The England Under-21 international spent the last six months of last season on loan at Championship side Bolton Wanderers after finding regular playing time at The Hawthorns hard to come by.
"From speaking to him he's very frustrated that he didn't make a breakthrough last year," McAuley told the Birmingham Mail.
"He will want to do that this season. He learned a lot last year and can only improve.
"Craig is a level-headed lad and he keeps his feet on the ground – he wants to improve and wants a good career."
Dawson scored four goals in 16 appearances for the Trotters during his loan spell last season.