Keep in mind that if you do autofocus without assigning a specific focal point in the camera, you will get the closest thing in focus. So, your dog's nose will be in focus rather than the eyes.
Next, the center focal point is usually the most accurate, so try to pick that as your sole focal point.
Get off of auto and experiment. Go with Aperture priority to fix your depth of field and to stay in the middle of the range to avoid issues with being fully stopped down or fully opened up. Go with Shutter priority when there is any action or using a long focal length. The standard minimum is the shutter must exceed the focal length, so if you are shooting at 250mm, you need to be at least at 1/250. But I always go for faster by at least another stop, even with lens stabilization.
Then there is ISO control, which controls the sensitivity of the light meter.
You have three exposure variables to master, so you should play with using each one as the variable. Fixed ISO, fixed F stop, variable shutter speed. Variable ISO, fixed F and fixed SS., etc.
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