If your password is connected to a username, and said data is registered in a database - count the login attempts there. My favourite implementation of this is to double the response time from the server for every failed login-attempt on a username, slowing a brute force password guessing attack to a halt, but not necessarily bothering a regular user with throwing him out or something annoying like that.
Basically, as merlyn points out, you can't trust what is sent to you, so you have to connect the count of login tries to something you know is true. A username connected to the password would be most natural, I think.
Depending on the scale of what you're doing this for, an IP-adress check could be enough. The false negatives from AOL/dialups are not likely, I think (depending on the strength of your passwords) - and false positives from proxies could be taken care of by raising the number of allowed attempt to cover what goes as a expected count from said proxies. Not perfect, though.
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