While you're at work, your new puppy is teething on the French Provincial, addressing every Oriental rug in the house and indulging a taste for fine Italian leathers -- rendering you a Shoeless Joe.

All the books tell you he misses his mother, or is just plain bored. You'd be, too, if nature meant you for a more diverting life of hunting or herding, and you ended up guarding some town house in Alexandria.

Since you can't quit your day job, you'd better find him one, too.

"A dog needs to learn the difference between work and play," says Becky Pugh, owner of the Bone Jour Boutique in Georgetown, one of several area establishments that offer puppy day care. There's even a school bus that collects Bowser early for a full day of training, socializing, play, snacks and naps.

"Morgan went right into day care the week after we got him," says Ansley Browning, 31, a vice president at a Washington bank, of her (then) 3-month-old golden retriever. During the first week while she and her husband worked, "He went through a lot of newspaper." And part of a kitchen table. Then they turned him over to Bone Jour's day-care program -- a two-week kindergarten class, including house-breaking 101, plus some basic obedience. Tuition, $500.

While Morgan put in full eight-hour days, his parents were required to meet with his teachers once a week for handling lessons and to review the training. Doggie day-care providers readily admit that unless an owner reinforces what pooch learns at school, the training won't work.

Did Morgan's? It was miraculous, says Browning: "What they did in two weeks would've taken us much longer." And since puppy decorum (or lack thereof) had been a bone of contention between her and her husband, she credits day care with "saving my marriage."

Good dog training starts earlier and earlier these days, say trainers. Programs like puppy head start and puppy preschool ease new owners through the first few onerous weeks away from Mom with cures for early problem behavior (like "nervous chewing" or breaking house-breaking). When the puppy is old enough and has an attention span -- usually at four months -- day care and basic obedience training can begin. Some schools take them as early as three months.

Bringing up pup is a demanding enterprise for which few dog owners are prepared. Failure is all too common, reflected in the high rate of doggie delinquency and the number of exasperated owners who end up impounding their dogs.

More than just paw-holding, day-care and prep programs stress bad-habit prevention and avoidance of common training mistakes. "When an owner comes in with a biting dog, I always tell them the problem didn't just happen overnight," says Haywood Perry Jr. of the Pet Depot in Bethesda.

Jim Froman, 42, a systems engineer, enrolled his 9-month-old golden retriever Amber in day care to correct some "minor control problems. We wanted to be able to walk the dog without her ripping our arms off."

Explains Pugh: "Dogs need limits. They need to know what they can and can't do." And they go through stages. "Around three to five months, then again around eight months to a year, puppies assert themselves and can roam," says Perry.

They also grow at an astonishing pace, compounding early training errors. At 6 months, a puppy is the equivalent of a 5-year-old; at 8 months, a 9-year-old; and by 1 year, an adolescent.

The puppy's experience in the first 8 to 12 weeks of life is particularly crucial to later training, says Carlos Mejais, proprietor of Olde Towne School for Dogs in Alexandria. Temperament develops as a dog learns pack behavior and establishes his place in pack hierarchy, where dominant or submissive tendencies are reinforced. Shy puppies need to be encouraged, and over-aggressive ones shown that in your house, you are leader of the pack.

The most common mistake with a new puppy, says head trainer Chris Cavaliere of Olde Towne, is "allowing the puppy to do anything you don't want it to do as a full-grown dog" -- like sitting on the furniture. Say trainers, never hit a dog (unless you catch him in the act, he can't understand what he did wrong); don't give him your old shirt to chew (you just declared open season on your entire wardrobe); and don't allow "mouthing" (it's not just teething, but aggressive behavior that can develop into adult biting).

Day-care programs teach owners the right responses or "corrections," in dog training lingo, and communication skills. "If a puppy nips at you, correct it like the mother would," says Perry. "Growl, scruff them {grabbing the scruff of the neck}, then hold them in a submissive position on their backs."

Besides socialization -- where they learn peaceful coexistence -- pups also learn basic obedience training: essential commands like sit/stay, heel, down, and down/stay.

Most programs use some sort of positive reinforcement, or what Mejais calls "motivational training. Puppies are rewarded with praise and affection for good work. But you let them know 'I'm in control. You take orders from me.' " "The word 'no' should be enough," adds Perry.

"Most dogs like a challenge," says Cavaliere. "After all, they were originally bred for services -- like herding and protection. You can make training their job."

Day-care detractors say the only way to train a dog is to teach the owner to train it himself. Puppy boot camp operators insist that boarding programs -- though potentially stressful -- are the most effective, but many dog owners balk at sending puppy away during his formative weeks. And home tutoring or private lessons don't socialize the puppy.

Regardless of method, trainers agree that Bowser is almost always easier to train than his master. Says trainer Bob Maida, "The dog is only as good as the person on the other end of the leash."