22.4. 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; it then also executes an extra line of code. It does this by calling the built-in function super(). The super() function returns a special object that allows you to invoke the method of the parent class. So to call the parent class’s feed() method (Pet.feed()), we say super().feed().


Another way to invoke the parent’s method is to explicitly refer to the parent class’ method and invoke it on the instance. So, in this case, we could say Pet.feed(self). This is a little more explicit, but it’s also a little less flexible. If we later change the name of the parent class, we’d have to change it in all the subclasses. Also, if we later change the class hierarchy, so that Dog is a subclass of some other class, we’d have to change the code in all the subclasses. So, it’s better to use super().

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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