Apartment dwellers with pets will love the new Dyson Ball Animal 3 vacuum

Could this now be the best Dyson vacuum around?

Dyson Ball Animal 3 attachment tool on grey sofa with dog in shot
(Image credit: Dyson)
Real Homes Verdict

The Dyson Ball Animal 3 is a high-performing vacuum that makes collecting pet hair from your floors and upholstery super easy. It boasts an easy-to-empty design and it never gets pet (or human) hair stuck in its roller brush. The only thing is that if you own stairs, it might make cleaning tricky. And it's quite heavy FYI.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Highly effective, powerful suction

  • +

    Easy emptying

  • +

    Brush bar stays free of hair

  • +

    Convenient bagless design

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Heavy and difficult to maneuver

  • -

    Somewhat awkward attachment design

  • -

    Not great for stair cleaning

Why you can trust Real Homes Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Engineered specifically for homes with pets, the Dyson Ball Animal 3 Vacuum has several features designed for efficient, thorough cleaning. Its de-tangling cleaner head automatically clears hair that traditionally gets wrapped around the roller brush, while the vacuum’s powerful suction quickly lifts pet hair out of carpets.

This vacuum for pet hair is a large model suitable for deep, whole-house cleaning. It includes settings for carpets and for flat surfaces, and it comes with accessories for cleaning baseboards, stairs, underneath furniture, and other hard-to-reach areas. It’s a versatile addition to your home.

While ideal for anyone who wants to perform a deep clean in a home with pets, the vacuum lacks the agility necessary to clean carpeted stairs. Its heavy weight paired with the power of its suction makes it difficult to maneuver, so it’s not a great choice for anyone with limited grip strength, or for anyone who prefers a lightweight vacuum that is easy to carry around.

At $399.99, the Dyson Ball Animal 3 is worth the investment, particularly because it’s backed by a five-year warranty. It delivered a thorough clean that’s hard to beat, and since it’s so efficient, it can save you valuable time and frustration during your regular house cleaning sessions. We'll be adding it to our best cordless Dyson vacuums guide very soon, that's for sure.

TLDR: What we thought of the Dyson Ball Animal 3

The new Dyson Ball Animal 3 has powerful suction, perfect for deep cleaning and picking up pet hair and dirt from both carpet and hardwood surfaces. It delivers a thorough clean, but its heavy weight paired with the suction power make it difficult to maneuver. 

I found its effective de-tangling cleaner head more than made up for these challenges. Over the two-week review period, there was no pet hair or human hair ever tangled in the head. In my opinion, that capability alone makes the Dyson Ball Animal 3 Vacuum worth the $399.99 price tag.

Testing the Dyson Ball Animal 3

Dyson Ball Animal 3

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

This vacuum immediately feels like a quality machine. It’s solid, and at nearly 18 pounds, it’s heavy, too. That’s one of its downsides; cleaning with it becomes more of a workout than I’ve experienced with any of the lighter vacuums that I’ve previously used.

That said, Dyson’s characteristic ball construction does make for improved maneuverability, so you can easily direct it around furniture and corners. Its relatively slim cleaner head fits under most furniture, including my couch and recliner, but the ball construction prevents it from sliding in more than about three inches.

However, it is one of the loudest vacuums that I have operated, especially when the brush bar is in use. But, given the vacuum’s intense suction and power, I’m able to look beyond the extra noise.

During my testing, I was pleased to see that the vacuum handled copious amounts of cat hair without issue. After vacuuming a bedroom, a hallway, a bathroom, and an 8x10-foot rug, the canister was full. I found that I needed to empty the canister approximately twice when vacuuming my entire three-bedroom house.

Paige Cerulli
Paige Cerulli

I’m Paige Cerulli, and I specialize in product reviews. I tested the Dyson Ball Animal 3 Vacuum on my home, which, thanks to my four cats (three longhaired), is filled with plenty of pet hair. This review reflects two weeks of testing on carpets, hardwood floors, tile, and carpeted stairs.

The techy stuff

The Dyson Ball Animal 3 features several key enhancements compared to the Dyson Ball Animal 2. The first is the addition of the de-tangling cleaner head, which I think is one of the model’s best features, especially for homes with pets. The cleaner head on the Animal 2 was self-adjusting, whereas the Animal 3 features three suction adjustments, so you can tailor the suction to your needs.

Weight: 17.4 pounds
• Model Number: 405866-01
• Suction Power: 290 AW
• Dimensions: ‎9.92 x 13.19 x 11.97 cm
• Cable Length: 35 ft
• Bin Capacity: 1.7 L
• Bagged or Bagless: Bagless
• Accessories: Stair tool, combination tool, tool holder
• RRP: $399.99


Unboxing the Dyson Ball Animal 3

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

Dyson largely used cardboard as its main packing material, which I appreciate because it’s recyclable. While there were just two plastic/foam-type covers, the amount of material that I had to throw out is very minimal. I was pleased to see Dyson avoided using polystyrene foam entirely in its packaging.

The vacuum arrived double-boxed. The exterior box was plain cardboard and arrived in good condition with no tears or damage. The interior box similarly showed no damage.

I opened the box from the top and found that the smaller components, including the accessories, were packed in cardboard toward the top. They were easy to remove and I also found a startup guide and the larger directions manual.

Removing the vacuum body from the box was more challenging, as it was also packed in cardboard that was wedged into the bottom. I ended up pulling apart one of the box’s seams, which allowed me to remove the body.

The Dyson Ball Animal 3 vacuum close up

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

Assembling the vacuum proved to be more difficult than I had expected. The startup pamphlet included only diagrams with no written instructions. I did find written instructions in the larger directions manual, but the font was so small that anyone with poor eyesight will have trouble reading it. Since the startup pamphlet included a QR code, I scanned the code and was able to access a video of the assembly process. That video lacked sound, and it would have been much more helpful if it had a step-by-step narrative.

The most challenging part of the assembly was connecting the tool holder to the side of the vacuum, and understanding how the combination tool fits down inside the hose and then connects to the handle. Once I understood the process of sliding the tool down into the hose, the rest of the assembly went smoothly. All in all, the assembly process took me about 15 minutes, and a good portion of that was spent repeatedly watching the video.

How to use the Dyson Ball Animal 3

Dyson Ball Animal 3 accessories

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

From a design perspective, the vacuum is simple and straightforward to use. The power button is easy to spot, and the brush bar control button is positioned right next to the power button. While the brush bar automatically rotates when the vacuum is reclined, the button gives you the ability to turn the bar off. The brush head also features three settings and a slider, so it’s easy to change the setting to reflect the surface type that you’re working on.

When it comes to how to use the Dyson Animal Ball 3 most effectively, it's important to note its stabilizer wheels that automatically raise as you recline the vacuum, then lower as you push the vacuum into the upright position. 

This took a bit of practice, and I found that I couldn’t wheel the vacuum throughout the home from rug to rug as I often do. Instead, I had to lift it using the carry handle, which was tricky given its heavier weight.

Vacuuming pet hair

A cat bed covered in hair, with a clean spot after use of the Dyson Ball Animal 3

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

Pet hair was absolutely no challenge for this vacuum, even with the brush head turned off. It pulled cat hair out that I wasn’t even aware was in my carpets. I used it on a cat bed to demonstrate how effectively the brush head can remove cat hair, and the suction was so powerful that I had to turn it off to remove the bed from the head. I also used the combination tool for about two minutes on the bed, removing all of the cat hair from the section I worked on. I imagine that suction would be helpful for homes that are experiencing flea issues and that need to thoroughly vacuum surfaces, furniture, and floorboards, as a result.

I was delighted to find that during my testing, no hair became clogged in the hose or in the de-tangling cleaner head. I have hair that’s just below my shoulders, and it always gets tangled in vacuum heads. Despite using this vacuum repeatedly across a two-week period, there was no pet hair or human hair ever tangled in the head. In my opinion, that capability alone makes the Dyson Ball Animal 3 Vacuum worth the purchase.

Vacuuming carpet

Flour on a dark carpet

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

I first tested this vacuum on a low-pile rug with the brush bar turned off. Its suction was highly impressive, and it easily removed the cat hair from the rug. The suction was so strong that I had to hold the rug’s edges and corners down with my foot as I neared them, since it repeatedly lifted the rug.

I next tried it on a tightly woven carpet in my bedroom. I turned the brush head on and the vacuum once again easily lifted dirt and hair from the carpet. In fact, it removed more cat hair than I’d imagined could possibly be in the carpet, especially considering I had vacuumed it a week before starting my testing.

A pile of flour separated by a clean line from being vacuumed by the Dyson Ball Animal 3

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

The vacuum was challenging to push because that suction was so strong. Turning the brush head off made it easier, but vacuuming was still a workout. The results, though, were impressive, and the carpet looks better than I’ve seen it look in years.

I sprinkled flour on the carpet and the vacuum efficiently removed all of the flour from its path with a single pass with the brush head off. It replicated those results when I sprinkled dried cereal on the carpet. It is so efficient that multiple passes truly aren’t necessary.

Vacuuming hard floors

With the carpet head on the hard floor setting and the brush head off, I used it on my wide plank hardwood floors and on my linoleum kitchen floors. It's easier to maneuver on these flat surfaces and easily picked up everything in its path.

It also outperformed every other vacuum that I’ve tested and owned. My hardwood floors have large gaps between them because of their wide plank design. Dirt and debris continuously falls into those planks, and using other vacuums on the hard floor setting never produced enough suction to remove the debris from those gaps. Even using the extension wand on some vacuums produced mediocre results, and it was tedious and time-consuming.

Hardwood floor before vacuum cleaner test

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

The Dyson Ball Animal 3 easily removed all of the debris from every crevice that I took it over. Those gaps between the planks have never been cleaner since I moved in six years ago.

I also tested the vacuum on the tile floor in my bathroom, where my cats’ litter boxes are. There’s always cat litter all over the bathroom floor, and vacuums tend to scatter it rather than pick it up. The Dyson Ball Animal 3 cut a clear path through the litter, removing everything in one pass. Best of all, when I pushed the vacuum into the upright position and turned it off, litter didn’t fall out of the brush head, which has also been an issue with other machines.

Hardwood floor after vacuuming from the Dyson Ball Animal 3

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

Vacuuming my staircase

I have carpeted stairs, so I was excited to see what this vacuum could do on them but was disappointed in the results. The combination tool is long and somewhat awkward to maneuver, especially when paired with the vacuum’s hose, which is strong but somewhat stiff. It proved difficult to manage on stairs, and I repeatedly tipped the vacuum over while trying to vacuum the stair above where I’d positioned it. I ended up removing the wand and using the hose, but it was still awkward to maneuver. The vacuum’s suction seemed to continuously pull on the hose, making it contract as I tried to work.

Dyson Ball Animal 3 vacuum cleaner under furniture on a carpeted surface

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

The instant-release wand and combination tool were helpful in other respects, though. I appreciated that the brush attachment connects directly to the narrow end of the combination tool, so there’s no need to take the tool off to swap on the brush head. The tool gives you extra length, which is helpful for cleaning baseboards and removing cobwebs from ceiling corners. The hose tension was challenging here, too, however.

How to clean the Dyson Ball Animal 3

The Dyson Ball Animal 3 canister being disassembled for cleaning

(Image credit: Paige Cerulli)

The machine does have two filters that need to be cleaned. They are located within the canister and are easy to remove. Dyson recommends washing the filters once per month, so maintenance is minimal. The filters can be hand washed and dried, an eco-friendly advantage.

Removing the canister from the body is easy and is accomplished by pressing a large red button at the top of the canister. Once removed, the bottom of the canister also opens when you press that same button harder. This design makes it easy to empty the canister, and it keeps your hands clean.

It’s equally easy to replace into the vacuum body. The canister aligns somewhat naturally, and then you just press it back toward the body until it clicks. It doesn’t feel stiff or require any significant strength.

The vacuum measures 42.2 inches high by 15.5 inches long by 11.02 inches wide, so it can fit into a closet. It lacks any internal cord storage, so you do have to wrap the cord by hand, which is somewhat time-consuming given the cord’s 35-foot length.

All of the accessories are stored on the vacuum. They take up minimal space and never fell off while I tested the vacuum.

Is the Dyson Animal Ball 3 right for you? 

This vacuum is designed for homes with pets, and it’s well-suited for the cleaning challenges that those homes bring. Its powerful suction easily lifts not only dirt, but pet hair from carpets, while the anti-wrap brushbar prevents tangles and allows you to focus on cleaning your home, rather than on detangling hair from the vacuum. The large bin can accommodate all of the hair that’s collected, making for efficient cleaning.

In addition to the Dyson Ball Animal 3 model, Dyson has also released a Ball Animal 3 Extra and Ball Animal 3 Complete model. The Ball Animal 3 Extra has all of the same features of the Ball Animal 3, plus a pet grooming tool and a tangle-free turbine tool. The Ball Animal 3 Complete includes those two tools, plus a reach under tool, articulating hard floor tool, multi-angle brush tool, carbon fiber soft dusting brush, and tool holder. 

While the Ball Animal 3 reviewed here offers plenty of accessories for a whole-house clean, you might consider upgrading to the Ball Animal 3 Extra ($399.99) or the Ball Animal 3 Complete ($449.99) if you’re looking for even more accessories and versatility.

More top picks

About Real Homes reviews

Paige has a three-bedroom home in Massachusetts, which she also shares with four cats — three of them longhaired. She also has horses on the property, and constantly finds herself tracking dirt and bits of hay into the house. Between the foot traffic and all of the cat hair present, any vacuum she reviews gets a good workout and thorough testing.

She received this vacuum in early November and tested it in her Western Massachusetts home for approximately two weeks. Paige vacuums her house about once a week, so when she started testing this vacuum, the house had built up about a week’s worth of dirt and pet hair.

Next, learn how to remove cat pee from carpets.

Paige Cerulli

Paige Cerulli is a freelance writer and copywriter who frequently writes product reviews, health and wellness content, how-to home renovation articles, pet-related content, and more. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Handyman, Business Insider, and American Veterinarian. Paige is an avid equestrian and is a certified equine massage therapist. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her four cats, three horses, flock of ducks, and various foster animals.