In this Guide
You’d be hard-pressed to find any “Best Pet Vacuums” list that doesn’t include a Shark or Dyson vacuum (or both)!
There are plenty of other companies that share the pet hair vacuum market, yet these two names inevitably pop up at any mention of pet vacuums. The two companies often seem at odds, both wrestling for control over the same market space.
Dyson products are generally known as a standard among high-end vacuums. The company justifies their high prices by asserting they offer superior cleaning performance. Dyson famously claims that their products have twice the suction of other vacuums.
Shark is a smaller company, and often attempts to edge into Dyson’s customer base by arguing that their vacuums offer similar (if not better) performance—but at almost half the cost.
Shark commercials often take direct aim at Dyson vacuums, as seen in this infomercial comparing the suction power of the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away and the Dyson Big Ball Animal.
But beyond the marketing, what’s the real difference between the two?
We wanted to compare the two most popular brands in pet vacuums head to head, to see how both brands measure up as a whole. By weighing the strengths and weaknesses of similar models from the two companies, we hope to extract the truth about real-world performance.
We also considered other important qualities in a good pet vacuum, including operation, effectiveness at picking up pet hair, and filtration.
What to Look for When Purchasing a Vacuum
Those with seasonal allergies or those that are sensitive to dust will want to find a vacuum cleaner that is HEPA certified. In addition to this certification, it is important to clean or change the filters – depending on the model – at least once every six months.
You will want to do this more often if your allergies are bad. However, filter replacement costs can definitely begin to add up so you will want to consider choosing a new vacuum cleaner that utilizes a washable filter.
If you have pets, then you are probably dealing with that stubborn stuck on hair and fur on your furniture along with all the other messes that come along with pet ownership. To make clean up easier and much more convenient, finding a vacuum cleaner that is specifically designed to help with these messes is ideal.
Most pet specific vacuums offer a multitude of pet hair attachments including special brush attachments and nozzles with wider openings to help prevent any hair or fur from clogging the vacuum.
Maneuverability is another big factor to consider when choosing a vacuum cleaner. The Dyson cinetic big ball technology makes maneuverability easy. Dyson works hard to identify common customer frustrations and then use this to provide a product that addresses these concerns. Dyson was one of the first to create a vacuum cleaner that didn’t require a bag and now this ball-based design that makes maneuverability easier in even the most complicated layouts.
In addition to these big changes, Dyson also eliminated the need for filters with their Cinetic range. Now they are busy working to improve the battery life of their cordless vacuum cleaners, as well as the power and ergonomics of all other Dyson models.
Bagless designs have also proven to clean just as well as other models, and the costs can be better controlled as well. Bagless means you simply empty the dust cup or dust canister rather than having to purchase those pricey bag replacements. You can easily dispose of the dirt and debris by dumping it out, and you won’t have to worry about running out of replacement bags ever again.
However, sometimes have a bagged model means that the dust is better contained since the bag is what seals all the dust away. However, many models boast of their design that helps with allergens and dust, and some of these are bagless.
Bagged Versus Bagless
Bagged type vacuum cleaners typically hold more dirt than bagless vacuum cleaner models; however, when you remove the bag, you are releasing some of that dust into the air. You will also find that the replacement filters for bagged models also tend to cost more than the bags.
Bagged models offer a more hygienic option meaning the dirt and debris is contained in the bag while you are cleaning. They are also recommended for allergy sufferers because the bag itself can also act as a filter for the machine. Overall, they also require less maintenance.
Bagless models, on the other hand, are typically much less expensive and the clear chambers make it easy to tell when it is time to empty the canister. This feature also allows you to visually see that everything is in proper working order as well.
They are also an eco-friendly option because there are no bags to throw away. For these reasons, bagless models are also a more popular choice. Ever accidentally sucked up an earring when vacuuming? With a bagless option, it is easier than ever to locate the item and save it before it gets thrown away.
Check out the winners!
Best Upright Vacuums
Dyson Ball Multi Floor vs. Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away
Price: The Pro Lift-Away handily beats out the Multi Floor in terms of price. Dyson’s vacuum costs quite a lot more. If you’re shopping on a budget, you’re likely to be drawn to the Shark vacuum cleaners.
Operation: Both options are very maneuverable on floors. The Pro Lift-Away has a swiveling head that offers comparable handling to the Dyson ball technology, and both can easily navigate around furniture and other obstacles for faster cleaning. Both offer an improvement in handling compared to standard vacuum designs. The biggest difference is that you’ll have to switch tools on the Shark while the Dyson models self-adjust.
The Pro Lift-Away weighs slightly less than the Multi Floor, though both vacuums could be considered relatively light. The Lift-Away weighs roughly 14 pounds, while the Multi Floor weighs about 17 pounds. The light build does compromise durability, but it’s extremely convenient.
The design of Dyson’s ball vacuums has a notable flaw – the height of the Dyson ball prevents the head of the vacuum from getting under furniture with low clearance. This isn’t a huge problem (the Multi Floor has a removable wand), but it does add extra work to your vacuuming regimen. Both of the floor attachments that come with the Shark are easier to fit under low furniture.
Shark’s lift-away design offers a lot more versatility than the Multi Floor – particularly if your home has stairs. For many users, the Pro Lift-Away’s ability to quickly change between a canister and upright was a highly useful feature that sold them on this vacuum. The Multi Floor is something of a pain to use on stairs.
Performance: In our opinion, both vacuums deliver a very respectable performance. Consumer Reports rated both models as “Very Good” on both bare floors and carpets. We’re inclined to agree, though the Multi Floor definitely has the edge for sheer suction power!
Notably, the Multi Floor scored higher in Consumer Reports’ pet hair test, maintaining a “Very Good” rating versus the Pro Lift-Away’s “Fair.” We’d agree with that, too. The Shark isn’t nearly as easy to untangle. Its hose design is also more prone to clogging.
Filter System: Both vacuums feature solid filtration systems and are a good fit for pet owners with allergies. The Dyson Multi Floor is Certified Asthma and Allergy, offering whole-machine HEPA filtration. Shark’s Professional Rotator also features complete seal HEPA filtration. Since both are bagless, we don’t think there’s a substantial difference between the two. The only thing we’ve found of note is that Dyson vacuum cleaners do a better job keeping dirt and debris away from the filter.
Is the Dyson vacuum cleaners powerful suction and performance in pet hair enough to justify the extra cost? That’s a decision that will depend on your budget and personal preferences. It’s better by any measure, but it’s also quite pricey. The Professional Lift-Away does a decent job on pet hair, but it clogs more easily than the Dyson and is unlikely to last as long.
There’s also a question of format here. The lift-away design of the Shark will certainly appeal to many homeowners with stairs. For homes with stairs, or for homeowners looking for a vacuum that works well in their car, Shark’s lift-away feature is a useful and inexpensive option.
Top Stick Vacuums
Shark Rocket TruePet vs. Dyson V6 Animal
Price: The Shark Rocket TruePet is significantly less pricey than the Dyson V8 Animal, currently retailing for about $250. The Animal, by contrast, is currently priced around $425.
Operation: Both of these vacuums have their strengths and weakness when it comes to operation, and the cleaning needs of the buyer will weigh heavily into which model has the “best” operation.
The Dyson Animal is extremely lightweight, and the lack of cord means that it can bring impressive cleaning pretty much anywhere—from the ceiling to the staircase to the interior of a car.
The downside of the V8 Animal (along with all cordless stick vacuums) is the short life of the battery. Unless you have a very small apartment, a single charge doesn’t offer enough power to thoroughly clean your home.
The V8 Animal serves better as a supplementary vacuum, ideal for tackling small messes, instead of a primary vacuum to take on your whole house.
In contrast, the Rocket TruePet isn’t limited by the length of the charge, but by the length of the power cord. Though it couldn’t be called “heavy,” it is almost twice the weight of the Dyson. Thus, the TruePet is markedly less portable than the V8 Animal, and owners will have to be within 30 feet of an outlet to use this vacuum.
The TruePet is much better for larger jobs than the V8 Animal, however. Though its small size and limited dust capacity prevent it from adequately replacing a full-size vacuum, the TruePet shines in extended surface cleaning and pet hair removal.
Performance: In head-to-head tests, the V8 Animal performs slightly better than the Rocket TruePet, most notably when picking up pet hair. Both receive high ratings and reviews as pet vacuums, but the V8 Animal holds a slight edge over the Rocket TruePet in this category.
Both vacuums scored highly in surface cleaning tests. When it comes to deep carpets, however, both vacuums receive lukewarm ratings.
This illustrates another reason stick vacuums make a poor substitute for their full-size counterparts—some deep cleaning power is inevitably compromised for portability.
Filter System: Both stick vacuums have washable filters. Neither, however, offers enclosed HEPA filtration. Pet owners with allergies shouldn’t expect these smaller-size vacuums to offer the same improvement in air quality that a full-size vacuum can.
Comparing Dyson and Shark’s stick vacuums is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Both vacuums are great options for pet owners looking for a lightweight and effective pet vacuum, and neither seems objectively “better” when compared head-to-head.
In terms of pet hair removal performance, the Dyson V8 Animal holds a small lead over the Shark Rocket TruePet – at least for as long as the battery is charged. Its lightweight and cordless design also make it much more portable and versatile.
The V8 Animal is a good choice for pet owners who want a secondary vacuum that can quickly and effectively clean up pet hair in hard to reach spots, like car interiors or staircases.
However, the Shark also offers strong performance against pet hair and maintains the advantage of costing much less. The corded design makes it a better choice for extended cleaning, as well. As an all-around compact vacuum, the Shark Rocket TruePet is well worth the price.
Best Pet Hair Vacuums
Shark Rotator Powered vs. Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal
Price: Once again, the Shark is priced significantly lower than the Dyson. The Rotator Powered Lift-Away is more or less 50% lower in price than the Dyson.
Operation: Not much has changed in terms of Dyson’s design, and the Cinetic Animal has a similar set of strengths and weakness as other Dyson Big Ball vacuums.
The big ball provides this vacuum with a tight turning radius but also prevents the head of the vacuum from getting under furniture with low clearance. The Cinetic Animal weighs a bit more than its predecessors, at about 19 pounds.
Eliminating the need for a filter is a noteworthy improvement from Dyson, however. Though replacing or washing a filter isn’t a huge chore, it makes maintaining this vacuum easier. Users also stand to benefit from the increased lifespan of the Animal.
Shark also kept much of the good from the Rotator Pro. The Rotator Powered Lift-Away also remains much the same in terms of operation, but with the strong new development of individually detachable components. The new model allows owners to switch effortlessly between a stick, canister, and upright vacuum—without ever powering down.
Performance: Both models deliver slightly improved performance over their predecessors in consumer tests. The Cinetic Ball surpasses the Rotator Powered Lift-Away picking up large and small objects on most floor types by a narrow margin.
The Cinetic Ball performs notably better, however, in hardwood floor tests. It picked up much more debris than Shark’s vacuum, which tended to push around larger objects without sucking them up on hard surfaces.
Surprisingly, however, the Rotator Powered outperforms the Cinetic Animal in pet hair tests. Though Dyson’s pet hair tool works well, the head of the upright vacuum struggled to pick up pet hair both on carpets and hard floors.
Filtration: Both models have above-average filter systems, and both stands to improve the symptoms of pet owners who suffer from allergies.
Dyson’s Cinetic Big Ball vacuums are certified as “asthma & allergy friendly” by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the company brags that “no vacuum expels cleaner air.”
However, Shark also includes some impressive allergen-capturing technology. Like other Shark vacuums, the Rotator Powered Lift-Away features completely sealed HEPA filtration. Shark claims that their vacuum’s filtration captures 99.9% of dust and allergens.
Both the Rotator Powered Lift-Away and the Cinetic Animal offer new and interesting features for pet owners, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
The Rotator Powered Lift-Away continues Shark’s reputation for competitively-priced vacuums that deliver comparable performance to Dyson’s more expensive models. The Rotator Powered even beats the Cinetic Animal in some performance tests, proving better at vacuuming up pet hair from the floor.
The Cinetic Animal, however, does beat the Rotator Powered Lift-Away in most other performance tests (if only by a narrow margin). Dyson’s new cinetic technology will certainly be an attractive feature for some homeowners as well. It’s particularly good for pet owners with allergies since the filter system of Dyson’s cinetic vacuums expel some of the cleanest air of any model.
There are a few essential differences between Sharks and Dyson’s.
For one thing, Shark tends to make value a huge part of their brand. They’re all about offering lots of functionality for a much lower price than other brands. That’s why their vac’s pack all sorts of extra features, attachments, and accessories which you’d have to buy separately with other brands.
Dyson cleaning machines are priced at the opposite end of the price range. They’re unabashedly expensive, but the whole idea is that you get superb engineering and quality. You’ll get fewer features for your money, but the ones you get will work outstandingly well. And while Dyson models are anything but traditional in the engineering department, they tend to follow traditional formats (upright, canister, stick) rather than the many hybrids offered by Shark.
Should You Buy a Shark Vacuum or a Dyson?
When comparing similar Dyson and Shark vacuums, a pattern begins to emerge between the two companies. Dyson vacuums usually maintain an edge over Sharks in most performance tests—though often not by very much.
Shark’s vacuums, by contrast, are almost exclusively sold for several hundred dollars less than Dysons. Many owners of Shark vacuums are very satisfied with their purchase and argue that the marginally better performance of Dyson’s vacuums simply isn’t worth the extra cost.
Ultimately, the choice between a Shark and a Dyson vacuum will have many nuances that go beyond performance and price. Functionality, design, and versatility should also weigh heavily in your choices.
For basic upright models, we compared the Dyson Big Ball Multi Floor with the Shark Professional Rotator Lift Away. The Multi Floor delivers better performance in pet hair tests, but the lift-away design is more versatile.
When it comes to the smaller, portable stick vacuums, the difference between Dyson and Shark’s models becomes more about personal preference. The cordless Dyson V6 Animal has some of the best performance and portability of any vacuum on the market but is limited by short battery life.
The corded, lightweight Shark Rocket TruePet also earns high marks in performance. Because of its electrical cord, it isn’t restricted by battery life. By that same token, however, it isn’t as portable as the V6.
Shark and Dyson have both released relatively new models designed especially for pet hair—the Dyson Cinetic Animal and the Shark Powered Lift-Away. These models have similar strengths and weaknesses to their predecessors (which we look at in the first comparison).
The Shark Powered Lift-Away is more versatile and less expensive but delivers weaker performance than the Cinetic Animal—particularly on hardwood floors. Its improved lift-away mode is a big selling point for this vacuum.
The Dyson Cinetic Animal has its own strengths and weaknesses, most notably its weak performance when it came to removing pet hair from the floor. It does offer the enticing and exciting cinetic technology, extending the life of the vacuum and doing away with filters entirely.