Performance tuning

It is important to remember that by default django-guardian uses generic foreign keys to retain relation with any Django model. For most cases, it’s probably good enough, however if we have a lot of queries being spanned and our database seems to be choking it might be a good choice to use direct foreign keys. Let’s start with quick overview of how generic solution work and then we will move on to the tuning part.

Default, generic solution

django-guardian comes with two models: UserObjectPermission and GroupObjectPermission. They both have same, generic way of pointing to other models:

  • content_type field telling what table (model class) target permission references to (ContentType instance)
  • object_pk field storing value of target model instance primary key
  • content_object field being a GenericForeignKey. Actually, it is not a foreign key in standard, relational database meaning - it is simply a proxy that can retrieve proper model instance being targeted by two previous fields

Let’s consider following model:

class Project(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=128, unique=True)

In order to add a change_project permission for joe user we would use assign_perm shortcut:

>>> from guardian.shortcuts import assign_perm
>>> project = Project.objects.get(name='Foobar')
>>> joe = User.objects.get(username='joe')
>>> assign_perm('change_project', joe, project)

What it really does is: create an instance of UserObjectPermission. Something similar to:

>>> content_type = ContentType.objects.get_for_model(Project)
>>> perm = Permission.objects.get(content_type__app_label='app',
...     codename='change_project')
>>> UserObjectPermission.objects.create(user=joe, content_type=content_type,
...     permission=perm,

As there are no real foreign keys pointing at the target model, this solution might not be enough for all cases. For example, if we try to build an issues tracking service and we’d like to be able to support thousands of users and their project/tickets, object level permission checks can be slow with this generic solution.

Direct foreign keys

New in version 1.1.

In order to make our permission checks faster we can use direct foreign key solution. It actually is very simple to setup - we need to declare two new models next to our Project model, one for User and one for Group models:

from guardian.models import UserObjectPermissionBase
from guardian.models import GroupObjectPermissionBase

class Project(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=128, unique=True)

class ProjectUserObjectPermission(UserObjectPermissionBase):
    content_object = models.ForeignKey(Project, on_delete=models.CASCADE)

class ProjectGroupObjectPermission(GroupObjectPermissionBase):
    content_object = models.ForeignKey(Project, on_delete=models.CASCADE)


Name of the ForeignKey field is important and it should be content_object as underlying queries depends on it.

From now on, guardian will figure out that Project model has direct relation for user/group object permissions and will use those models. It is also possible to use only user or only group-based direct relation, however it is discouraged (it’s not consistent and might be a quick road to hell from the maintainence point of view, especially).

To temporarily disable the detection of this direct relation model, add enabled = False to the object permission model classes. This is useful to allow the ORM to create the tables for you and for you to migrate data from the generic model tables before using the direct models.


By defining direct relation models we can also tweak that object permission model, i.e. by adding some fields.

Prefetching permissions

New in version 1.4.3.

Naively looping through objects and checking permissions on each one using has_perms results in a permissions lookup in the database for each object. Large numbers of objects therefore produce large numbers of database queries which can considerably slow down your app. To avoid this, create an ObjectPermissionChecker and use its prefetch_perms method before looping through the objects. This will do a single lookup for all the objects and cache the results.

from guardian.core import ObjectPermissionChecker

joe = User.objects.get(username='joe')
projects = Project.objects.all()
checker = ObjectPermissionChecker(joe)

# Prefetch the permissions

for project in projects:
    # No additional lookups needed to check permissions
    checker.has_perm('change_project', project)