and music have a really unique way of making human beings come together, especially in a time when that's increasingly rare, so that's why I love this project—and because it's very silly and fun for me to make," he says.