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 is generally known as a standard among high-end vacuums. The company justifies their high prices by asserting they offer superior cleaning performance. Dyson famously makes the claim 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.
Check out the winners!
The Dyson Ball Multi Floor (formerly the DC65) is a bagless, upright vacuum that features Dyson’s unique “ball” technology.
The body of the vacuum pivots on top of a ball shape, creating a tighter turning radius for improved maneuverability.
The Multi Floor has a few other interesting features that can make your vacuuming regimen a bit easier. It features a self-adjusting base plate, which automatically changes the height of the vacuum head to adapt to the floor type. This allows users to vacuum continuously across carpet and hardwood surfaces without stopping.
Dyson’s “Radial Root Cyclone” technology is another prominent feature of this vacuum, located on top of the dust canister. This apparatus is designed to attract fine dust particles and help the airflow in the vacuum move more efficiently.
The Professional Rotator Lift Away from Shark is also a bagless, upright vacuum with a forward-thinking design.
The hallmark of this vacuum is the “lift-away” feature. The canister and wand detach from the body of the vacuum, transforming into a more portable canister-style model. This allows the Shark to reach areas that normally give uprights a great deal of trouble, like the stairs or the interior of cars.
The Professional Lift-Away is an older model of Shark’s latest vacuum, the Powered Lift-Away. We’ll look at their latest model in our third section, compared against the Dyson Big Ball Animal.
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.
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 self-adjusts.
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 have a notable flaw—the height of 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 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 that 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 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 the Dyson does a better job keeping debris away from the filter.
Is the Dyson’s better 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.
Dyson V8 Animal
The Dyson V8 Animal is a cordless stick vacuum with a motorized cleaner head. The thin, lightweight unit weighs 4.5 pounds without attachments. Like most Dyson vacuums, it has a unique, futuristic appearance. The Animal is a specialized pet model from the V8 line, comprised of Dyson’s other cordless stick vacuums.
This particular model comes with extra attachments designed especially for pet owners, including a full-sized motorized head (which isn’t included in the standard model). The Animal also comes with a mini motorized pet hair attachment for spot jobs on fabric surfaces like upholstery and curtains.
The V8 Animal is battery-powered, offering about 20 minutes of continuous usage per charge, and six minutes at maximum power. The battery is charged via a wall-mounted docking station that doubles as a convenient storage spot. The V8 battery takes about 3.5 hours to charge.
The well-balanced body of the vacuum is designed to easily manage cleaning a wide variety of surfaces, whether on the floor, the ceiling, or somewhere in between. The wand can also be removed to convert the V8 into a hand vacuum for smaller jobs.
The Shark Rocket TruePet is a corded model, billed as an “ultra-light upright vacuum.” It’s slightly heavier than the Dyson V8 at about 8 pounds (without attachments).
Like the Animal, the Rocket TruePet is the pet hair version of a larger family of vacuums. Shark’s Rocket vacuums are thin, but have a larger vacuum head than most stick models.
The base of the vacuum is detachable via floor switch in order to reach higher and narrower areas. The wand is also removable to convert the unit into a handheld model.
The TruePet also comes with a mini motorized pet hair brush for small upholstery jobs. This stick vacuum includes an impressive array of other attachments, including the Shark Hard Floor Genie (a vacuum head attachment with a microfiber pad for picking up more dust).
The power cord length of the TruePet is about 30 feet, and the unit includes a wall hanging station for storage.
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 than 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 makes 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.
The Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away is the latest member of the Shark vacuum line (not to be be confused with its predecessor reviewed above, the Rotator Professional).
In the new model, Shark adds handful of worthwhile improvements, while keeping features that made the original Rotator Lift-Away so popular.
The Rotator Powered features the lift-away canister and swivel steering that earned the Rotator Pro its reputation as one of the most versatile uprights around. In terms of performance and mechanical components, the old and new models are nearly identical.
There are some minor aesthetic and functional changes—the Rotator Powered has an attractive, updated appearance with a burgundy/silver color scheme and more rounded edges. The buttons have been relocated to the handle for improved convenience.
The most significant change, however, is updates Shark made to the functionality of the vacuum. It’s now easier than ever to switch between upright and canister modes—users can pull off the canister without ever turning the vacuum off.
Additionally, users can now remove the canister entirely to transform the vacuum into a stick vacuum (also without turning the vacuum off). The new model offers a seamless transition between canister, upright, and stick, making an already versatile vacuum that much more flexible.
The TruePet model of the Rotator Powered Lift-Away also includes a mini motorized pet hair brush and a pet upholstery tool.
The Dyson Cinetic line is an impressive leap forward in vacuum technology by eliminating the need for a filter entirely. Not only does this do away with the extra step of replacing or washing the filter, but it also ensures that even after years of use, the vacuum won’t lose suction.
Dyson dubs their new mechanical filter system “cinetic technology”. Inside the vacuum, cinetic tips oscillate at a high speed to remove fine particles from the air flow. This prevents dust from building up, which over time can cause the vacuum to lose its suction suction power.
Like other Big Ball vacuums, the Cinetic Big Ball Animal sits on top of the iconic Dyson ball shape for improved maneuverability.
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 the 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 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 had a tendency 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 stand 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 Shark's 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.
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 a 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 the 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.