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Kate and William welcome a new addition to the family Add to ...

Okay, so it’s not the baby Britons have been diligently watching for, but the world’s most popular royal couple have apparently made a family addition: an adorable black Labrador puppy.

Although the Palace isn’t making it official, speculation is that the puppy was a 30th birthday present to Kate from Prince William.

The Duke and Duchess have been caught on camera walking along a wet beach with the puppy trotting beside them.

Prince William, as any devout royal watcher knows, owned a black Labrador named Widgeon as a boy – though there’s still no word on a name for the latest royal pooch.

In a country obsessed with dogs, this is probably the next best thing to an heir to the throne.

But it’s not likely to distract from royal baby watching, even after reports that Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, was pregnant came to nothing. (The BBC rightly cast aspersions on the chatter, pointing out that reports that Prince William was “attentive” to his new bride, or that Kate had recently given up peanut butter, did not a baby make.)

How does that saying go? First comes marriage, then comes a dog, then comes the baby carriage? Young couples do often seem to test run their parenting skills on a pup, though as this essay from a mommy blogger accurately states, pet-ownership is a questionable training ground for raising actual humans beings. (Case in point: Leaving children in a crate while you dash out for a romantic date night is usually frowned upon.)

On the other hand, maybe it’s a matter of baby steps, so to speak.

Is dog ownership a good trial run for a couple on the verge of parenthood? And any name suggestions for the new blueblood pup?

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