I live in the mid-atlantic, so I don't know how much our soil has in common, but one thing I do know is that tillers ROCK!!!
Especially here in Maryland where we basically live on top of stonehenge!! Plus tilling brings up all those great worms. Although you will accidentall slaughter some during tilling.
You should probably start preparing now. Start building your compost. Looking through seed catalogs (check out peace valley farms catalog-- organic stuff--they are in cali) Get a simple guide for your growing region. Organic Gardening mag is great, but most of the info is way over my head. I am whatever level is below beginner !!! OG mag is also good source for seeds!!! If you give me some time I can look thru some back issues and give you more info. I just came across your thread so I am really unprepared for an educated response!! But I was excited to see another beginning gardener!
As for your dog-- poop can be good. Digging can be not so good. Except in the beginning when you are planting!! I don't know much about dogs, but I imagine if there is a will, there's a way. I have seen some pics of gorgeous raised bed gardens. Just get out there and experiment. Unless, of course, you have to have your garden for self-sufficiency.
Personall, I haven't had huge succcess with my veg-garden because we work at a summercamp and are only home on weekends all through summer!! But my peppers-jalepeno, habanero, thai, etc. do wonderful with little care. I might go into salsa making. Hope I helped. Please lets keep this thread. It gets me outta my winter blues to think about gardening!!! ~jenny