They have always been considered man's best friend, but according to a pair of Australian researchers, dogs have made us what we are. The academics say human dependence on dogs resulted in early man becoming a social and territorial creature who hunted in packs and absorbed the behavioural characteristics of dogs. Just as early humans tamed the wolf, so the wolf-turned-dog modified human behaviour, according to research by archaeologist Colin Pardoe and anthropologist Paul Tacon. 'Evidence suggests domestication of dogs was a two-way street. That led to profound changes in the biological and behavioural evolution for both species,' the scientists wrote in a paper published in Nature Australia magazine yesterday. The domestic dog evolved over thousands of years after wolves began scavenging around human camp sites. They were later used for hunting, enabling much larger catches. In effect, say the researchers, early hunters were absorbing the idea of hunting as a team from their dogs. The animals were not only companions - they were also teachers. The pair say this may explain why Neanderthals and homo erectus became extinct and homo sapiens did not. Dr Tacon said: 'The main models of human evolution are too simple. The real story is far more complex.' The pair also say that the human propensity to meet in large, extended groupings mirrors that of dogs, dingoes and wolves, as do man's instincts for carving out large areas of territory. They even argue that man's earliest dabbling in cave paintings and rock art may have been a form of territorial marking, also learned from dogs. Their claims attracted a mixed reaction. Colin Groves, professor of human evolution at the Australian National University in Canberra, said: 'I think it is very likely that as the Aboriginal saying goes, 'dogs makes us human'. 'They were very likely one of - if not the - single cultural item that tipped the evolutionary balance in our favour,' he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph. Lesley Rogers, a neuroscientist and expert on animal behaviour from the University of New England in New South Wales, said: 'At the base-line level they're absolutely correct. It was always a two-way relationship. It was vitally important then and continues to be so today, [but] it would be jolly difficult to prove.' Other scientists strongly contested the claim that dogs were domesticated as long as 130,000 years ago. Firm archaeological evidence of a close association between dogs and humans only begins to appear about 14,000 years ago.