Invoking the Parent Class’s Method

Sometimes the parent class has a useful method, but you just need to execute a little extra code when running the subclass’s method. You can override the parent class’s method in the subclass’s method with the same name, but also invoke the parent class’s method. Here’s how.

Say you wanted the Dog subclass of Pet to say “Arf! Thanks!” when the feed method is called, as well as executing the code in the original method.

Here’s the original Pet class again.

And here’s a subclass that overrides feed() by invoking the the parent class’s feed() method and then also executing an extra line of code. Note the somewhat inelegant way of invoking the parent class’ method. We explicitly refer to Pet.feed to get the method/function object. We invoke it with parentheses. However, since we are not invoking the method the normal way, with <obj>.methodname, we have to explicitly pass an instance as the first parameter. In this case, the variable self in Dog.feed() will be bound to an instance of Dog, and so we can just pass self: Pet.feed(self).

There’s another way to invoke a superclass’s method that is preferred by python afficionados. Unfortunately, the implementation of python in our ActiveCode windows doesn’t support it, so we aren’t using it here. In that alternative method, we would call super(Dog, self).feed(). If you want to try to sort through details of that approach, check out the official documentation.

This technique is very often used with the __init__ method for a subclass. Suppose that some extra instance variables are defined for the subclass. When you invoke the constructor, you pass all the regular parameters for the parent class, plus the extra ones for the subclass. The subclass’ __init__ method then stores the extra parameters in instance variables and calls the parent class’ __init__ method to store the common parameters in instance variables and do any other initialization that it normally does.

Let’s say we want to create a subclass of Pet, called Bird, and we want it to take an extra parameter, chirp_number, with a default value of 2, and have an extra instance variable, self.chirp_number. Then, we’ll use this in the hi method to make more than one sound.

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